It is a rarity that a good going shop from the French province opens a branch in the capital. In Paris, the competition is fierce and rents are expensive. Despite these hurdles, Nicolas Ivars from The Next Door in Avignon dared to do so. But not on his own. Together with Antoine Floch and Olivier Migda, the founders of the international fashion fairs Man/Woman, he opened in mid-January 2019 a shop with 800 sq. meters of space over several floors in the hip residential and shopping district around the Canal Saint-Martin.
The shop has two entrances–one on Rue Beaupaire and the other on Rue Yves Toudic–and impresses with a huge shop window area on both sides that offers a direct view into the interior of the airy store. The ground floor, where movable clothes stands are attached to the ceiling, has mainly designer goods while the basement is dedicated to streetwear. Selected sneaker models are also presented there. The first floor will serve various purposes and is currently a lounge area with vintage furniture and Bang & Olufsen music systems. The price ranges of the goods cover a wide range from €30 to €2000. The Next Door carries around 70 brands, including Marni, Sacai, Undercover, Heron Preston, Casablanca, Noon Goons, The North Face, Converse, Adidas, Nike, Asics and Hoka.
Here, Antoine Floch explains how the unusual cooperation between the fashion retailer from the south and the trade fair organizers from Paris came about, what the three are up to and what their goals are.
Together with Olivier Midga you have made the Man/Woman trade fair very successful for seven years. Why did you open a shop now and why not alone, but with Nicolas Ivars?
Olivier and I don't want to expand our trade fair. We don't want to become Premium or Liberty. It is very important for us to remain independent and manage our fair in a humanly coherent size. Nevertheless, we want to develop projects beyond the fair. Our dream was a shop. But if we have 40 or 50 brands there, we will have problems with our exhibitors? They rightly ask: Why did you order the brand and not mine? So we decided not to open a store ourselves, but to take over an existing store and bring it to Paris.
And so you met Nicolas from The Next Door?
Exactly. Nicolas started a skateboard shop in Avignon 20 years ago and founded The Next Door in Avignon ten years ago. He now has two shops in the south and a good running e-shop. He has the trade experience and knows purchasing; we bring experience in strategy, communication, image and events. Thanks to him, we are completely independent of the brands of our trade fair.
Then he does the buying alone?
Purchasing goods is a profession in its own right that you don't learn overnight. Nicolas is very good at it. Especially in the selection of brands.
Have you kept a little influence instead? You are both professionals and get to know a lot of new brands thanks to the fair.
To be honest, we don’t have the time. Olivier takes care of the fair and I travel a lot. I just got back from Tokyo and I have to go to LA next week. Now we have two, no, even three jobs: the fairs, the boutique and we also have a photo studio in Paris, Père Lachaise. Olivier and I say our opinion naturally, but we also got together with Nicolas because we all have the same taste.
Why did you open the shop in Paris? Isn't there enough here already?
No, on the contrary. I think there is a lack of interesting shops in Paris. It's not normal that a city like Paris, the capital of fashion, the most important fashion week location, home of the big brands like Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, etc., has so few good independent shops. OK, there are the big department stores, there are Centre Commercial and Merci, but that's not enough. Especially in a city with so many tourists. We have been open for two months now and there have been a lot of foreigners coming to us. The Next Door is supposed to be a destination for everyone who travels to Paris to shop.
What are the reasons for the missing offer?
Of course, it is difficult to open a shop in Paris. The rents are very expensive and the banks hardly help with such projects. We've been saving for a long time and didn't want investors; we wanted to do it on our own. Just like Nicolas started ten years ago in Avignon and we started seven years ago with Man/Woman. It is very important for us to be independent.
How did you get to this location?
We were lucky: we have 800 sq. meters and 500 sq. meters for retail. At first we searched the Marais, but it was too expensive. The location depends heavily on the customers who live there and stroll past. Here at the Canal Saint-Martin we are not far from the Place de la République, where all the skaters practice. But there are also many young families and couples living here. The average age is 25 to 35 years old. But above all we are in the heart of Paris. And in a quarter with many tourists.
You opened in the middle of Paris Men’s Fashion Week?
That was what we wanted. During Men's Fashion Week, all the buyers and the press are in town. That was good, even though we didn't have the store at this time on this level we wanted to go. Even now, the shop isn’t completed.
What else is to be installed?
We are currently setting up a café. There will be a terrace on the Rue Yves Toudic. On the first floor, where the lounge area is now, there will be an accessories floor with jewelry, leather goods, high-tech, cameras–with brands like Leica, Bang & Olufson. Events will take place on the second floor. Projects are already planned for the coming months. Brands can also use the space for certain sales promotions. I'm also thinking of holding talks there with designers or chief buyers.
We're also working with the art galleries in the neighborhood to get works from artists that we want to exhibit regularly in the shop. There will also be an area with books, new ones and old, and magazines.
On the ground floor there is currently a kind of shop-in-shop by Stüssy.
This is a special installation and shows exactly where we set our goals. Stüssy has the space for six months. The brand uses it as a local market test. They have plans to open a store in Paris and can try out here how consumers react to the offer. With The Next Door we also want to support brands that hardly exist in the city. These could be brands from the USA, Japan and Europe. I think it's a shame that people only get special products online because the goods are not available in Paris. They miss the shopping experience.
Would you describe The Next Door as a concept store?
I have a little problem with the term “concept store.” Many people thought that The Next Door is the new Colette. We have spent the last few months explaining to people in a friendly way that this is not our goal. In my opinion, nobody can and should pretend to claim to make a new Colette. What Sarah Andelman and her mother Colette Roussaux did was unique and cannot be copied. We don't want to replace it. We want to offer something new.
Today everything goes so fast thanks to the Web and social networks. Everything is available at any time of the day or night. So it's important that a brick-and-mortar shop is more than just a normal fashion boutique. It has to be a place where things happen. Where there are events. And where people meet. We don't just want to buy brands; we want to make sure that they can express themselves in terms of their identity and history. Consumers today receive so much information online that it is important that they find it in the shop. Customers need to be inspired when they come to the store.
The idea is to create stories. This is possible because we primarily present brands that have a lot to say. We create content for the brands or adopt existing content and show it in the store. In the basement we have an area for projections. Many brands also ask us to create content for them. So we put together a team and do a shooting.
We've just done a shoot for a new Nike sneaker model that was recently launched in our studio. It's a little Warhol Factory style movie we're showing on our Instagram account and in our store. Together with Paraboot we will offer a special collection in a few months. For this we went to Grenoble with a video team. We filmed the factory and the savoir-faire, did an interview with the managers. We will then show all this in the shop: the history, identity and the Made in France. Customers today want to know what's behind a product.
The projection area, i.e. the mapping LED wall, is also to be used in another way, namely for direct ordering for your e-shop.
That's right, we also have screens on the ground floor, but the system isn't installed yet. We call it Phygital, the mix of "physical" for the shop and "digital" for the e-shop. The aim is not to overload the shop with goods. So not all products will hang on the stands. The customer looks at the screens to see the other products. If he wants to order, we can retrieve the product from the warehouse a few minutes later. This is possible because we have 150 sq. meters of storage space on two floors in the basement. This system also solves another problem.
There are some brands that have only accepted us on the condition that we sell them exclusively online. The reason is that they have already signed exclusive agreements with other stores in Paris or are pursuing an online strategy. The brands are physically nonexistent. The customers order in the e-shop, but still get their wishes fulfilled immediately in the shop.
How well does your online shop work?
Even before its opening in Paris, The Next Door’s webshop accounted for around 65% of sales in Avignon. That's why we decided to centralize the entire range of the online shop here in Paris.
Your offer is still quite masculine at the moment. When will women's fashion arrive at The Next Door?
We want to stay with men's fashion in the base. But gender bending and the oversize trend will benefit us. We simply buy the small sizes from the menswear so that the woman can also wear them. This is becoming more and more common–especially with shirts and pullovers. We are also thinking about including women's lines in already integrated menswear brands in the future.
Do you also have exclusive brands?
As far as I know, we have Adsum from New York exclusively. They have great potential, as does Our Legacy. Exclusively in Paris we also have Visim from Japan and Engineered Garments from the US.
What about the “raffles”–the sneaker events?
We've already started. Especially for the two brands Nike and Adidas for their sneakers cooperations with Virgil Abloh and Kanye West. You can't sell these products any other way because the demand is simply too high. But raffles are only a part of the special sales, like Store-in-Store, Pop-Up etc., which we work on all the time anyway.
You currently have around 70 brands. Do you want to exchange them regularly?
No, we want to work with the brands on a long-term basis. We want to be a real launch- and marketing-platform for them. If we are going to invest in them, it will be in the long run.