The Browse: A Defining Delphine series where I spotlight distinctive boutiques that you’ll want to know about. First up – French label Comptoir Des Cotonniers
In today’s global fashion market, it feels like you can get anything anywhere. Almost every retailer offers e-commerce and most have plans to open stores across multiple continents if they haven’t done it already. It’s a modern-day challenge to find something in the apparel world that is still place-specific. When I was a kid, during summers in Finland we would place mail orders through the catalogue of a Swedish company called Hennes & Mauritz; it only had stores in Sweden, but allowed shipments to Finland for catalogue orders. When I got back home to the US those pieces continued to have particular value to me because they were from a remote and specific part of the world, and because no one else back home had them. Things have changed in twenty years: now H&M is as common a label as Gap in the US.
Well, I’m not crossing the Atlantic but I am leaving for New York tomorrow and am looking forward to visiting one of my favorite stores that I consider “place-specific”. Sort of. Comptoir Des Cotonniers is a French brand that I’ve come to love during trips to Paris over the years. In the US, they have 3 stores in NYC (the first opened in 2008), but none in Chicago and no e-commerce. So, to shop it I have to go to one of the NYC boutiques. In that sense, carving a few moments to pop into Comptoir during trips to New York holds that same Hennes & Mauritz mail-order-sessions anticipation and delight of my youth.
I like Comptoir’s unpretentious aesthetic. The name alone stands for simplicity: it translates to “counters of the cotton plants”. The designs tend to avoid flashy trends, and instead employ modern, simple silhouettes using fabrics with texture and prints with personality. There’s always a masculine-feminine playfulness in the way you can put their separates together. It’s one of the best places for coats and jackets. Understated and creative at once, Comptoir is the cool French girl. And she’s more reasonably priced than the competing cool French girls like Isabel Marant, Agnes B, Iro or APC. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pricey. But here’s what you need to know: Comptoir has exceptional sales. I’ve found gorgeous, substantial outerwear and dresses marked down to 60 or 70% off. So wait for sale-time: its worth it, and also, very French to do so. Les soldes!
By the way, New York City has been experiencing a noticeable increase in French brands making a presence here. Racked put together a great recap & map.
Here are some looks from Comptoir’s Fall 2013 collection to give you a glimpse of why I think it should be on your radar (as there’s no online shop in the US, these are sourced from their lookbook and their UK e-commerce site):