A Closer Look: Leclaireur Sévigné
A Closer Look: Leclaireur Sévigné
- Words Christopher Fenimore
- Date January 31, 2018
Leclaireur’s Sévigné location is my personal favorite of the four that exist in Paris. You’d almost miss it if you’re walking quickly as the exterior is quite unassuming, but a large double-door leads you to an avant-garde fantasy world. On the men’s side, they carry legacy brands ranging from Gucci and Yohji Yamamoto, to luxury favorites like Haider Ackermann and Boris Bidjan Saberi. The store’s designer, Arne Quinze, says, “This is not a store. It’s an experience. This project is the formatting of a dream, an intention fed with emotions, stories, memories; like in a tale in which I hope everyone can find a little of themselves.”
I’ve visited the Sévigné location each time I’m in Paris, and I’ve had the best time chatting with the store’s manager, Goce Jovanovski. I worked retail for eight years, three of corporate retail and five of boutique retail. You have to be able to talk to any type of person. You have to be able to feel those people out, and know how much talking is appropriate—you have to know when to help and when to back off. It’s a lot of give and take, and it certainly takes talent, and a ton of energy and mental capacity, to provide service at that level.
Jovanovski is a master. He’s calm and warm, but if he senses some form of kindred spirit or mutual appreciation (for a brand, for food, for culture), he pounces. Before you know it, you’ve been talking for an hour and a half. And that’s part of his service. He doesn’t care if you buy something. With a brand matrix. interior, and delightful, knowledgable staff like this store has, it will continue to be successful with or without your sale. He wants to provide a comfortable and fun environment for you to shop, or even just visit. Here’s 11 minutes on the record. I didn’t think we’d talk for another hour or I would have recorded all of that as well. I suspect some of you will read this and know Goce; if you’ve ever shopped at this location, you’ve probably talked to the outgoing, tattooed, bearded man.
Tell me a bit about yourself—your work history, and what you currently do for Leclaireur.
I manage the store. From day to day sales to organization of the store. I participate in the buying as well. One of my colleagues takes care of all the men’s buying and I do the women’s. I have fun. All day long. It’s a fun place as you can see. Before this, I was working in South Africa doing buying—it was a concept store in Johannesburg. Before that, I was in Paris.
What is the history of Leclaireur? Which location came first, and how long has the company been in business?
The first location opened 37 years ago at Champs-Élysées and little by little, we opened more stores. This one opened seven years ago. It will be eight in November. The whole thing was to create something new and original and combine the design with the direction of our brands. The owner of the store didn’t want something classic. All the stores look like scenography, all the screens that are interactive. He wanted something really special, like the screens we have here in the back. We don’t hide the clothes but we try to make our clients curious as to what’s behind the walls. It’s a little tease, you know? The clients always say, “Wow!” It’s a big surprise.
There’s some information about the space on your site, but it’s one of the most unique retail spaces I’ve ever seen and I’m not sure photos can fully capture the feeling you get seeing it in person. In your opinion, how does the space lend itself to the brand roster? It’s obviously a nice, eclectic mix of high fashion.
The space is really overwhelming and so you need to curate things that…it’s not a nice word, but they shouldn’t be eaten by the whole thing. First, you have to know your customers, and we’re lucky they like funky pieces, and strong pieces, so that’s the whole thing. We try, and it’s hard, to choose the pieces from collections that we think are right for the stores and for the space, because, as you say, it really is a whole universe and you can’t just throw things in here with no purpose. There are so many brands and there’s so much you want to put in the store. We like to work with our brands for a long time. Some of the brands we have in here we’ve had for thirty years. Just because there are brands that are so fashionable today doesn’t mean we’re going to replace them and I really like that.
Who is your customer? I’m sure there are quite a few types, so just give me a general sense.
It’s really hard to explain because at the end of the day, I’ll look at the tax refunds for example, and you’ll have 18, 19, 20 different countries. Today, you see a lot of Asians. It’s a huge market, all over the world, but we also have lots of Americans, Russians, Europeans, Brazilians, literally people from all over. All different ages! I have clients that are 18, some that are 60 or 70, and I believe our oldest is 92, and she’s so fun. We have almost 60 labels, and there’s something for everyone. We have street labels for the younger customers, but we also have some other serious labels, and some more understated labels. It’s really really hard to say which age we reach the most.
I’ve stopped in here every time I’ve been to Paris on work for Fashion Week because it’s one of my favorite stores in the world. How does Paris Fashion Week change the store? Do you see a lot more sales and a difference in customer?
You’ve stopped here but it’s the same for many people. It depends on the shows. When there’s a show, it’s empty, and then when it lets out, there are suddenly 50, 60 people in the store.
Which kind of music do you play at the store, and what are you personally listening to at the moment?
It’s a mix, most of it is electro. In the office they really like that. I don’t even notice the music here, but I personally love jazz. In the space here, I don’t want people to sleep so maybe that’s not the best.
[At this point, one of the owners of Leclaireur walks in and they speak in French for some time.]
I was just saying there are so many appointments and I’ve been trying to move them around but it doesn’t work. It’s like every half an hour and it’s hard to move them but you can’t just do a buy in half an hour. Even though, today it’s easy because you already have the collection in store and you can feel what you like and what you don’t, but it’s still a lot to deal with. Personally I like more chill music because all day here it’s a lot of energy and lots of people and I do talk a lot. Sometimes I don’t even notice; I just left recently for three weeks and came back and it’s like, oh my god, the screens and the music and the people…but when you’re here every day like me I don’t see any of it. And that’s weird to say but I don’t see anything but the clothes. It’s interesting when people get in and say, “Wow, that’s fun, what’s that [new selection]?” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s true actually!” It is all that! It feels like you’re working in a gallery or a museum.
What do you think of the state of fashion as it currently stands? I’m referencing the rise of streetwear, logos and even social media to push a brand. Perhaps we’re sacrificing quality and legacy for hype and momentum. Has this affected business at all?
We are sacrificing quality. I’ve been working retail for 17 years and I remember that when I started, people had an interest in a piece and they’d save their money for it, on sale or not. That was thing. Today, you don’t have that, or much of it. What you said about quality is true, because people were showing interest about the piece and where it’s made, how it’s made and by who, when, and all that. We don’t have that, or we’re losing it. What’s the reason? I can’t tell you…probably because of technology. Probably because it became overwhelming. Things are stocked everywhere. It’s so easy to get anything today, so, it lost all of that little sparkle from when you wanted something special. Now you can get them so easily and then you have the prices today.
The prices go up and up and up, and all those middle class clients that the stores had have become more rare. You work. You know how much you can afford to buy, maybe one or two pieces a season? And the clients’ habits… with a lot of our younger customers, I think that they buy so fast and need to be ahead of the market. Before, you had followers of a label, and they’d discover the evolution of a label. Today, with them, they discover one thing today and two days later they want something else, and they all want the same thing. If they see something, they want the same item, in the same color, almost in the same size. It’s not a discussion, like, “I have this in another color.” I think it’s an education thing and I really hope that will change with time. It’s a bit overwhelming.