Just off Place de la Concorde, down a quiet stretch of street between Rue Saint-Honoré and Rue de Rivoli, an unmarked wrought-iron door leads to a serene residential courtyard. Three floors up, an avocado-coloured door swings open. The host greets you warmly, shoes off, curled up on the couch with coffee. But this is no living room. It’s a store, and it’s time to go shopping.

L’Appartement is the home of Florence Cools and her husband when they’re in Paris – and the showcase of her Antwerp brand, La Collection. “Clients really appreciate the private atmosphere where they have the exclusivity of exploring the space barefoot. It’s a whole different level of shopping,” says Cools, who at first was looking for a showroom in Paris, but took on the apartment as her home when she was told the lease was only available year-round. A salon in which to linger and sink into thick carpet – and even thicker sofas – is just down the hall from a fitting room the size of a garage. Vintage pieces from Belgian interior design firm Bicci de’ Medici sit underneath artworks from Eleanor Herbosch, Ileana Moro and Marlies Huybs – and these are available for purchase too (from €4,000). 

Coat by La Collection in L’Appartement
Coat by La Collection in L’Appartement © Tijs Vervecken
The courtyard entrance to L’Appartement
The courtyard entrance to L’Appartement © Tijs Vervecken

L’Appartement is available to visit by appointment only. Word travels via private shoppers and the “dear friends” of Cools’ high-net-worth clients. “Shopping appointments can start without knowing the person,” says Cools, “and end with a new friendship being made over a glass of wine.” 

Cools’ concept is part of a wider, Parisian-led trend. Residential-style fashion stores have grown in the past decade as retailers have placed focus on the consumer experience. In 2019, Boucheron opened an opulent 300sq m second-floor apartment above its Place Vendôme store, where VVIP guests could spend the night. Then, in 2022, Dior debuted Suite Dior 30 Montaigne, accessible by a private elevator above its boutiques. Meanwhile, Sézane’s store, which opened in 2017, is replete with a library and vintage dressers and resembles a Paris apartment. The same can be said of Longchamp’s new boutique concepts in Kuala Lumpur and Manila. 

“Le 26”, Boucheron’s grand salon at Place Vendôme
“Le 26”, Boucheron’s grand salon at Place Vendôme
Suite Dior 30 Montaigne is above the boutique
Suite Dior 30 Montaigne is above the boutique © Matthieu Salvaing

It’s an old idea that has been a given fresh revival. “True fashion luxury started in homes at the beginning of the 20th century,” says Marie Blanchet of the couturiers who would visit their clients. “You had to be invited in.” Blanchet is the founder of Mon Vintage, which deals in vintage couture from the 1930s through to the 2010s. For her, it’s important that clients have the same experience with the clothes as the original owners might have had. She hosts her appointments in the salon of her Rue Dauphine apartment in the 6th arrondissement, surrounded by midcentury furniture and books on couturiers such as Madeleine Vionnet or Alexander McQueen.

“I never wanted to open a boutique. I wanted it to feel like I was inviting clients into my living room,” says Blanchet. “It goes with what I believe, that vintage is beyond fashion, it’s an art de vivre… By allowing people into your home, it is reviving luxury’s origins.”

Cristaseya is located down a one-way street in the 9th arrondissement, behind a door with “Casa Cristaseya” scrawled on the outside. Founded by Cristina Casini, a former stylist and brand consultant, it has welcomed clients such as Sofia Coppola, Nadège Vanhée and Lorde. The door opens immediately into an open-plan space with a wooden round table – created by Casini’s husband and collaborator, the photographer Andrea Spotorno, who has designed much of the furniture here. “It’s the kind of experience I would like to have [as a shopper],” says Casini, “so it’s what I wanted to offer.”

Casa Cristaseya, Rue Ambroise Thomas
Casa Cristaseya, Rue Ambroise Thomas © Andreas Spotorno

Shelves are lined with ceramic cups and bowls made in Greece; there are carpets from Sardinia, Murano glassware, upturned Sicilian testa di moro vases. They look like tasteful souvenirs, yet were designed in collaboration with Casini, Spotorno and their team, and they’re available to take home (from €300). The clothes emphasise restrained design made from high-quality materials – Casini’s mother produces the knitwear at her atelier in Reggio Emilia (from €500). 

“It’s true there are certain discretions we like,” says Casini. “The fact that we’ve chosen to have a shop that’s not on street level but that’s a bit of a secret place. You have to make an appointment, so you need to know it. I like the idea that everyone can take their time and no one else is around.”

The Létrange apartment features photographs and ephemera from the history of the brand
The Létrange apartment features photographs and ephemera from the history of the brand © Courtesy of Létrange
Salon Létrange, Rue Saint-Honoré
Salon Létrange, Rue Saint-Honoré © Courtesy of Létrange

Late last year, French heritage handbag house Létrange took over a 4,500sq ft apartment on Rue Saint-Honoré for private appointments. Throughout the rooms you can spot family photos from the brand’s 186-year history, handwritten thank-you notes from Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve, and weathered old editions of Anatole France. These were presents from the grandmother of Sébastien Létrange to his mother; a seventh-generation member of the founding family, he stepped in as chairman in 2016. 

“Luxury cannot be about queueing,” says Létrange. “Our clients like the idea of something pure… In order to feel that they are providing a service, most stores will immediately ask if you want something to drink – it’s a kind of commitment so you’ll stay longer. We like to let you look around and feel at home.” But you can obviously have champagne if you like. “Whatever – you’re in your own space.” 

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article