Photo by Label Networks

Galeries Lafayette is one of Paris’ largest department stores located in the heart of the city. Often, large retailers around the world look to what’s going on in Galeries Lafayette to determine not only new trends and brands in apparel, but also new store design concepts. One of the most notable was when Galeries Lafayette opened up the downstairs basement in 2004 to a concept known as Version Originale or VO which attempted to bring in a cross-section of streetwear brands including denim for guys and girls, accessories, plus various types of sneakers and footwear. Just 2 years ago, the VO section was the place to hit-up when cruising through Paris to see latest brands and trends, but even in the last year, it had started to decline in terms of traffic.

According to Pascal Camart, the womenswear buyer for Galeries Lafayette, carrying women’s and men’s denim together was one of the first problems that the VO section for Parisian youth buyers encountered. According to Pascal, most of the women’s denim had been placed in VO, which was actually targeted to reach 12-20-year-olds. Unfortunately, a lot of the denim buyers were in their 30’s and 40’s and didn’t like to head to this area.

“It meant women aged 30 and above couldn’t find any jeans in Galeries Lafayette,” said Pascal. They hosted a survey to find out what young consumers wanted and discovered that most of the male shoppers were fine with VO, but young women shoppers didn’t like it and wanted more contemporary brands such as Zadig & Voltaire, not to mention a section that was not tied in with the men’s and seemed more mature but in a street-savvy way.

Interestingly, what happened in Galeries Lafayette’s VO section is a great example of what can happen when brands and retailers miss the mark if an area is targeted too young, as was the case for women shoppers who also felt that it didn’t fit their vibe and were looking for something more sophisticated -whether they were 30 or 20 or even 17 years-old.

The re-design to be completed by February 2009 will turn the basement floor into a shoe section mostly and women’s denim will be moved into a new space upstairs that also offers vintage clothing (see our story this week on Re-Scene Scensters and the Rise of Vintage). It will also include brands such as Guess, Diesel, Pepe Jeans, and Le Temps des Cerises in its denim selection.

According to Pascal, the re-design will allow brands to have their own identity instead of the space being the identifier. “Most people come into Galeries Lafayette now looking for brands.” As more people turn to finding out about new brands and styles online instead of at stores, it makes sense that retail design would have to change to meet the new needs of today’s youth market consumers. And for young women who now look for a cross between upper street fashion, contemporary, and street chic, creating just the right mix -next to just the right sections -may make all the difference.