Years ago, a friend of mine saw a photo of Keith Richards wearing a fringed bandana lazily wrapped around his head and a coral pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words “HAND TIGHTEN ONLY” on the front in all caps. It was so cool, so rock n’ roll, so…Keith Richards. My friend loved the shirt so much that he had it replicated in obsessive detail, taking months to recreate just the right shade of coral.
I recently had a similar experience when I first saw a photo of Sarah Andelman, the buyer and face of Colette, the three-storey concept store in Paris known to the fashion world as an institution and a place of pilgrimage. Andelman was wearing a dress in a “men’s shirt blue” with a precisely ruffled base, black ankle socks, and faded Doc Martens. I paused to admire the quirky combination effortlessly hanging on her petite frame. There was something inspiring about it, the assuredness of her self-expression.
This thought is certainly not unique to me. Andelman and her mother Colette Rousseaux, founder of Colette, have inspired editors, buyers, designers, and consumers alike for the last 20 years, selling everything from Balenciaga lighters and indie records to limited-edition sneakers and ball gowns from both the season’s hottest labels and designers you haven’t heard of (yet). Their 8,000-square-foot boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré is a pioneer in stores of its kind, catering to a lifestyle of design and functioning as much as a gallery space as a retail one. It isn’t uncommon to see 40 mannequins dressed in dernier cri, standing where there would usually be racks; or a Porsche 911 sliced in quarters and displayed during Paris Fashion Week, when buyers and editors are overwhelmed by catwalks and crave something unexpected. So, it was not at all surprising to me that after seeing that photograph of Andelman, I was sent on an unconscious mission for faded Doc Martens in the weeks afterwards.
I’ll confess (at the risk of dating myself) that it wouldn’t have been my first pair of Doc Martens, and the situation made me wonder what it was about Andelman that rekindled this high school love of mine. It wasn’t really about the Docs, nor was it my friend’s commitment to all things “hand tightened” that drew him to Keith Richards’s coral pink shirt. In my opinion, we were both simply inspired by people who were expressing a point of view: their own. Andelman and Richards have such confident and authentic voices—ones that speak loud in everything they do—that their clothing choices become symbols, reminders, that each of us also has a unique perspective to express in our own way.
This is precisely why I think the fashion world was so saddened by Colette’s announcement that it will shut its doors forever on Dec. 20, 2017. It’s not so much that we will miss having yet another boutique in which to buy gowns or cell phone cases, but rather that we will miss having the singular vision of Colette as part of our collective conversation. The store celebrates uniqueness, sharing its playful, irreverent, progressive, knowledgeable, and creative outlook with anyone willing to listen. It is a viewpoint that inspires us to express our own personalities and styles. Quite simply, Paris will be quieter without the bold voice of Colette echoing down Rue Saint-Honoré.
I didn’t end up buying a new pair of Doc Martens. Still, I know that Colette has seeped into my own perspective on things—because when my friend recently gifted me that coral pink T-shirt, my first thought was how it’s so cool, so cheeky, so…Colette. I put it on with a pair of ripped cut-off jean shorts, sunglasses I bought from a new Korean designer, and a straw tote from Formentera. Then I rolled up the sleeves and headed out the door.
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