Last week in Paris saw the opening of L’Etage Bettina, the first store from young French shoe label Bettina Vermillon, in an imposing Haussmann building in the city’s rarified 8th arrondissement.
The brand, launched in 2015, is the brainchild of architect and Courrèges alumnus Lorraine Archambeaud, who borrowed from the universe of interiors to develop a modular concept for Bettina Vermillon; specifically, its aluminum heels, selected styles of which are interchangeable.
Customers who visit the store can select from a series of talons created by a supplier to French aviation group Dassault and the Formula 1 industry. Then the shoes are assembled while you wait in the in-house atelier. Retail prices start at around 500 euros ($600).
But the space is as versatile as the shoe concept. The 300-square-meter shop comes complete with a runway shoe display, workshop, archive selection, bar and ballroom with coffered ceiling, painted like a miniature Versailles Palace.
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Ambitious? Quite. However, the multipurpose space doubles as a vehicle to stage events and showcase design and artistic talent.
The opening exhibition is a series of drawings by French artist Victoire Cathalan, while there are also pieces by American furniture designer and architect Florence Knoll (who studied under Mies van der Rohe) and Constance Guisset (known for her ergonomic chronomatic lighting and seating concepts). There are even a couple of supersized geometric trunks created by Archambeaud that serve as alternative shoe display cases.
The idea, explained the founder, is to host additional weekly events, such as book launches, movie screenings, private dinners and concerts. “My heels are a personal statement, so this space is my visual manifesto,” she said.
“It’s the future of luxury retail,” Archambeaud continued. “Nowadays, people are looking for a true experience that goes beyond the product itself. This is the idea at the heart of Bettina Vermillon; you can buy an incredible pair of shoes but also discover new artistic talent.”
Indeed, with customer footfall no longer a given, fashion companies are banking even more on experience to entice shoppers and ensure they remain financially viable affairs.
Just ask Matches Fashion CEO Ulric Jerome, whose 5 Carlos Place concept is at the vanguard. “We believe that if you do go into a physical space, it’s because you really want to have a personal relationship with it,” he told FN at the venue’s launch. He added that luxury is experience: “It’s about elevating the experiential, innovating, creating newness and building stories every day.”