Jeff Staple: And then I just have some notes that I want to say. Sorry, I’m kind of new at this. So, if you can silence your phone, that would be great.
Sarah Andelman: Okay.
Jeff Staple: Let’s see. Check levels. Clock is ticking. So, you ready?
Jeff Staple: From HYPEBEAST radio, I’m Jeff Staple, and this is the Business of Hype, a show about creative entrepreneurs, brand builders, innovators, and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. From 1997 to 2017, that’s two decades, there has been one shopkeeper whose single-door operation has transcended the entire fashion and design world. A nod from her could make your brand a global overnight sensation. My previous guest, Hiroshi Fujiwara once said, “Before Colette, was there any reason to really visit Paris?” And while the Eiffel Tower might argue that point, the shop at 213 Rue Saint-Honoré was the epicenter of all things design, and Sarah Andelman, the co-founder of Colette, along with her mother, was the captain of the ship.
Jeff Staple: Sarah’s notoriously shy and rarely does interviews. For the first 10 or so years of Colette’s operation, you could never find a photograph of Sarah. Some thought that when you got an email from email@example.com, you were actually getting an email from any number of dozens of representatives acting on behalf of Colette. After all, how could one single brain encompass the curation of couture fashion, street wear, sneakers, books, technology, fragrances, home décor, art, food, drink, and more?
Jeff Staple: People back in the day thought it wasn’t possible, and then you meet Sarah and you soon realize, “Well damn, it is possible.” You just have to be as driven and focused as this petite, quiet woman standing in front of you. So after 20 years of ruling retail with the world literally in the palm of her hands and the option to do anything she wanted to do, what does she do? She decides to close up shop, and start all over again with a brand new career.
Jeff Staple: Some would say this is insanity. Some would cry, “What happened? We thought it was all good. Is there a problem?” And some would wait and see what Sarah Andelman had up her sleeve next. So, on a recent trip to Paris, I had the honor of sitting in her studio to try and find out exactly the reasons why.
Jeff Staple: I wanted to go back a little bit to the beginning, since we’re at the end at this point. Do you remember the first customer of Colette?
Sarah Andelman: Impossible to remember.
Jeff Staple: Really?
Sarah Andelman: I have a terrible memory.
Jeff Staple: You don’t remember the first transaction? It must have been special, right?
Sarah Andelman: I think we were just trying to make everything happen, the last-minute things to finalize. What I did recently is I asked if we could print what we sold on the first day, and this I got the receipt that we sold some magazines like Self Service, some [inaudible 00:02:48] books, some G-Shock from Casio, some [inaudible 00:02:52] accessories, but no, I don’t remember. We had many customers the first day.
Jeff Staple: The first day, was there a line outside to get in?
Sarah Andelman: Not at all, not at all, not at all. It was a very quiet soft opening. We did an event for press and designers, et cetera, on March 18, and we open on March 20. Back then, there was lots of press because it was a cool new thing happening in Paris. It was not at all. It was suddenly busy of people a little curious, not a crowd like we have nowadays, yeah.
Jeff Staple: Right. Was it the same exact space?
Sarah Andelman: Yes.
Jeff Staple: Okay. So, you had the three floors-
Sarah Andelman: Three floors, the restaurant, Water Bar in the basement, the gallery where it’s always been in the mezzanine. And then, we did some change in other areas. We opened beauty at the ground floor with lots of design products, a little section of street wear, and the first floor was already fashion for men and women, and below the gallery space was a little couture space with books, music addition.
Jeff Staple: You got that report recently, do you remember the first day’s total sales?
Sarah Andelman: No. It was in franc.
Jeff Staple: Wow. So, it’s not even euro.
Sarah Andelman: Yes. I can’t tell you how old I am. I think…
Jeff Staple: How many francs?
Sarah Andelman: … it was around, maybe I could call our accounts guy. I would say something around 20,000 francs.
Jeff Staple: Which is the equivalent to about what? It’s hard to say because of inflation and everything.
Sarah Andelman: Yeah, it’s not much. Maybe I’m wrong. I think it would be around 4,000 euro. It’s very small.
Jeff Staple: Wow, it’s like one jacket.
Sarah Andelman: But the price were not what it is now. A Prada jacket was much less expensive than what it is today. There was a huge inflation for everything.
Jeff Staple: And you were mentioning you were selling magazines and watches like G-Shock, not high-ticket items.
Sarah Andelman: Beauty. Kiehl’s was big. First time in Paris, so we sold lots of Kiehl’s products.
Jeff Staple: What were you doing the day before, setting up for this?
Sarah Andelman: Literally, the day before? We were in the shop.
Jeff Staple: Did you sleep?
Sarah Andelman: I don’t think much. So, the first show we had in the gallery was with Purple magazine curated by Olivier Zahm with already photographers like Terry Richardson, Martin Vaissie. We installed this multi-artist show to the last minute.
Jeff Staple: Just going crazy the day before?
Sarah Andelman: Yes. A big show. I don’t know the price well, with the [inaudible 00:05:59]…
Jeff Staple: Price tags.
Sarah Andelman: … and the [crosstalk 00:06:03]
Jeff Staple: You didn’t have a shop before that, right?
Sarah Andelman: No. I was just 20 years old. My mom always had shops, but before it was in the wholesale business. She was selling to retailers. And with this project, she gave us the buying part, and she was more involved in the management.
Sarah Andelman: I just finished my history of art studies at L’École du Louvre, some internship at Purple magazine and galleries, and it was new. I was very young, very fresh, and I learned everything day-by-day after we opened.
Jeff Staple: So, your job before then was an intern at Purple magazine and school.
Sarah Andelman: At school-
Jeff Staple: You didn’t have a full-time job.
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: Wow, so your only job, your only paying job, is Colette.
Sarah Andelman: That’s true.
Jeff Staple: Now you’re embarking on your second job in your life. Are you ready for your second job now?
Sarah Andelman: Yes, I’m ready.
Jeff Staple: You’ve had good training, I think. It’s funny because I didn’t know March is the birthday, same as Staple. So, we have the same birth month and birth year, 1997, March. 20 years, it’s a long time.
Jeff Staple: I want to ask you about the size of the store and filling with all this stuff. You are the creative artist behind it but was being profitable a concern of yours?
Sarah Andelman: Never. We moved into this building. We lived in this building. Every day I go to school. My mom go to her shop. It was called Polo. And we see this empty space for a few months, and one day, we asked to visit this empty space. Back in the day, there was [inaudible 00:08:00], they helped us to develop the concept, and immediately, from the first day we visited the space, we knew we wanted to bring together everything we liked from fashion, art, beauty. And we were so [inaudible 00:08:11] that my mom sold her business. This neighborhood was very weird. It was not a trendy…
Jeff Staple: Fancy stuff there, yeah.
Sarah Andelman: … so it was a good time to buy this space.
Jeff Staple: The whole building was available.
Sarah Andelman: No. The building was new when we moved our apartment, it had just renovated. But we moved out of our apartments on the-
Jeff Staple: On the top of it.
Sarah Andelman: … on the top of it. Two years after we moved our apartment, three years, we booked the space of Colette. It was not like, “We have a concept for a shop, and we will visit many locations in Paris.” It was this [crosstalk 00:08:55]
Jeff Staple: Building.
Sarah Andelman: … this building, and from day one, it was fashion at the top floor, because that was a streetlight from outside, a little gallery space, the restaurant at the basement, even if it can be weird of a restaurant with no delight, but it was obvious for us, this little change.
Jeff Staple: Interesting. So, this address is 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, right?
Sarah Andelman: Yeah.
Jeff Staple: So, this address really informed the business. It wasn’t the other way around, like you said. Because most people say, “I want to start a store,” and then they look all around for real estate.
Sarah Andelman: No. It’s really…
Jeff Staple: You created it to fit into this.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly.
Jeff Staple: So, this kind of answers my future question which was why didn’t you do more Colettes?
Sarah Andelman: Like you say, and I didn’t really reply to your previous question on profit, from the day we signed the space to the day we opened, it was 9 months, like a baby. We didn’t do any marketing, analyze any studies…
Jeff Staple: Accounting or…
Sarah Andelman: … Will it be profitable? We just went to the brands we liked and saying, “We opened a new shop in Paris, can we buy your products?” And from day one, we had this idea to change the windows, the display, every week like a magazine, like I often said. And we are so much involved in renewing the offer, renewing the display, changing the exhibitions in the gallery, that we don’t even think to have another shop. And we really opened for the 213 Rue Saint-Honoré. We don’t see why we would open another shop [inaudible 00:10:29].
Jeff Staple: Here’s a first clue as to the peculiar nature of Sarah and Colette. Most businesses want to scale. If you’ve done one thing right, well, do more of it, right? Sarah didn’t think of Colette as a world domination plan. She thought of a concept that could be housed inside this particular space. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Jeff Staple: I think the world is often fascinated by businesses that don’t want it all. For example, why doesn’t In-N-Out open in the East Coast? Why isn’t North Face Purple Label available in the U.S.? And why isn’t there a Colette in Topeka, Kansas? The demand is there. Feed it, right?
Jeff Staple: Sarah is just wired differently. It’s why her business as stayed the course for 20 years, providing consistent vision, service, and product. One time, well over 10 years ago, I was visiting Paris, and, of course, going to Colette was one of my first priorities. Unfortunately, I went on a Sunday, and I did not know that Colette was closed on Sundays. Every Sunday. So, I peeked inside the windows, and what I saw was her team working diligently, changing up the entire store. And, in fact, I saw Sarah herself and her mother, Colette, inside to the wee hours, adjusting hangers, steaming clothes, finessing art on the walls. The queen of fashion retail was folding clothes? I was in awe of her diligence and her commitment to the vision.
Jeff Staple: Why did you decide to change the shop every week? Because that’s crazy.
Sarah Andelman: Yeah, that’s crazy, but that’s what’s so important, to continue to get excited, and to continue to have customers coming back and coming back. To have this effect that each time you come, it’s different, is essential for us.
Jeff Staple: Did you ever regret that decision? Did you ever think, “Maybe I should have done this monthly instead of weekly?”
Sarah Andelman: No. We never regretted it. It was a way to keep also excited us ourselves, our staff. No, it was always fun to see the shop with, of course, some products we had and some new products every day, and to see the shop changing by little, by little, by little. When I see pictures from, of course, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, or even two months ago, I don’t recognize the shop, because it’s a-
Jeff Staple: Like a living body, yeah.
Sarah Andelman: … like a living animal in a way.
Jeff Staple: So, you mentioned that you curated for the store not really thinking about the finance of it. Did you and your mother ever have conversations about like, “Hey, we need to make some more money or buy some things that are more popular,” something like that? Or she just let you totally have free will on it.
Sarah Andelman: Total freedom. And that’s crazy when you think about it. But, of course, after six months, after spring, summer, fall, winter, when you have a sale, you can see what we manage to sell well. But you know what? I didn’t even take care of this, because from one season to another, it’s completely different.
Sarah Andelman: Sometimes, we stopped to sell a very popular product that we had for a few months, because it start to be a little everywhere. So, it was a real alchemy of always looking for the next product that we’ll sell. Of course, some that will represent creativity or a new [crosstalk 00:14:05]
Jeff Staple: Some buyers, they come to a sales meeting, and they have all these Excel spreadsheets and computers, and they have a calculator, and they’re doing this. You never had-
Sarah Andelman: Never, never.
Jeff Staple: … You just buy what? It’s just based off of gut?
Sarah Andelman: Instinct, yes.
Jeff Staple: For 20 years.
Sarah Andelman: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff Staple: My god, for those people, that is the most frightening thing, right? But how about-
Sarah Andelman: But there is no rules. I would be interested to discuss with… I don’t know how yourself, you would do this kind of Excel spreadsheet, but there is no rules.
Jeff Staple: But did you have a number that you knew-
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: What?
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: Really?
Sarah Andelman: No. And the brands would always give me a budget because they would calculate from the season before. You know when you go to a big fashion brand, they know how much they want you to spend. One season, I will buy 10 times more than the planned budget, so they would be up here. And one season, it will be less, and I have to explain the collection is not really wanted. So, I will wait for next season to buy more.
Jeff Staple: I wanted to ask you about that. When you see a brand, and you start to lose a little bit of energy for it, how do you tell them that?
Sarah Andelman: Sorry, let’s see how it goes. We are free, and it’s also important for the brand to know that maybe they don’t take the right direction. But the thing is, for Colette. Maybe it is very good for another retailer. So, that’s where that’s at.
Jeff Staple: It’s just not good for you, but…
Sarah Andelman: Exactly.
Jeff Staple: … it doesn’t mean it’s not good for the brand or whatever.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly.
Jeff Staple: You were buying all this time, but then you started putting your logo and applying collaborations with these brands. Do you remember the first one?
Sarah Andelman: Not really, no.
Jeff Staple: You don’t remember the first one?
Sarah Andelman: With our logo, I know I refused for a long time to just put our logo on a product because I thought it was not enough, not interesting.
Jeff Staple: The two dots. The two blue dots.
Sarah Andelman: The two dots. I was totally against it, and I remember people saying, “Why can’t we have a Colette t-shirt?” And I said, “No. There is no t-shirt. Look at these great brands. This is our offer.” And then we started a t-shirt of the month, asking to some brands, one t-shirt for one month. But I’m not even sure if I asked to have the name of Colette on it, if it was not just one exclusive t-shirt for us, or maybe, yes, it would say for Colette or just it would be blue.
Sarah Andelman: But no, I can’t tell you. Because we did many collaborations. Like the Claude Closky with Adidas, there is nowhere our blue dots logo. And we did many collaborations like this. We introduced Married to the Mob to Reebok.
Jeff Staple: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Sarah Andelman: Yes, when we did the lips first time, it was-
Jeff Staple: That was you collaborating?
Sarah Andelman: … Yes.
Jeff Staple: Oh, I didn’t know that. But you didn’t put the blue dots on it.
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: You wanted Married to the Mob and Leah to be the artist.
Sarah Andelman: Maybe Reebok asked me, “Can we do a Colette freestyle?” And I would say, “No, Colette, we are not a designer house.” [inaudible 00:17:11] asked this brand to do it.
Jeff Staple: I see. But something happened where you started with the blue dots on…
Sarah Andelman: Yes, but I don’t remember when. I remember some collaboration like Timberland, I asked them to have blue stitches. Of course, with Nike, we did the ones for women with the lace [inaudible 00:17:30] and Sharapova. I think if someone managed to put all our collaborations in a chronological order, we would manage to see… But I think it’s very, very slow, from blue stitch, blue dots, the monochrome dots, until we have… And still in the last one, we have just the logo. Tried to have it.
Jeff Staple: I felt the same way though when I had Reed Space. I felt it didn’t need to be a brand. People said, “Why don’t you make Reed Space t-shirts,” but I felt like, “No, we have so many t-shirts. I don’t need to make my own.” So, I get where you’re coming from.
Sarah Andelman: But then you come with this great visual.
Jeff Staple: What’s the maximum staff that you guys had, the whole team?
Sarah Andelman: Maybe around 130 people.
Jeff Staple: Wow. So, that’s including the sales floor and warehouse and then, of course, e-com as well.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly. That’s the maximum, yes.
Jeff Staple: On the back end of the Colette business, was it very structured? Did you have a HR team and everyone had a manager in a corporate type of setting?
Sarah Andelman: Not all. Let’s say it’s like a sun, and everybody speaks to my mom. She will really reply all day long to the warehouse, to a separate part, to the accounting department, all day long.
Jeff Staple: Wow, that’s insane. Well, in the beginning, how many staff did you have? Like, in the very, very beginning.
Sarah Andelman: 50. Maybe 50, maybe less than 50.
Jeff Staple: So, you doubled in size over that time. I’m sure back then you didn’t have online sales, right?
Sarah Andelman: No. Very early we had colette.tf before we could manage to have a .fr. No, when we opened e-commerce, it was a very small selection of products.
Jeff Staple: Not everything in the store.
Sarah Andelman: Not yet. Nobody actually counted. It was just a small selection. Then, of course, we expanded with Michael when we sold out. And then we expanded to order from the shop. It was so important to be able to touch any customer in the world who could not come to Colette in Paris. And we wanted the website to represent everything we have. And it was crazy a lot before, because it would include magazines, beauty, fashion for men and women, and there was no website with so many categories. It was really-
Jeff Staple: Right. And it’s a pain if someone in China wants to buy one magazine, and you have to figure out how to ship it to them, right?
Sarah Andelman: But they do. [inaudible 00:20:24] the last days, some people would order one Saint Laurent sticker, matchbook size, to ship to…
Jeff Staple: One sticker.
Sarah Andelman: … That’s the way it is now.
Jeff Staple: Would you say that you’re slow or fast to adapt to new technologies, e-com, Twitter, Instagram? Are you right up on it or…
Sarah Andelman: In between. Not slow, not fast. I remember when the apps started, I wanted a Colette app from day one, but then I asked estimates, the process. We had maybe 10 versions of a Colette app which never came out, one with a music player. We had so many versions, and we never did a real one until we did one with Jordan which was a very funny game to undress Michael. But I kept saying, “It has to be different from the website. It cannot be so expensive to do an app which would be just for fun.”
Jeff Staple: So, there’s 10 versions of a Colette app that have never seen the light of day…
Sarah Andelman: Yeah, for sure. Exactly. Exactly.
Jeff Staple: … that you paid for obviously. You had to pay for-
Sarah Andelman: No. Not every one. I received a design list he made. No, I didn’t go so far. I would not waste money like this. That’s the thing. I think we have always been very careful how to spend our money.
Sarah Andelman: So, Twitter, Facebook, of course, we had them very early. Instagram, the day before, the day after, there is a huge change for the communication of the shop. Because even if we had blogs, we had different ways to communicate, nobody realized the activity of the shop, how we had every day something new happening. And I think with Instagram, it was an easier way to follow.
Jeff Staple: With many of the people I talk to, Instagram is a real game-changer in the way we actually do business. It’s strange how Instagram was only invented about eight years ago, and it didn’t really catch fire until about five years ago. And yet, most of us can barely remember a world without it.
Jeff Staple: How did we tell stories before Instagram? Before social media? If I think back really hard, I remember spending way too much time and money inside of a Kinko’s, printing postcards and flyers for manual distribution within my very own five-mile radius. It’s probably not a coincidence that as social media grew, Kinko’s would barely survive and would need to merge with FedEx.
Jeff Staple: So, here, Sarah, lovingly recalls how Colette did it back in the day.
Jeff Staple: You said before there was a before and after with Instagram. You get a product in, how would you promote this before social media?
Sarah Andelman: It’s funny you say that, because I realized we had few discussions to try to do something on Colette from the early years, and I had nothing digital on the first 10 years, and I couldn’t understand why. I know I changed hard drive. I know when I moved the office, I found all these Kodak boxes of pictures I would take myself with an analog camera of a new product, a new exhibition, that we would copy, print and send to press. I can’t believe we did that. When I see my pictures are yellow, they are blurry, that’s crazy, but that’s what we did.
Sarah Andelman: We printed a little booklet every season. From day one, we wanted our identity to change all the time with the season, with the trends, So, one looked like a newspaper, a copy of Women’s Wear Daily, one is like a Chinese menu of restaurants.
Jeff Staple: You had fun with each one.
Sarah Andelman: So, the logo was orange, and every six months, we would change the color of the logo. It went green, gray, until we picked up on blue. And the only way we communicated to press was to print this photo and to print this little booklet with a new designer, a new exhibition. But it was so old school, it’s crazy. A young kid, they can’t imagine what… And we had fax.
Jeff Staple: A fax machine. You would fax these things to people?
Sarah Andelman: We would use fax to communicate to all the brands.
Jeff Staple: Isn’t it weird how if you go far back enough from digital, it’s almost like life didn’t exist. It’s almost like the dinosaur era. It’s pretty scary.
Jeff Staple: I know you’re not a numbers person, but do you remember the highest-grossing day ever in Colette? There is an existing day. Do you know what day it is?
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: You have no idea.
Sarah Andelman: No. The best-
Jeff Staple: You must know this was the craziest day though.
Sarah Andelman: … It’s difficult to compare the day we sold the first very expensive fur coat from Valentino, Fendi with the day we sold the three Vendome watches with the day we sold all the Nikes. It’s really impossible to…
Jeff Staple: It’s not impossible. You can call someone to, and they could tell you right then.
Sarah Andelman: …Yes, I could ask, exactly.
Jeff Staple: But it’s not because of one singular item that did it, you think.
Sarah Andelman: No, it was always a nice combination of all the floors. The restaurant has always been very busy with a line in the stairs for lunch. To us, it has always been a great balance between them.
Jeff Staple: I’ve got to ask you this now, have you ever had a zero day?
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: Never.
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: Good for you. There’s some stores that have zero days.
Sarah Andelman: Oh my god, no.
Jeff Staple: No zero days for Colette, that’s great.
Jeff Staple: I just have to interrupt here as this is one of my favorite parts of the interview. I asked the hardest working woman in retail if she ever had to unexpectedly close Colette. Because God knows, she would never take a day off.
Jeff Staple: It happened one time. And whose fault was it? I’ll give you a hint. Two words: Champagne Papi.
Jeff Staple: You were always closed on Sunday to reset the store, but you were always open Monday through Saturday. Do you remember some times where you unexpectedly, besides holidays, like, “We have to close the store today,” for some drastic reason or something like that?
Sarah Andelman: Drake. It definitely was Drake.
Jeff Staple: Drake?
Sarah Andelman: Yes.
Jeff Staple: What happened with Drake?
Sarah Andelman: When he arrived, I didn’t realize it was [inaudible 00:27:13] It was suddenly the streets were filled, full of people.
Jeff Staple: Was he coming here for a performance or to shop or…
Sarah Andelman: For the launch of his OVO something.
Jeff Staple: Jordan or something?
Sarah Andelman: … No. His own collection.
Jeff Staple: Oh, his own collection, okay. Which you’ve had many musicians, you’ve had many rappers come.
Sarah Andelman: It was still early. I don’t remember what year it was, but it was early.
Jeff Staple: But definitely after BBC and Pharrell and all this stuff.
Sarah Andelman: Yes, but that’s funny. When I look, the launch for Moncler and Pharrell, of course, it was packed, but it was not crazy like the day with Drake was crazy, for sure.
Jeff Staple: Like you were scared, crazy.
Sarah Andelman: Was a crazy day with Tyler, but the day Drake, we were totally unprepared. You can see some funny video online on YouTube where on the first floor it’s just crazy. It’s packed, packed, packed. The police had asked us to close the shop.
Sarah Andelman: So, that’s the only day, I think, we had to close during the day one hour until it became more free.
Jeff Staple: And Drake was in the store?
Sarah Andelman: Yeah. He was totally inside the shop.
Jeff Staple: Did it get scary?
Sarah Andelman: No. No, no, no.
Jeff Staple: But the store must have been packed with people too. And the block was packed.
Sarah Andelman: Yeah.
Jeff Staple: Oh, that’s a scary situation. By the way, you also live here, so it’s your home too. So, it’s kind of scary.
Jeff Staple: You did do a couple of pop-ups though.
Sarah Andelman: Absolutely, we did. The first pop-up was with Comme des Garcons in the shop in Tokyo, Coutume Aoyama. It was Colette meets Comme des Garcons and a great, great experience for six months. And I would go every month, and I would change little things. So, with a brand like Comme des Garcons, I had total, total respect. It was the first time I could see the limits of doing a pop-up shop. It was great because it was a good opportunity to develop tons of collaboration. Back in the day, I used these two little dogs, Caperino and Peperone, that could go in a Mackintosh coat, on a [inaudible 00:29:18] bag, and tons of little goodies.
Jeff Staple: But you had to go to Japan every month.
Sarah Andelman: I had to go to Japan every month just to keep with [inaudible 00:29:28], exhibitions. We did something with Tobias Wong, with Genevieve Gaulker. But it was a great experience.
Sarah Andelman: And maybe five years later, we did a pop-up with Gap in New York on Fifth Avenue which was a great experience, and it was one month, but I regret it was not just one week. Because again, it was sold out in 24, 48 hours, all the best products, and I had to continue and continue.
Jeff Staple: And how many times did you go for that?
Sarah Andelman: Just once. Just the opening…
Jeff Staple: Just the first week.
Sarah Andelman: … Yeah. Or maybe it was two weeks. I don’t remember.
Jeff Staple: You can’t get more different than Comme des Garcons and then the Gap. When you did the Gap pop-up, did you get criticism from people?
Sarah Andelman: No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember, so I don’t think so.
Jeff Staple: No one said, “Oh, this is too mass” or something?
Sarah Andelman: No. I loved this project. We did replicas of classic from Gap, the jersey, the gray jersey that they asked for but with [inaudible 00:30:29] maybe, or shoes with [inaudible 00:30:32]. We did lots of artist t-shirts, where it was [inaudible 00:30:36]. We had a French artist who would do half of a drawing and an American artist who would continue the drawing. We had additional to paint on some Gap trench, André [inaudible 00:30:48] . No, we had a great selection, a mix of products, and no, it was a very good response.
Jeff Staple: Do you remember a time where you got a lot of criticism for a decision you made?
Sarah Andelman: Not really. Maybe it’s my memory. It’s a good thing.
Jeff Staple: You forget those things?
Sarah Andelman: No.
Jeff Staple: Okay, good. Selective memory.
Sarah Andelman: Yes, I suppose.
Jeff Staple: One question I often get asked is what was one of the hardest things I had to learn as an entrepreneur? And my answer is always the same, learning how to delegate. The only way Staple Pigeon, Staple Design Studio, Reed Space, Extra Butter, Skillshare, the talks, these podcasts, and more, can happen is because I’ve learned how to delegate.
Jeff Staple: So, here’s another quirk about Sarah. She doesn’t delegate, almost to the point where she admits it might be unhealthy. But she also cites that this might be the very reason why Colette meant what it did for the past 20 years.
Jeff Staple: So, the lesson learned here: Different strokes for different folks.
Jeff Staple: I remember when you do the buying, and this goes into the fact that you had to go to Comme des Garcons every month to really be hands-on, and maybe that’s when you realized you can’t expand, because you have to be there, would you criticize yourself by saying you have problems delegating to people? Do you have trust issues with people?
Sarah Andelman: No, I know this is not very healthy, but I think that’s why we survived 20 years. I think we dedicate ourselves to the shop, and, yes, my mom has been every Sunday cleaning [inaudible 00:32:35] I kept telling her, “Come on, stop. I’m sure someone else can do it.” She would say, “No.” The few times she would have someone to do it, she would notice it’s not the same.
Jeff Staple: And same for the buying for you.
Sarah Andelman: Yes, we never even experience the buying from someone else because we knew it’s too difficult to explain why I want the blue and not the red. It’s all something which is very subjective, very personal, and it’s too–
Jeff Staple: There’s no formula. You can’t teach it, necessarily.
Sarah Andelman: Yeah. We receive products, proposals at the office, and someone would then inform me [inaudible 00:33:20], “Okay, this is all not for us.” And I would still look because I wanted to make sure I don’t miss something and I can’t find something where my assistant would expect that I would refuse it.
Sarah Andelman: Or another example, some people would be sure this was for us, and I would say, “No, it’s too similar to something we have,” or “The quality is not good.” So, nobody could really understand the way we select. And…
Jeff Staple: I remember at the height of business for you even, brands would work with you, and they would email you, and then they would get a reply from you, but they would think, “It can’t be Sarah actually writing these emails.” Like, when they ask for payment, there would be an email from Sarah saying, “Oh, you’re payment has been wired.” But people would assume there’s a whole army of people behind you and they’re just using your name, but it’s actually you.
Sarah Andelman: Yes.
Jeff Staple: Scary. Do you remember how many emails a day you would be…
Sarah Andelman: Right now, I have more than 100,000 unread, and I feel terrible.
Jeff Staple: But now you get to do select+all+delete.
Sarah Andelman: No, I’m not like this. I have to check. I just replied to [inaudible 00:34:36] “Sorry,” I say, I hope maybe I will find a way to work [inaudible 00:34:41]“
Jeff Staple: What’s your limit? Would you reply to an email that’s six months old?
Sarah Andelman: Yes. Even two years old. I don’t know, but, yes, I’m…
Jeff Staple: But that’s nice because then they’re, “Oh wow, she actually got to it. She didn’t just blow me off.”
Sarah Andelman: Exactly. If someone here thinks I never replied to their email, it’s just…
Jeff Staple: She’s going to get to it.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly.
Jeff Staple: It’s in the 100,000 unread.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly.
Jeff Staple: I remember when we used to show in the different trade shows, like Capsule and Agenda, I remember when you’d walk the trade show, you would do it alone for the most part, you wouldn’t have a whole crew with you, and the funny thing is, I don’t know if you noticed this, but whenever you walked into a brand, all the other buyers would say, “Sarah, walked into that brand. That brand must be something now.” You were unwittingly anointing people to be cool. That must be annoying, because you almost need a mask to walk into these brands, right?
Sarah Andelman: I didn’t notice.[crosstalk 00:35:44]
Jeff Staple: I would notice you would walk into a brand. You would finish. You would walk out. And then, all these buyers would walk into that brand.
Sarah Andelman: Really?
Jeff Staple: Yes.
Sarah Andelman: Oh my god, did they? Well, I know that at Colette some other buyers would find some brands to [crosstalk 00:35:58]
Jeff Staple: To buy.
Sarah Andelman: Good for the brands. Maybe…
Jeff Staple: But then you have to keep moving on.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly. But it’s natural.
Jeff Staple: I was like, “Sarah could make a living just doing this, just walking into people’s brands.”
Jeff Staple: Do you know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is? Self-fulfilling prophecy.
Sarah Andelman: [inaudible 00:36:21]
Jeff Staple: I’ll tell you what it means. Let’s say you have a chef who’s trying to make food, and he’s a cook, and then he’s developing a skill, and he’s getting better and better and better, and then eventually, he wins a Michelin star and a James Beard award, and then it becomes anything that that chef does is genius. Whether it’s actually good or bad, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Jeff Staple: To take that analogy and apply it to what your business is, you did buying, did selecting, actually chose, but then eventually, Colette got to a point where anything that Colette did or touched was considered great. Do you remember when that switched happened? Or is it even cognizant in your head that that happened?
Sarah Andelman: It’s really not something we want to happen. We always, always, always woke up in the morning and looking around us like we are [inaudible 00:37:24] one day. It was important to always keep a fresh eye, not assume that because we select it, it will be successful. Not assume anything. So, that’s true that at one point, maybe some people would consider because it’s at Colette, it’s good, but it’s just a selection. It’s just what we like. But you have to make your own choice on them.
Jeff Staple: You want to keep working.
Sarah Andelman: Oh yes.
Jeff Staple: Because it could get dangerous if you just start thinking you’re an influencer.
Sarah Andelman: It’s too easy. No, no, no.
Jeff Staple: I guess that’s what we’re talking about. It’s influence, right?
Sarah Andelman: No, I understood at some point when people asked you, but I always said, “I don’t know what’s the trend of tomorrow.” I see what I see right now, and I can select what I think is interesting because it’s new, but…
Jeff Staple: You never wanted to become that prophecy influencer type, right?
Sarah Andelman: No. Maybe I have it in me somewhere, but it’s not something I wanted to…
Jeff Staple: Force out.
Sarah Andelman: … assume, because it’s too pretentious.
Jeff Staple: It’s clear Sarah doesn’t work off research. She doesn’t go off the math, nor does the rest on the laurels of her very influential reputation. Sarah works off pure gut instinct. She’s a rare breed, and in this day and age of analytical data of likes, views, and comments, Sarah’s a natural maestro. This, of course, then led to the massive success at the Colette store, where the crowds on any given day, literally resembled that of a theme park. I wanted to ask Sarah if she ever thought the brand got too successful.
Sarah Andelman: No, it’s exciting. It makes me happy. It’s an energy we wanted to have at Colette. And I love that it’s all kind of people in the shop, from a family to a street wear guy to a doctor or a lawyer. It was this mix, which was always important for us. No, we loved its energy.
Jeff Staple: You didn’t care that it was growing beyond the original core customer. That wasn’t an intent.
Sarah Andelman: We never had a core customer. We always had to [crosstalk 00:39:49]
Jeff Staple: Well, let’s say the core customer, whether you identified it or not, was probably someone who was into design, into creativity. You didn’t assume that a doctor would be a Colette customer in the first year.
Sarah Andelman: We never assumed this way. We always assumed it–
Jeff Staple: You wanted it to be everybody.
Sarah Andelman: … everybody. I love somebody who compared it to Tintin readers from seven years old to 19 years old. And from the beginning, we actually saw someone walking out a café opposite the street coming just to buy a little pencil or a little gadget. Or someone working in the beauty industry to buy fashion. It was always never wanted to close to any one kind of customer.
Jeff Staple: So, when it got crazy and for everyone, it fit the dream.
Jeff Staple: Where do we shop in Paris now?
Sarah Andelman: I think we shop online for everything.
Jeff Staple: Was online part of the reason?
Sarah Andelman: No, the reason really is my mom wanted to take some time off, and I cannot work without her. It’s true that also in the fashion industry, very frustrating to work with the brands for the deliveries, to get and to receive them in time before Fashion Week, etc. It really gets me sick to spend so much time working on the brand selection, working on windows, and then, when it’s busy days like now, we don’t receive, they would deliver in two weeks or three weeks. And that’s something we’ve had the problem for years, and it’s really something annoying.
Sarah Andelman: But online, we developed our own e-shop business very well in the last years. Actually, even too much. In the last months, it was impossible to ship the orders we received every day. We got really late. In the last months, we started to receive complaints of clients. And now still we are dealing with our last… But…
Jeff Staple: Is the online store still open?
Sarah Andelman: No, but it was open until December 20 midnight.
Jeff Staple: You’re still shipping people?
Sarah Andelman: No, we shipped everything, but now some people received, and they want to return. We didn’t ship well, so we still have some last…
Jeff Staple: Something to take care off.
Sarah Andelman: … Yes.
Jeff Staple: So, you should have gotten your order by now, by the time you hear this podcast.
Sarah Andelman: But it’s true there is a turning point in retail, in general, between e-commerce, between the brands opening their own shops, or do they really need us to say yes? But I don’t know.
Jeff Staple: Did the fast fashion have anything to do with it?
Sarah Andelman: No, we were a part of it. What do you call fast fashion?
Jeff Staple: H&M, Zara.
Sarah Andelman: No, I think there was always customers for…
Jeff Staple: Everything.
Sarah Andelman: … everything. But we wanted to turn the page while it’s still going well.
Jeff Staple: Being a sneakerhead myself, I definitely wanted to take this opportunity to ask a “buyer” about their opinion on sneaker culture right now, and not just any buyer, possibly the greatest buyer of all time. So, sneaker brands, listen up.
Jeff Staple: How about the speed of the world, did that have an affect on you?
Sarah Andelman: That’s crazy. No, that’s true. That’s going quicker and quicker. In a way, since the rest of the shop was weekly, we loved it when it’s like “Oh, we deliver six capsule, eight capsule, 10 capsule.” I think it was part of the system. In the sneaker world, you know how it is, that right now, you have to launch five…
Jeff Staple: Multiple times a week.
Sarah Andelman: … volume. And then the same day-
Jeff Staple: But when you started, Nike would drop a special shoe maybe six times a year. Now, it’s literally six times a week almost.
Sarah Andelman: That’s great. That’s good. But how long will it be like this? How much can people spend every week. When I see these young kids who are really into it, 11, 15, so what will be the next thing they are into in three, four years? It cannot be exactly like this, I think, forever, no?
Sarah Andelman: But it’s difficult to [inaudible 00:44:15]. You have to slow down, and they will say, “But yes, [inaudible 00:44:18].” Because you cannot be, so that is the one…
Jeff Staple: I could grow my business, right? I could grow my company.
Sarah Andelman: Yeah. I think there is still a lot of possibilities to explore, and I think as long as it can elevate the customers, give them couture, find a way to make it more interesting than just a new color to wear, a new…
Jeff Staple: Do you think they have to hit the reset button eventually on these collaborations and special projects.
Sarah Andelman: I think there is still…
Jeff Staple: There’s still room to grow.
Sarah Andelman: … yeah.
Jeff Staple: I wonder about that all the time. I think about these kids and they’re buying 50 collabs a year, right, on these special projects, how can that grow to be a 100 collabs?
Sarah Andelman: No, but it can be other kind of collab, I think. I’m pretty sure. They need to have a meaning, passion.
Jeff Staple: A story. So, tell us what is Just An Idea?
Sarah Andelman: Just An Idea is…
Jeff Staple: This is your next project.
Sarah Andelman: … This is my new company.
Jeff Staple: Your new job. Your second job.
Sarah Andelman: Exactly. It will be to help different brand, companies, or artists to develop special projects, and it can be very different kind of missions.
Jeff Staple: So, someone has a bit of a problem maybe, and then they need some help fixing the problem.
Sarah Andelman: Yes.
Jeff Staple: Do you already have employees?
Sarah Andelman: Yes.
Jeff Staple: Oh really. So, it’s quite far along.
Sarah Andelman: No, I just started. I’m very excited, and it will take a little bit of time. That’s a little nice thing about it, to take time to really develop and to make it interesting in this world going so fast, like you said. But…
Jeff Staple: If you could predict, is this the final career for you or this is just the next chapter?
Sarah Andelman: This, I haven’t thought about it. I think it’s my new second life. I think most people have three lives. So, this is my second one.
Jeff Staple: Great. Well, thank you very much for your time.
Sarah Andelman: Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff Staple: Merci beaucoup for listening to this episode. You can find out more about the show or listen to past episodes at hypebeast.com/radio. You can subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts. I use Overcast. And you can reach out to me on Twitter @JeffStaple. Check us out on the web at businessofhype.com. And you can email any question to us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Staple: The Business of Hype is directed by Daniel Navetta. It’s edited and produced by Bright Young Things. You can check them out at byt.nyc. Engineering was done by Patrick Morris. And this was recorded at Sibling Rivalry studio in New York City and on location in Paris, France. I’m Jeff Staple, and you’ve been listening to the Business of Hype on HYPEBEAST radio.