The En Avance x Maison Francis Kurkdjian boutique

PARIS — Product collaborations have long been percolating in the beauty space, involving the likes of fashion designers, jewelers and celebrities, but the tie-ins are now starting to spill into another realm — retail. And French brands are helping to pioneer the trend.

On Monday, Maison Francis Kurkdjian is opening its first U.S. store under the same roof as multibrand retailer En Avance in the Miami Design District’s Paradise Plaza. L’Occitane en Provence and pastry chef Pierre Hermé joined forces to inaugurate a concept store, 86 Champs, on Paris’ Avenue des Champs-Élysées recently, while Groupe Clarins has linked with pastry chef Christophe Michalak on a pop-up food truck now zooming around the City of Light.

“Consumers are looking for exciting experiences in retail, especially in the context of an upsurge of web retail that offers them convenience,” said Leïla Rochet Podvin, founder and chief executive officer of trends and consulting agency Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation. “We have seen collaborations in fashion, and it is now cascading to beauty. Retail needs to be reinvented to offer more than just selling products. It needs to offer memorable off-line experiences.”

For the collaborators, joining forces has numerous benefits, such as possibly delighting — and growing — their customer base in new ways, sharing the burden of ever-rising rents and having a wider offering with which to lure shoppers than, say, monobrand boutiques. Yet unlike department stores, where the ecosystem is chockablock with different products, there can be fewer distractions for consumers in the newfangled concept stores.

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Maison Francis Kurkdjian and En Avance’s new 1,600-square-foot boutique is one-third devoted to the niche perfume label and two-thirds dedicated to the multibrand fashion and lifestyle mix chosen by the store’s founder Karen Quinones. Forall Studio, based in Paris, designed the loft-like environment with rough concrete floors, red curtains and chairs, and Fornasetti panels.

Inside the En Avance x Maison Francis Kurkdjian boutique

Inside the En Avance x Maison Francis Kurkdjian boutique.  Courtesy

“The concept is very new,” said Marc Chaya, president and ceo of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, of what’s less of a shop-in-shop than a store-within-a-store. “We are subleasing the space.”

Meanwhile, the two companies are sharing all the back office, “so it also brings a lot of efficiencies,” he said.

Chaya explained the perfume brand had long been looking for a U.S. retail space. “Miami Design District was a place that I always considered. I have seen it be completely rebuilt in a very arty way, and Karen has been one of our partners I have always admired,” he continued. “As an independent businesswoman, she has always been a visionary.”

En Avance was the first U.S. independent retailer to sell Kurkdjian’s fragrances, and his are the only scents it stocks now. (Elsewhere in the country, the label is sold at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.)

“I thought that there was a lot of change in the industry, with smaller independent stores not surviving the [rise of] online,” Quinones said. “I wanted to come up with a different concept. Marc and I just started talking, and we thought it would be interesting to provide a different interactive experience for the clients. So not just fragrance and not just clothing and home, but a nice mix between both of our brands and [to] create this new synergy.

“We are kind of blending our concepts together,” she continued. “This is my 25th year, so I wanted to do something different and something new.”

When Quinones considered moving to a larger location, Chaya suggested they do it together. There, he thought, Maison Francis Kurkdjian could sell its full assortment alongside En Avance’s selection.

“I thought the marriage between the two brands would bring an amazing customer experience,” Chaya continued.

The boutique 86 Champs was also spawned from a longstanding friendship, between Hermé and L’Occitane’s founder Olivier Baussan, and now current owner, Reinold Geiger. All of them pay careful attention to the high-quality ingredients they use, and the brand and chef have collaborated on beauty products in the past, said Charles Znaty, cofounder and ceo of Pierre Hermé Paris.

“We tried to combine the best of the two houses to create a location that’s unique,” said Yacine Benkritly, general manager of L’Occitane for France and Benelux, adding the space is one where “you sublimate all of the senses. It’s to go beyond simple tasting and simple discovery of products, to live this experience. We are taking clients out of their daily life.”

“We are in gourmand well-being,” he said of the “concept store.”

The boutique, including an outside dining area, covers about 6,670 square feet. “We decided to try not to separate both universes,” Znaty explained.

In the center of the shop are hand-blown glass balls hanging over an abundance of macaroons, chocolates and pastries. On the left are four small arcades highlighting key ingredients L’Occitane uses for its products. There’s also an area where people can choose products, learn more about the beauty brand and Pierre Hermé, and a bar-like counter where instead of drinks, pastries are served.

86 Champs

86 Champs  Courtesy Photo

“You can actually talk to the pâtissier,” Znaty said. “They will make your dessert or whatever you ordered.”

Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are available, with the menu created especially by Hermé for the store.

Znaty said everyone in retail today is looking for a second wind. “It’s [about] how to create an experience that is intimately related to a retail activity, but that would give people a reason good enough [to buy in store],” he explained. “I believe that food is probably the main driver for retail today.”

Another café by Pierre Hermé recently opened in the L’Occitane shop on London’s Regent Street.

Groupe Clarins is taking another tack with its Healthy Truck run in collaboration with Michalak, which is less of a retail exercise — with no beauty products, just healthy food, sold from it — and more of a brand builder.

“It is to explain that Clarins is a company that gives beauty services, and that one of the tips outside of how to apply cosmetics products is that it is possible to have beautiful skin by eating better,” explained Olivier Courtin-Clarins, managing director of Groupe Clarins. That’s the same “beauty food” principle that’s laid out in his 2017 book, “Beauty in My Plate,” that is also available in the truck. The executive chose to work with a chef he knows and appreciates.

The Clarins by Michalak Healthy Truck

The Clarins by Michalak Healthy Truck  Courtesy Photo

Between March 12 and April 20 (with an extension possible due to demand), the co-branded truck is crisscrossing Paris, mostly in the 17th and 6th arrondissements, and the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. It serves up a small selection of dishes. “You can find the ingredients in my book,” he said. “He made salads and a warm vegetable tart.

“It is to show that Clarins is interested in everything concerning beauty, and food is part of that,” Courtin-Clarins explained of the concept.

Beauty brands’ omni-approaches have gotten ever more creative, not least when it comes to retailing.

“The consumer shopping journey has been revolutionized in the digital age, and brands must revisit the traditional retail model. More prepared than ever, beauty consumers — especially beauty natives, [or] Millennials — expect more from their in-store experience,” said Rochet Podvin, whose agency recently published a report on the disruption of retail.

She noted other beauty café concepts in Asia and San Francisco, where Glossier just launched a pop-up in Rhea’s Café.

With new retail collaborations “we are simply reflecting the current time that we live in,” Chaya said. “People are willing to maybe spend more today on being rather than having.”

Further, he said: “I think the in-store experience is a huge contributor to the online follow-up.”

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