On the morning of Saturday, March 22nd, the employees of colette Paris prepared to open up shop, tidying up the displays of limited-edition footwear, jeans, nic naks and appliances, readying the boutique’s water bar — theFrom colette’s own website: Reactive, determined, influential and passionate, visionary and spontaneous, these are perhaps keywords to describe colette. first of its kind in Paris — to again begin slinging its wide selection of mineral waters from all around the world. It was set to be just another day in one of the world’s most successful streetwear, but soon after the doors of colette opened at 10:00 AM, two masked men burst inside.

The pair, outfitted in face-obscuring motorcycle helmets and wielding a pump-action gun and axe, forced the 6 on-hand employees and the helpless security guard to the ground then proceeded to hack their way through a showcase of expensive — we’re talking $16,550 to $17,950 — watches. After gathering up their loot, about 600,000 euros worth, they made their escape, fleeing down the famous rue Saint-Honore on a scooter with fake plates.

No one was hurt in the minutes-long robbery. No money was boosted from the register. But in a weird way, the robbery serves as a reminder of how important colette has become: what other cool kid store has almost $20,000 worth of luxury watches on hand?

colette X Timberland & colette X Thom Browne

The story of colette begins in March 1997, when the 7,535-square-foot retail space first opened its doors. Their aim was to “reinvent the concept of retail” and they have done just that, making their name with a continuous stream of collaborations. From the natural collaborations with Timberland, Nixon and Thom Browne footwear, accessory releases, strange and obscure projects like an exclusive colette label for Futura‘s run of Hennessey bottles, a set of chairs with the furniture purveyors at Knoll and even a scooter done with Super Motor. colette is basically a Willy Wonka factory of limited-edition collaborations.

colette X Knoll Kids & colette X Super Motor

That’s not to say there haven’t been missteps. When working with so many brands, especially in as protective a space as fashion, feuds are almost inevitable and back in October of 2013, Hedi Slimane severed ties with colette after hearing that the boutique would be selling 300 “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” parody T-Shirts. The story goes that Saint Laurent first contacted Sarah Andelman, colette’s creative director, about removing the tees from the webstore which she did, opting instead for an in-store-only release. But then, on September 25, Hypebeast reports that,

[Saint Laurent] CEO Francesca Bellettini sent Andelmen a letter ‘accusing her of selling counterfeit products that ‘seriously damaged’ the YSL brand and confirming the end of their business relationship.’ YSL ensued by canceling the retailer’s entire spring order which would total over $285,000 at wholesale, then uninvited Andelman to the designer’s spring showing in Paris this past Monday.

Saint Laurent than proceeded to ban colette from selling even the obscure indie magazine Document that featured photographs by Hedi Slimane, and essentially cut ties entirely.

“Ain’t Laurent Without Yves”

colette paris

But colette marches on, serving as a curator for the world of streetwear, a mecca of design for the in-the-know. The store’s website explains: “Exclusivities, pre-releases, limited editions, established designers, new talents and even forgotten labels…a unique approach combining modernity, originality and upmost quality. This is the colette spirit: an inimitable mix and match, modeled after its customers, and bringing people together.”

And it’s true, colette builds bridges with both streetwear brands as well as up-and-comers, constantly supplying their customers with collaborations, pop-up shops, and other unique ways to interact with the world of fashion and design.

colette paris

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Colette Paris