When Stores Had A Concept
Who will survive this crisis within the fashion industry? Who has the magic solution of how to get people back into retail stores to buy not only during sale periods? And, more importantly: What did we really miss during the months of lockdown?
The ELLE editor Carla Sozzani, sister of late Italian Vogue´s editor Franca Sozzani, opened Galleria Carla Sozzani in a vacant garage at 10 Corso Como in 1990, originally as an exhibition space. After almost two decades in publishing, she wanted to share a degree of closeness with her customers that she could not get through fashion, so one year later, the Milan store expanded to an attached bookstore, fashion and design store, roof garden, hotel and café. In doing so, the Italian art entrepreneur famously was one of the first to introduce the fashion concept store.
Sozzani was inspired by the concept of an Italian piazza when forming her first and subsequent spaces, telling Interview she wanted to create a “place where people would come and meet, see an exhibition, browse through books, have a drink, eat, rest, shop.”
As an editor myself, I was invited to one of the early openings at Sozzani´s place in then completely forgotten Corso Garibaldi - and fell for the way of shopping from the sport: to get inspired, seduced even, to buy stuff you might never ever imagined to buy, suddenly felt like something sophisticated, as if, we, in the knowing, share a certain taste like a secret language.
More than five years later, I entered another shop for the first time, also one I would from then on visit whenever I was in Paris: Colette, named after its founder Colette Roussaux, creative directed by her daughter Sarah Andelman, was a chic Parisian concept store located on the city’s Rue Saint Honoré, also not the best of all addresses in town back then - what very soon would change completely.
Famed for her discerning fashion edits and quirky mix of lifestyle products, Andelman´s store became "one of Paris’ premiere fashion pit-stops" as The Business of Fashion once put it. Drawn to an eclectic mix of high fashion and edgy streetwear, Andelman regularly showcases designs from up-and-coming designers, and was one of the first to stock collections by Proenza Schouler, Mary Katrantzou or Rodarte.
For me more personally the stock of sneakers and technical gadget was very important. Never an expert in leisure wear, I used the shop like a shopping assistant: When "Colette" offered a certain shoe, T-shirt, Sweater, I would trustfully follow their lead.
Colette closed its doors some years ago, Corso Como 10 expanded to Asia and the USA - but that did not really work out.
But how would I love to have more of those - local!! - stores in every other city. Offering a subjective collection of fashion, books, accessories, with opening hours that are more flexible and allow the spaces to never become too packed with people.
And all of a sudden, to buy something there, would mean to get a souvenir, a piece of that very spirit, you might want to take home. Like, when you leave a piazza somewhere in Italy and you try to get an ashtray of your favourite bar to take home.
Come on, stores, get a concept to get us back in there for good!