For­ever scout­ing

Neue Luxury - - News - By Stephen Crafti

“Fash­ion should al­ways be about dis­cov­ery and cre­at­ing an iden­tity. The idea isn’t just adding to the vis­ual over­load of cloth­ing out there,” says Ha­dida, who is still as pas­sion­ate and vi­sion­ary about fash­ion as he was when he first opened the doors of L’eclaireur in a Parisian base­ment in 1980. Of course the busi­ness of retail has be­come con­sid­er­ably more com­plex since then, with con­sumers de­mand­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity, in­for­ma­tion and par­ity pric­ing across a mul­ti­tude of retail chan­nels at a speed many are fail­ing to main­tain and even fewer suc­cess­fully con­quer­ing.

Like a sea buoy—loyal and con­stant—ha­dida has al­ways cho­sen to es­tab­lish his own voice for L’eclaireur within a tur­bu­lent sea of ho­mo­gene­ity and re­pro­duc­tion. If sim­ply sell­ing clothes was Ha­dida’s mantra, he cer­tainly wouldn’t have sur­vived the fash­ion grinder 35 years on and with an­other global fi­nan­cial cri­sis un­der his belt.

In speak­ing to Ha­dida about the pres­sures of es­tab­lish­ing a retail iden­tity in the 1980’s one can­not help but re­call the hand­ful of in­di­vid­u­als and stores, such as Marithé & François Gir­baud and depart­ment store Bar­neys (New York), who stood apart in sim­i­larly weath­ered pe­ri­ods of fi­nan­cial in­sta­bil­ity and global re­ces­sion. “Bar­neys hit a chord with me when I vis­ited New York in 1981. At that time, they were mix­ing up vintage cloth­ing with jew­ellery and home­wares, and la­bels that weren’t par­tic­u­larly well known,” says Ha­dida, who had started look­ing for lo­cal de­sign­ers to sell in his base­ment store.

When Vivi­enne West­wood showed her iconic Buf­falo Girls (Nos­tal­gia of Mud) col­lec­tion (Au­tumn-win­ter 1982-1983), with its use of earthy tones and roughly cut sheep­skin, Ha­dida was there with cheque­book in hand. West­wood’s over­sized rag-like cloth­ing was a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from what was be­ing shown in Paris at that time. “There was Claude Mon­tana and Azze­dine Alaïa who were ei­ther show­ing strik­ingly in­tim­i­dat­ing sil­hou­ettes or sexy fig­ure hug­ging pro­files. No- one was look­ing at an­drog­y­nous fash­ion that was com­ing from the streets,” says Ha­dida, who also bonded aes­thet­i­cally with the An­twerp Six, par­tic­u­larly Ann De­meule­meester. So whether it was planned or sim­ply chance and luck, L’eclaireur (mean­ing ‘to scout’) es­tab­lished its own iden­tity in the world’s fash­ion cap­i­tal. “I wasn’t in­ter­ested in hav­ing the same retail ex­pres­sion as oth­ers. There’s more than enough ‘vis­ual pol­lu­tion’ in the high streets. Even then, I was tak­ing the op­po­site di­rec­tion of tra­di­tional retail mar­ket­ing,” adds Ha­dida.

Each of Ha­dida’s Paris stores: Herold Mal­her, Royal Eclaireur, Se­vi­gne, Boissy D’an­glas, Champs and Saint Ouen, has its own unique voice and patina. L’eclaireur at rue Herold (opened in 2001) couldn’t be fur­ther from the tra­di­tional retail model. There are no win­dow dis­plays pre­sent­ing goods for sale and ac­cess to the dis­crete store is sim­ply granted via buzzer and steel door. Not sur­pris­ingly, most first-timers get lost on their ini­tial pil­grim­age, a char­ac­ter­is­tic most com­pa­ra­ble to the ever elu­sive Martin Margiela, who kept well out of the spotlight. “When you don’t put ev­ery­thing in front of peo­ple’s noses, they will, like Margiela’s cloth­ing, seek you out. There should be a sense of mys­tery be­hind a closed door. And af­ter the first visit [to Herold Mal­her] you won’t need to ask for di­rec­tions,” says Ha­dida.“if my stores were the same as the oth­ers, what rea­son would there be to visit?”

In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing unique retail ex­pe­ri­ences, Ha­dida—like a con­duc­tor of sorts— care­fully or­ches­trates how each fash­ion sym­phony is de­liv­ered to his au­di­ence. Of­ten us­ing the word ‘ac­tors’, rather than sales staff, Ha­dida knows that pa­trons are para­mount and their un­der­stand­ing of ‘nar­ra­tive’ and ‘story’ more acute than ever. The Saint Ouen store is bet­ter de­scribed as an art in­stal­la­tion, with the lat­est col­lec­tions shown on film rather than dis­played on cloth­ing racks. “This place is like a hy­brid store, some­where be­tween a retail store and an e-busi­ness. You get to see the shows and re­ceive ad­vice from our staff be­fore or­der­ing any­thing,” says Ha­dida, iden­ti­fy­ing the im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tion­ships with clients when the al­lure of on­line sales is ever present. These re­la­tion­ships are built on the no­tions of trans­parency and hon­esty with each client. “Some­thing can be ap­pro­pri­ate or not. We would never use words such as ‘fan­tas­tic’ or ‘mar­vel­lous’.”

This nomen­cla­ture of old and new is a cor­ner­stone of the L’eclaireur ethos, yet Ha­dida has reser­va­tions sur­round­ing a cul­ture of in­stant ac­cess that con­sumers and man­u­fac­tur­ers gain through the win­dow of so­cial me­dia sight­ing that within hours of re­lease, de­signs are copied, di­luted and shipped to ev­ery ma­jor city and ev­ery ma­jor high street. “This prac­tice is killing cre­ativ­ity. De­signs are pre­sented on In­sta­gram un­der a democratis­ing guise and with­out con­sid­er­a­tion,” says Ha­dida, who is in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the re­sult­ing ef­fects on a far more cu­rated and con­sid­ered tra­di­tional retail model. “Ev­ery­thing is now mov­ing so fast that you need to be con­tin­u­ally rein­vent­ing and mov­ing for­ward.”

With a pend­ing L’eclaireur store (although not in the tra­di­tional mean­ing) to open in Los An­ge­les, Ha­dida re­flects on the ini­tia­tive as a ‘project’ or gallery where food, mu­sic and art come to­gether with fash­ion like a per­for­mance piece. One of the key ‘per­form­ers’ in this new work is Aus­trian de­signer Carol Chris­tian Poell. “He’s to­tally unique, a pure artist who is com­pletely apart from the fash­ion sys­tem in think­ing,” says Ha­dida. “To sur­vive in this busi­ness, we can’t all use the same ‘weapon’. You need to have your own iden­tity.”

With an acute ap­ti­tude for dis­cov­er­ing new fash­ion tal­ent, Ha­dida also thrives in work­ing with ex­tremely tal­ented peo­ple across all de­sign fields. “I can hon­estly say the peo­ple I work with are truly ex­cep­tional; for some you could even use the word ‘ge­nius’.”

While those vis­it­ing a L’eclaireur store for the first time could be for­given for us­ing the words dark, moody or per­haps goth when first con­fronted with its aes­thetic, Ha­dida is proud that each of his des­ti­na­tions are miles away (fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing) from the bright lights and neon win­dows light­ing the Parisian streets. “You just need to read the news or switch on the tele­vi­sion to see what’s hap­pen­ing out there. You could say the world is dark,” says Ha­dida, run­ning his hands across the racks of black gar­ments he has be­come syn­ony­mous with. Re­gard­less of the pal­ette or in­deed the sen­ti­ment, it’s the cre­ativ­ity in Ha­dida’s blood that al­lows him to re­main at the fore­front of the fash­ion busi­ness. “Cre­ativ­ity, cre­ativ­ity, cre­ativ­ity is in my blood. If I see some­one with tal­ent, their ‘lan­guage’ needs to be ex­pressed around staff as well as my clients and me. Some­times, though, the words aren’t so clear or ob­vi­ous to oth­ers.”

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