Both Colette and STORY saw and see themselves as physically manifested magazines, with a unique point of view and voice, making changes like a gallery, yet selling like a store. However, while Colette was always a reflection of Andelman and her mother’s personal tastes, making it more of a niche pleasure project, STORY caters to the mass market with a more inclusive mood. Erudite, fashion-savvy shoppers on a mission would flock to Colette, but STORY aims to cater to a myriad of ages and demographics with its four, to eight weeks cycles of “stories” or reinventions, from the design to the merchandise, celebrating the concept of product as content. The goal is to bring to light a new theme, trend or issue, and so far STORY has had 38 of them – each complete with a redesign, new product and marketing strategy. The store brings the variety and refreshing buzz that Colette first harnessed, and takes it to a new level. “If time is the ultimate luxury and people want a higher return on investment of their time, you need to give them a reason to be in a physical space,” said Shechtman on stage at BoF VOICES, “and the merchandise needs to connect to the narrative. One of the things I’m most passionate about is taking two things that you never imagined together and the second they are together, you can never imagine them apart.”
The company’s partnership with health insurance provider Cigna last year, for example, resulted in a store where you could buy a heart monitor, Outdoor Voices workout clothes, healthy snacks, do a Pilates class, join a panel on the future of healthcare, or try out the Virtual Reality meditation. The store’s beauty story included make-up wisdom from 96-year old fashion muse Iris Apfel and a Q&A with Nicky Kinnaird, the visionary founder of Space NK. Coming from four generations of retail, Shechtman’s own media business model generates two revenue streams – one through sponsors (such as American Express) but also sales from merchandise in their Chelsea-based store. Sponsorships, Shechtman states, can cost anywhere from $75,000 to $300,000, “We call it experience per square foot.” Creating a community through experience is working – over the past two years’ STORY’s net income has doubled annually according to Shechtman.
Colette and STORY both stand apart from other retailers who may be grappling with the changing needs of customers in the age of e-commerce. “Nowadays, having a multi-brand shop is very challenging. You have to fight to get good product, but also to explore [new designers] and not limit yourself,” advises Andelman. “We didn’t plan to do the collaborations,” she says, recalling the organic way Colette evolved by working with mass and luxury power houses like Coca-Cola, Apple, Ladurée, Cartier, Chanel and Hermès. “For sure, Chanel was really a dream, but we wanted to offer things you couldn’t get elsewhere. We only thought of the customer, finding them new things, and exclusivity was the way to do this.”
You could say Colette, and indeed STORY, both pioneer inclusivity via exclusivity – but not elitism. “On the ground floor we always had the streetwear which became bigger and bigger,” explains Andelman. “Back in the day when we went to see New Balance, they were surprised because we wanted to carry their sneakers and at that time the only shops to carry New Balance were sports shops. It was the same with many other brands. You can tell the way I dress myself, I always wear sneakers with designer pieces.” The longevity of Colette simply came from change, “We didn’t assume that because a brand works well or if it sells well that we’ll continue it forever. We like to not rest or sleep on success. We would always try to know what’s coming next.”