We’re off to meet Armand Hadida at his boutique l’Eclaireur, which is located in one of my favourite Parisian neighbourhoods, the Marais. We’ve been told that l’Eclaireur is unique in its kind: “Wait until you meet Armand and you’ll get it right away.”
“I’m curious,” says Anouk, “let’s go and discover this enlightened concept!”
The boutique is located in the Rue de Sévigné, a quiet side street, not somewhere you’d pass by chance. “Clearly, this is for the lucky few who are in the know!” I say.
Inside, the place has a special feel to it – more like an art gallery than a shop. Armand – or at least we think it’s him – is sitting at a large dark table in the middle of the space.
When he sees us, he immediately gets up. “Great to have you here,” he says warmly. “Have a seat. Would like a coffee?” As he pulls up more chairs, he adds: “Tell me about yourselves. What are you looking for?”
“Well we actually have one simple question,” I say.
“Fire away,” says Armand.
“What’s your story? We want to learn more about you, l’Eclaireur and your vision for the future.”
“I see,” says Armand with a smile.
“Well, the story of l’Eclaireur and how I came to found it goes back a little way: I’m of Moroccan-Jewish origin, came to Paris when I was 20 with nothing – no degree, no money. I started working as a painter in the construction industry, and did all sorts of odd jobs, also in mass marketing. But I was very shy and didn’t fit in.
“Then one day I was asked to fill in for someone who was ill, working in a fashion store. That was a moment of revelation: I saw a chance to change my life for the better, but I knew I had to work on myself. I was very insecure and also didn’t speak the language properly. So I started working on myself and with time, I became a very good salesman. By the age of 23, I was a buyer and two years later I was running my own store with my wife.
“Wow,” says Anouk. “A real self-made man! What an amazing story! And when did you start l’Eclaireur?”
“We opened the first Eclaireur store in 1980 on the Champs Elysées. We were the first in France to feature designs by brands like Prada, Helmut Lang, John Galliano and Ann Demeulemeester. Since then we have opened six more stores around Paris.”
“And so what’s next?” asks Maarten. “How do you see the future of your boutiques?”
“I’m a path finder,” says Armand, “the one who turns on the lights and opens up new avenues. I find new talent, new designers and work as their ambassador. But I also like to go against the grain.”
“In what way?”
“Well for example, young designers usually start with a store in the suburbs of Paris and then move towards the centre. We’ve done the opposite: we started on the Champs Elysées and now we’ve just opened a store at the Porte de Clignancourt.”
“And so what would you say distinguishes l’Eclaireur?”
“Our boutiques today have three main ingredients: fashion, art and technology, and in that sense they are quite different from anything else out there. You should really come and see our boutique at the Porte de Clignancourt in St. Ouen.
“To me, that’s the boutique of the future: experience driven, no clothing, but with plenty of things to buy. It’s a meeting place and a place where people can dream, be inspired and surprised…”
“Hang on,” says Anouk. “A boutique without clothes? How does that work?”
Armand smiles: “If you use technology in the right way, it’s possible to strike the perfect balance between the online and offline worlds. In the boutique, you can absorb the atmosphere, meet us and other people and get inspiration. Then we can show you everything in our store, online, and we can order what you want.”
“Sound cool,” says Maarten. “We’ll definitely go and check it out. If it’s anything like your boutique here in the Marais, we’re in for a treat!”
Tags: Meeting Armand Hadida, meeting Armand Hadida in Paris, meeting Armand Hadida in le Marais, meeting l’éclaireur, meeting l’éclaireur in paris, l’éclaireur, armand, hadida, armand hadida, fashion connaisseur, fashion guru, CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling, Around the World in 80 Brands, Storytelling, CoolBrands