PARIS — Le Bon Marché is taking a page from some of the most famous bookshops in the world.
The Paris department store has invited Sarah Andelman, the founder of consulting agency Just an Idea and previously the purchasing and image director of landmark boutique Colette, to be its next guest curator.
A bibliophile herself, Andelman will bring together a collection of exclusive products and exhibits around the world of reading. Tote bags as well as book-themed items including jewelry, candles, bags — and a few books, of course — will feature throughout the store.
The idea sprouted from her work with illustrator Jean Jullien. Andelman wrote the afterword to his first book published by Phaidon last year, and will soon publish a new book of his playful characters under her own Just an Idea Books imprint launched in 2021.
They will come to life in the windows of the French department store for the duration of the exhibit.
“It started to spread that we could do a nice exhibit around books, not to sell books but everything around books between the bookshops, libraries, goodies and more — the whole world of books,” Andelman told WWD.
Branded merchandise from a selection of famous global bookshops will land in Paris.
Near the grand entrance, Andelman has curated an exhibit of merch from some of the most notable addresses around the world, including New York’s The Strand as well as Pillow-Cat Books, which features sketches from designer Olympia Le-Tan, sister of bookshop founder Cleo Le-Tan.
Tokyo’s Cow Books and Oakland, Calif., Book/Shop will also feature on a wall of totes, touting their ultimate “It” bag status.
Fashion brands will present their own versions. The Liyabrairie bookbag, a line of bright, chic book straps launched by model Liya Kebede, will feature, alongside Longchamps’ slim crossbody book-holder bag.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect, noted Andelman, with the resurgence of prominent book clubs including Chanel’s Rendez-vous littéraires rue Cambon and pop star Dua Lipa’s Service95, not to mention the explosive popularity of BookTok, introducing the written word to a new generation weaned on social media.
“When I’m crossing Paris on my bike, there is nothing that makes me more happy than to see someone on a café terrasse reading a book,” she said. “We are spending so much time on our phones and saturated with stuff all the time, it’s really something to take the time to read — and I do read a little between Instagram — and it’s such a good way to escape. When I’m in New York and I go to The Strand, it’s such a moment out of time.
“I love the work these bookshops are doing, and wanted to properly pay tribute. It’s also a really interesting conversation to have — why do they have to do merch and how have bookshops evolved in these last few years?” mused Andelman of the state of bookshops.
If Amazon has been a challenge to the traditional bookselling structure, they’re not left out. L/Uniform is designing a special pouch for the Kindle.
The store will bring together book-themed products: Byredo’s Bibliothèque candles and fragrance, and Frederic Malle’s Perfumes Editions, in which the box is designed to look like a book spine, as well as alphabet jewelry from Nadine Ghosn. Figaret has made special pajamas.
An exhibition area will feature a collaboration with Caseify, which will allow customers to specialize their cases with Assouline book covers, and feature other products from Gallimard with Brigitte Tanaka, Ami, Maison Kitsuné, Marin Montagut and Inoui.
There will also be a space dedicated to books from Andelman’s imprint, with five new books on her roster, including Japanese artist Ryosuke Kosuge, better known simply as RK, and Charles Bebert, who chronicled stars on the French Riviera in the 1960s and ’70s.
Andelman said a series of readings and signings are planned, as well as other events geared toward children to encourage reading. She hinted that her own words might be on the page soon: “It’s a fantasy for me to write — I hope to be in the next couple of years,” she said.
It’s not Andelman’s first time collaborating with Le Bon Marché; in 2021 she had an exclusive collection with French sneaker brand Amrose for the back-to-school season collection printed with the slogan “Just more books.”
Now she’s got her wish.
The exhibit will run from Feb. 24 to April 21.