Mandi Lennard Shares Her Memories of Fabled French Store Colette

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Colette, Mon Amour, 2021(Film still)

In the wake of the new documentary Colette, Mon Amour, fashion polymath Mandi Lennard remembers the legendary Parisian store

It was staring at me from a hallowed, glass-topped cabinet. “Can I see this please?” I asked.

An assistant wearing white gloves and holding large black double-cup suction lifters, was ushered over, removed the top, and lift it out. I already knew I wasn’t leaving without it. It being a record sleeve pendant by Chanel, with its very own vinyl disc peeping out and the unmistakable double-C logo in its centre. I think it was £125.

This was my first visit to colette, a store which would change my life in so many ways. It was there that I first met Sarah Andelman – then Lerfel, who founded the store with her mother Colette – at a Jeremy Scott show at Paris Fashion Week. We gave each other a double-take as we were both wearing the same Louis Vuitton monogram coat, and she asked me what I did. Very soon we realised that we had a mutual affection for young designers emerging from London’s creative undergrowth. In the years that followed, she gave many of my clients a revered commercial portal by stocking them at colette. And she asked me to write a blog on their website too, excited by the group of fashion designers I would inevitably post about – given that I was based in the heart of London’s East End, where, in the early 2000s, it was all popping off. I once posted about how I’d seen some boots on her website, which had sold out and how that season, if I couldn’t have those, then I’d walk barefoot. She sent me a pair as a gift the following week.

In addition to that record sleeve pendant, I remember buying some Comme des Garçons Tao studded biker boots, a stool in the shape of a hamburger, and a Maison Michel wide-brimmed hat, the latter of which led to me being introduced to Karl Lagerfeld at a party in the apartment above Chanel’s Rue Cambon store. At the time, I didn’t know that Laetitia Crahay, Maison Michel artistic director, was also designing Chanel’s accessories. Seeing my hat, she made a beeline for me and, a few years later, she asked me to invite guests to a party she was hosting at London Fashion Week. She gave me a huge black sack and asked me to go round the party and gift Chanel accessories to key guests.

I once met Sarah off the Eurostar when she came over for a Topman meeting to discuss a Fashion East MAN collaboration, and, as she was early, I asked if she fancied visiting a new designer in east London. I was a bit embarrassed leading her through what looked like a derelict building to the door of Nasir Mazhar’s studio, where we had to navigate several old mattresses in the hallway, but her face lit up when she saw Nasir creating a beautiful headpiece while watching My Fair Lady on an old TV. Within moments she was asking him to create windows for colette during Paris Couture Week.

When it was Ken’s 50th anniversary, I got Tokyo friends Verbal and Yoon of Ambush to design a limited edition Ken doll, which they encased in a robot shell. Carri from Cassette Playa had designed a commemorative capsule collection, which we launched at colette and had archive Ken dolls in a special window display, that we worked on through the night, when the only other staff member apart from security was Colette, Sarah’s mother. For the launch party we brought Verbal and Yoon over to DJ and they wore the Cassette Playa pieces. Guests included Nicola Formichetti, Karl Lagerfeld, Joan Smalls, Judy Blame and Jeremy Scott.

Another time, I asked Sarah if she’d like to launch Bistrotheque’s fine china collaboration with Wedgwood, illustrated by Will Broome, as Bistrotheque were opening Flash at the Royal Academy of Arts, where it would form the dining room crockery. Bistrotheque ended up taking over colette’s Water Bar, where we held a ‘Josiah Cream Tea’ during Fashion Week, with guests including Gareth Pugh, Lulu Kennedy, Diane Pernet, and Pam Hogg, who received goodie bags containing a special colette and Bistrotheque tea towel illustrated by Will, as well as tea cup and saucer, while on the ground floor in a prized spot by the stairwell, the crockery was displayed for sale.

I heard about colette for the first time in 1997. The seeds of a phenomenon were sown; you became aware that people were going to Paris with the sole purpose of visiting a shop. And they were also flying there as this was two years ahead of Eurostar.

Watch Colette, Mon Amour here.