PARIS — Anyone can become Jeanne Damas.
Die-hard fans of the influencer-turned-designer can dress like her, thanks to her direct-to-consumer fashion line Rouje. They can also sport her signature red pout by copping one of the lipsticks she designed for Rouje’s new makeup range. Soon, they’ll even be able to eat like her.
Damas has revealed that the first Rouje store, which will open in September on the Rue Bachaumont in Paris and be designed in collaboration with Bonpoint founder Marie-France Cohen, will also feature a restaurant.
The daughter of a Parisian brasserie owner, the designer has described the future Rouje boutique as somewhere that has a “family-style atmosphere, where everyone knows each other: “I needed a place like the one I grew up in, with clients and friends just popping in,” Damas told French magazine L’Officiel.
Damas is not the first fashion designer to try her hand at the food business. Paris already has Ralph’s, Ralph Lauren’s cozy Left Bank spot, while Milan has housed Giorgio Armani’s Armani Caffe since 2000. But alongside Simon Porte Jacquemus, who in March collaborated with Caviar Kaspia to create Citron, the Provence-inspired café at the Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées, the Parisian designer is part of a new wave of young brands banking on a different type of customer experience to further their reach.
“Opening a restaurant enables a fashion brand to develop its universe by showcasing its values and giving customers a global brand experience,” explained Nathalie Rozborski, deputy chief executive officer of trend forecasting agency Nelly Rodi. “And, of course, everything is made to be Instagram-friendly.”
For her, the difference between major fashion brands branching into lifestyle and these younger designers is the latter’s more relaxed approach to making luxury spaces more accessible.
“Armani and Ralph Lauren are fashion behemoths that are imposing a full-on brand vision that is essentially vertical: The customer enters their world based on meritocracy and status,” continued Rozborski.
In contrast, Citron, with its tins of sardines served as starters and rustic oversized terra-cotta pots, is a more laid-back affair: Jacquemus describes it as a “village square from the South of France that has been transported to Paris.”
“In the case of Jacquemus’ Citron, the brand is merely the starting point of a global creative process,” Rozborski said, in reference to the fashion designer’s love of everything Mediterranean, which has slowly become the core of his fashion brand. “It doesn’t overpower either the client or its setting, in this case the Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées. It’s a more horizontal vision, a perfect representation of the designer himself: a lot more relaxed and less authoritative.”
As a result, this attracts an altogether different kind of customer. The restaurant’s Instagram account is tagged in dozen of pictures of Gen Zers, most of them barely out of their teens, proudly posing in front of the extremely photogenic lemon-shaped dessert created for Citron by pâtissier Cédric Grolet, often decked out in entry-level Jacquemus pieces such as the ubiquitous coin pouch.
An even more affordable prop is the homemade lemonade priced at 7 euros, or $7.75, or the 14-euro, $15.50, “Jacquemus” cocktail, a blend of vermouth, tonic, lemon and rosemary — that is, if customers are over the legal drinking age.
“Today’s consumer chooses his brands according to their values, their universe, their service and the brand experience they have to offer,” said Rozborski. “Every brand is faced with needing to create a holistic approach, an entire lifestyle. The winners are those who manage to present a finely tuned vision.”