The Marais, the Paris neighbourhood once known for its brasseries, art galleries and local PMU bars, is, today, one of this city’s premier shopping districts. Replacing apothecaries, bookstores and boulangeries is a chronic influx of fashion and beauty brands aiming to capitalise on the quarter’s historic charm and some of the city’s most popular restaurants providing bustling energy and foot traffic from around the world. Amongst it all, in 90 square meters of Parisian brick & mortar is Tom Greyhound – the multi-brand designer concept store which runs a successful store in the South Korean capital of Seoul and is owned by the Hyundai Department Store Group.
When Tom Greyhound opened 5 years ago, “when I came for my interview”, explained Ekaterina Glazunova, the head buyer for the store; “the area was merely filled with a few galleries and brasseries and since, our neighbours have multiplied”. The Broken Arm opened, The Next-door, Leclaireur that existed before them; Insane, Gradient and Eleven Store are a few she mentioned that each manage to have their own concept. “While The Broken Arm is edgy and specialises in emerging fashion, Leclaireur is more conservative. The Next-door is more street-wear based and l’Insane is modern in their genderless approach and we are modern and international”.
The store is located in the upper Marais and from the outside, is as surprising in its design as its retail space, which appears concealed behind a statuesque glass wall filled with clothing and the installation of their latest collaboration between designer JW Anderson and Converse. Dedicated primarily to more accessible brands and every day life, the first floor features street wear, more relaxed clothing including Korean brand System, Ader Error, Off-White, Martin Asbjorn for the Scandinavian touch, and Lacoste who was recently part of an event in the space. When Lacoste appointed their new creative Director Louise Trotter, the buyers for the store were invited to the show and immediately fell in love with the brand’s new direction, subsequently launching their capsule collection at the store last month. “We don’t do events every two weeks, in no way do we want to become a second Colette, it isn’t part of our DNA”.
Sitting in the converted art gallery, amongst the latest fashion and culture magazines, fashion from around the world, and a collection of paintings hand-picked from a collaboration with a Korean art gallery who have lent them selected pieces by Korean artists; Glazunova hints at subtle benefits they have noticed since the luxury store Colette closed down in 2017. “We received a lot of attention from the press which put us under the spotlight of a post-colette Paris”, she claimed. Still, each season, the team works to bring in new emerging designers or brands that have created something in tune with the store values. “This season we love Phipps, who was nominated for the LVMH prize. We are also working with MM6 Margiela again as we love their newly acquired energy”. Another new designer the store is working with is Wright Le Chapelain created by Imogen Wright and Vincent Le Chapelain as a result of their studies together at Central Saint Martins. The pair had reached out to the store through their Instagram account and after having looked through their work, their social media presence, their prices and stockists, decided to bring them into the Parisian concept store. All of their production is done in London in British workshops resulting in a high quality product which is something the Greyhound buyers support.
Brands on the first floor are more high end, from JW Anderson – one of the Tom Greyhound’s first and favourite designers they have worked with; Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander, Loweve, Korean brand The Cashmere and Marni. Menswear includes, Paco Rabanne, Dries Van Noten, and as she explains, “today fashion is all very focused on the hype and stores often today end up looking like each other, with the same brands over and over again. We’ve discovered designers that mean a lot to us such as Camiel Fortgens for example, who isn’t very exposed internationally. Formerly an architect based in Amsterdam, he swapped the architect’s table for a sewing machine and has produced a non-conformist yet classic take on his vision of fashion using rough-cut seams and unfinished-looking layered jackets. “It’s evident he never went to fashion school and that’s what we love about his work”, assured Glazunova.
When the store first opened in 2014, they shared most of their brands with the Tom Greyhound in Seoul. Over time, their vision changed as they worked to bring an international vision of fashion to Paris that was less conservative and highly specialised in skill and craft rather than revealing too much or being too flamboyant. “We realised people don’t always wear total looks from a specific designer”, she explained. With this in mind, they decided to mix and match the brands, offering customers selections by themes and colours rather than reserving a rack for a specific designer. “
“If a client comes in and asks for a particular brand – she said – we will have to explain that we work in a different way and that they will have to peruse the racks to find the brand they are looking for amidst the others”, she continues. “Today we respond to fashion through consumerism and in the fast hype which leaves less room for the creators that we have been supporting since the opening, to flourish. If the customer shops looking piece by piece instead of designer by designer, they naturally will discover something that they wouldn’t usually consider buying beforehand”. Commercially it works well for the space and provides colour-coordinated rails which are always pleasant to look at. Another designer they have been working with for the last few seasons is Israeli designer Hed Mayner who won the Karl Lagerfeld, LVMH prize this year.
In a world where consumption is moving online, leave the future of the retail landscape unsteady. At Tom Greyhound, human interaction is encouraged. Customers are expected to spend time in the store, travelling from corner to corner and rack to rack. As a buyer for the store, Glazunova explained that, “to hear what clients think about the diversity of sizes for example is important. We have an international brand list. With every brand individual and sizes varying by country and brand, we really make an effort to communicate this with the various brands we stock”. The sizing between Italian brands and Korean brands are completely different for example. Still she pointed out, “50% of our clientele is from Asia. Tom Greyhound is well known in Korea which is known to be THE place to be for shopping”. When customers then come to Paris, familiar with the concept, they will often stop by and say hello as, “[They] love their taste, our clients are educated, curious, and eager to discover the story-telling element to each designer we stock”.
To this end, Tom Greyhound provides everyone working in the store with training to fully equip each person with designer backgrounds, collection inspiration, history and product information from price to sizes and production. “Clients ask all sorts of questions today like, ‘who is it by, where is it from and who are they or how was it produced?’, so the story telling aspect is very important”.
As well as training, buyers select the brands they feature not as a result of their heavy-weight name but because of their aesthetic and connection with store values. Travelling to London, to various fashion weeks, showrooms, through suggestions from other buyers around the world or visiting boutiques across the world they find designers that fit perfectly with their aesthetic. Through experience, she explained finally, “we all end up knowing one another [the buyers], from seeing each other across various shows and trips in search of emerging talent and the same goes for journalists, editors or stylists who often come to the store for inspiration”.
On display is the façade of the latest magazines on offer for customers to “take home as souvenirs from the store”, Glazunova stated. As for events with magazines, the vagabond nature of the displays’ offer easy redistribution of the space. For their event with November magazine, the upstairs minimalist former gallery was transformed into a nightclub in full swing. Ragged posters plastered across walls and red and blue spotlights left the almost pitch-black room booming with art and fashion connoisseurs instead of the usual elegant and soothing display of high-brow designers on wooden and ply-wood racks. Downstairs a selection of jewellery has recently expanded, giving way to Alighieri’s ‘Divine-Comedy’ inspired jewels or Seoul-based Portrait Report which are said to be selling very well. Tom Greyhound can be found at 19 Rue Saintonge in the Marais in Paris.
19 Rue de Saintonge
75003 Paris, France