I recently discovered something new when my daughter visited me in Paris. As the fashion editor of a magazine, she learns about all sorts of new places, designers, stores, and events, and often has to check them out for work. On one such venture, she invited me to join her to visit what she called a “concept store” (I had never heard the term and had no idea what it was, and it was very ‘cool’, and a great idea). The word ‘merci’ in French means thank you, and in this case is the name of the store. The store itself was located in a large industrial looking space, on two levels, with everything built in concrete with relatively sparse decor. And what they sold was interesting and varied. At the entrance, there was a section with plants and garden ornaments and implements. There were men, women’s and children’s clothes, some of which were vintage and others were new. There were some toys, and items for babies, and a large section of furniture (some of it very unusual) and household items, and a wall of art on sale. And all of the items had an interesting, unusual look. And in front of the store, in a small courtyard, was a ‘sculpture’, which was a Fiat car (in working order), painted bright red, with all kinds of vacation items attached to the roof. It was being sold as a sculpture for just under $20,000 US dollars.
And it was the ‘concept’ itself that was the most intriguing of all. Apparently a Mr. and Mrs. Cohen, who are the owners of an excellent and well established children’s clothing store (Bonpoint), have set up this store as a non-profit. The idea is that all the proceeds from the store are to be donated to a charity they designate for a certain time (right now the children of Madagascar), and once they feel that their mission has been accomplished for that particular cause, they will designate their proceeds to another cause. The store is entirely designed to fund charitable organizations and situations of great need. They get their merchandise from various suppliers, some of it entirely donated, some of it sold to them at greatly reduced prices. The items they’re selling are thus unusual, sometimes one of a kind, or very few of them, and whatever that particular supplier or designer wanted to send them. The manager who talked to us said that the Yves Saint Laurent company has been particularly generous with them, and I recognized items by designers I am familiar with. I thought the concept was truly great, and customers are actually helping people in need when they buy there, as are the suppliers who sell to them at heavily discounted prices. The prices all seemed reasonable, and the merchandise was interesting and varied. And my daughter and I had fun exploring the different departments of the store. And it made the name of the store seem even sweeter. “Merci”. Thank you. It is certainly a noble idea and cause.
So that’s what a ‘concept store’ is. I’m sure there are different versions. But I found it fascinating and exciting. And I thought I’d share my new discovery with you. Merci!!