15 September 2021
The Weekly
France
Highlights Experiences and Sneakers this Fall at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

With two new spaces dedicated to kicks and a host of events, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche is putting comfort — and experiences — first for fall. On the female-oriented 2nd floor, the sneaker space has moved from a long stretch along a side wall of the building to a central area once home to heritage brands. Taking pride of place here is sustainable shoemaker Allbirds, whose temporary space is entirely upcycled using wool and wood parts, a spirit that permeates the rest of the area.

Here, the mix includes must-haves like the Isabel Marant wedge sneaker and Off-White’s collectible pairs or classics like Vans presented alongside Swiss running specialists On, which will drop a collaboration with Loewe later in the month. The rest of the 1.600m2 (17,000 sq ft) department has likewise been organized. Around the sneaker space are season offerings — rain and winter boots starting in the fall, sandals in summer months.

A similar reshuffling has been done at the basement level in the men’s department, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche built the ‘Station Sneakers,’ a 250m2 (2,700 sq ft) replica of a metro station. By grouping the full breadth of the offer, from accessible labels like Converse to luxury mainstays such as Balenciaga and rare items like On Running’s Roger low tops, named after tennis champion Roger Federer, the department store wants to put the accent on “sneakers being now for all ages, all styles and all walks of life.”

Beyond product, both spaces highlight the notion of sneakers as a culture and a pivotal lifestyle element, ranging from a selection of books on the subject prominently displayed alongside men’s styles, to a program of themed runs developed with Paris-based runners Marais Running Club and personalizations, this time with French label Amrose’s knit footwear and adornments. In addition to Thebe Magugu’s philanthropic flower-themed installation, the department store offers a wider-than-ever array, from vintage furniture and homeware finds — currently on the second floor but expanding into the adjoining building’s home department — to sports classes on the ground floor.

Patrice Wagner, CEO, revealed that August’s turnover was neck-a-neck with 2019’s pre-pandemic figures. The secret sauce? A capacity and desire to dedicate some 1.500m2 (16,000 sq ft) to experiential retail. “We have always believed that the customer has to come out of the store enriched, not just having lined a retailer’s pockets,” said Patrice. Cue the services and experiences offered everywhere in store.

In the first-floor pop-up space, turned over to a duo of very Parisian names — beauty label Holidermie and contemporary fashion label Ba&sh — salt-cabin appointments, a drinks bar with health-oriented concoctions and a program of wellness and sustainability masterclasses were put on equal footing with Ba&sh’s ready-to-wear and the product selection drawn from the holistic universe of Holidermie’s Mélanie Huynh.

The ground floor reveals two fields that became fast favourites during lockdown: sports and plants. French sports club Champion Spirit, founded by four-time Thai boxing world champion Abdoulaye Fadiga, occupies the exhibition space near the main Rue de Sèvres entrance, complete with a boxing ring that hosts children’s boxing classes and tai-chi sessions for adults, as well as the possibility of designing a home gym with apparel and interior design experts. At the other end of the store, the “Concept Vegetal” pop-up offers a selection of living plants, garden furniture and miscellaneous items for green-thumbed customers who want to create their own urban gardens. Also to look at on the ground floor, Tag Heuer renovated shop-in-shop which has been turned into an open area with the feeling of a chic lounge.

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