Badass Bitches of the Week: Colette Roussaux and Sarah Andelman

In founding Paris concept store Colette, which will be closing in December, the mother-daughter duo revolutionized retail

In a move that shocked and saddened fashion devotees, the beloved concept store Colette announced it will be shuttering its doors come December among speculation that Saint Laurent has made a hefty bid for the 213 rue Saint-Honorè location. On Thursday, the headline for WWD’s daily email blast read “Colette, What Went Wrong?” In response to that question, I would say nothing. Perhaps two classic rock legends put it best: “After all is said and done. Gotta move while it’s still fun. Let me walk before they make me run,” proffered Keith Richards in the classic 1978 ditty. Around the same time, Steve Miller offered similar practical advice with “Take the Money and Run.”

When Madame Colette Roussaux opened her store in 1997 after moving to an apartment in the same building, the idea of a “concept store” did not exist. She invented it and owned it, forever changing the retail landscape. Colette’s unique approach to mix merchandise from the high to the low—think a Casio watch next to a Comme des Garçons jacket—had not been done. Its reasons were not all together altruistic. The mother-daughter duo, comprising Roussaux (mother) and Sarah Andelman (daughter), wanted to bring the products and services they discovered in their travels—everything from Kiehl’s beauty products to trendy Japanese sneakers and the ability to order a burger at any time of the day or night—to their, at the time, somewhat provincial hometown of Paris.

I recall my first trip to Paris to work on a W shoot with Joe Zee, a dear friend and former boss of mine at times. Zee’s exuberance is infectious, and he couldn’t stop gushing about this newly opened store. He had already been during a previous trip, but insisted almost from the time we landed that we make the pilgrimage en masse. I remember the clean, white, open space with a purposefully random selection of merchandise that didn’t seem to belong together in the same store. In fact, the sparseness was the antithesis of the retail style of the day, when usually every nook and cranny was packed with merch. Today, we take the airy style for granted, but it wasn’t always a thing. I recall I bought a candle and a CD, my means in those days not allowing for much more. But that was part of the store’s policy all along—despite its somewhat intimidating reputation, it didn’t just carry high-end designer goods.

As the store grew in cult status, one clear M.O. that emerged was the championing of younger, smaller, emerging, cutting-edge designers. It’s undeniable that Colette was instrumental in the development of brands such as Off-White, Ambush, and Olympia Le-Tan, for starters, and most of the time, at any young designer’s show, you could find Andelman sitting front row.

The mother and daughter also pioneered the collaboration concept in a retail platform. It has been a unique defining point for the store. Exclusive merchandise and partnerships were not a “thing” either until Colette forged the way, collaborating with everyone from Raf Simons, Comme des Garçons, and Vans to Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and McDonald’s. The first time luxury shoe label Roger Vivier sold outside its own stores was through an exclusive capsule with the enterprising retailer. A testament to their success, Apple approached the single-store retailer in 2015 to launch the Apple Watch exclusively, as it was the first retailer outside of tech to carry Apple products. Colette’s scope of collaborations has even reached the world of soccer with the launch of the fragrance Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Alongside her mother, naturally, Andelman was Colette. Her keen eye and gut instinct has been crucial to the store’s tone and selection. As Roussaux herself functions very much behind the scenes, it has been Andelman who is the public face of the brand, responsible for the new brands that come into the shop. Andelman is more than worthy of a BABOTW title as well.

I never had the opportunity to interview Andelman during my years at WWD, but while covering the Esteban Cortázar x Colette collaboration party on Monday night for Fashion Unfiltered, I had my first opportunity. Andelman was on point and certainly carried on with the same enthusiasm I gathered she had all along while curating Colette. Nothing about our conversation, which ranged from previous cultural collaborations at the store (entire countries have often been a theme) to her classic neon gemstone Tom Binns necklace and what middle schools were decent in the 10eme and the 11eme (she even emailed me so that we may follow up on that discussion!) let on to what was to come in the next days. Literally nothing about her demeanor, as she soaked in the festivities, would have had anyone thinking it was anything but business as usual.

As Andelman’s entire professional career has been spent working at the fabled store alongside her mother, I would place money that we haven’t seen the last of her. What happened may be crushing the hearts of the devoted fans of the store, but for a family-run business that has held out from being acquired by a larger conglomerate (I’m sure the offers have been made), it’s quite normal in the cycle of life. With reported revenue of more than 26 million euros in 2016 and a lineup of cool collaborations planned through December, including the aforementioned Saint Laurent, the mom-daughter duo bid adieu on a high note and on their own terms—a nice position to be in. They may take the money, but there is no need to run.

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