– By Emily Holmes Hahn –
Under what inspired roof might one find an art-deco-inspired motorcycle helmet, a three-eyed Mickey Mouse figurine, and the latest in slouchy YSL jumpsuits? Aside from the townhome of one’s most enviable friend, that would be Colette, the world’s first and foremost concept store, located on Paris’ ultra-chic Rue St. Honoré.
With its shiny aluminum floors, quirky gadget displays, and pulsating hip-hop music, Collette is not your mother’s idea of a Parisian boutique, beset with bouclé suits and big double-stranded pearls. Colette is cutting-edge yet elegant, with a twist of fun befitting that most Parisian of juxtapositions—the zany ballerina, the derelict debutante. Crillion-goers rub elbows in the aisles with Katy Perry and Russell Brand, along with the ubiquitous hipper-than-thou Parisian schoolgirls wandering home from ecole.
Spanning three floors, Colette presents an evolving collection of clothing and accessories by talented emerging designers scouted by Colette’s laser-sharp buyers, mixed with edgy pieces from the most grand dame of the storied couture houses, Alaïa, Lanvin, and Dior. On a recent perusal for a pair of kicky-yet-practical shoes, yellow polka-dot Adidas vied for my attention with nappa leather Guiseppe Zanotti boots. And chic shirts and slacks—displayed on diaphanous threads as if suspended in thin air—are carefully chosen to breathe life and mystery into these most seemingly staid office staples.
If the choice between a classic Tiffany’s key pendant and a cutting-edge Maison Martin Margiela pearl “rectangle” necklace on the ground floor becomes too overwhelming, head upstairs to Collette’s modern art gallery for a chance to regroup, and for some inspiration. The art is au courant to the extreme, with bimonthly exhibits from an international roster of the world’s most exciting up-and-coming artists. And the upstairs pharmacy is far more enticing than your average trip to drugstore, with a cornucopia of products from the likes of Kiehl’s, Bumble&Bumble, Diptyque, and Memo.
But ai, Coco, can’t decide what to take home at all? Never fear, Colette features “mystery grab bags” for 20 euros, each filled to the brim with accessories and gadgets from the store’s ground floor of tschotckies. You may end up with a few Smurf stressballs or primary-colored postcards, but this being Colette, each bag is equally likely to contain a small bottle of Chanel No. 5 or Diptyque candle?
Cap off your visit to Collette with a stop in the basement “Water Bar,” which has become a brunch and après-work hotspot watering hole for the Parisian elite. The offerings are far from limited to mere Evian or Badoit, and patrons can refresh and recharge with the famous goat cheese omlette, coupled with a choice from over one hundred types of mineral water.
And perhaps, after sampling the deluge of offerings, you might just have the zest for a spin on a Velib with one of those motorcycle helmets upstairs, in a YSL jumpsuit, natch, if you’re lucky.
Emily Holmes Hahn could not resist the call of Paris–and a job offer from Ralph Lauren. Having lived on the Left Bank for more than a year, she continues her love affair with all things French and fashion.