Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rouje Brings Its Brand of French-Girl Style to the U.S. With First Store

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Jeanne Damas is exporting the Parisian lifestyle by expanding the brick-and-mortar reach of her label, starting with New York.

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Since 2016, Jeanne Damas has been feeding into the public’s fascination with French-girl-everything via Rouje

Through its neutral color palettes, silky fabrics and vintage-inspired silhouettes, the fashion brand has built a devoted fan base wanting to buy into the effortless Parisian vibe that Damas embodies. (Naturally, the Paris-born former model is also the face of Rouje.) It doesn’t release financials, but has grown significantly since it was founded, catapulted by online sales across Europe and the United States, especially. It’s grown offline, too, with stores in Paris, Bordeaux and London. Now, Rouje is ready to expand across the Atlantic, with its first U.S. brick-and-mortar location opening its doors in the heart of New York’s Soho neighborhood this September.

“I’ve had a love story with New York for 20 years,” Damas says. “It’s been my dream for such a long time to open a store in New York.”

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Rouje dipped its toes into the U.S. through pop-ups in New York and Los Angeles. “I had a big community in the U.S., so when I started the brand, it was always my plan to bring Rouje here,” Damas says, noting how she wanted to use pop-ups as a way “to meet people and see how the sales would go.”

Not only did those pop-ups allow her to meet the community she’d built — first as a model and influencer, then as a founder — but they were also tremendously informative in understanding what separates the U.S. customer from the ones she already knew from the brand’s U.K. and France stores.

“In America, people seem to be more influenced by the image rather than the clothes,” Damas observes. “I think when you’re from the U.S., you love the brand because it’s French. When [Americans] see a look in the campaign, they want to buy the full look, whereas French girls are less like that and buy a piece of clothing because it independently inspires them.”

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So, for Rouje’s first U.S. store, located at 476 Broome Street, she “wanted it to feel a little bit like when you come to Paris, and you see all these beautiful things and you’re enveloped in a beautiful landscape — warm and like a dream.” 

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The 3,960-square-foot space features soaring ceilings with murals painted by artist Nina Koltchitskaia; on one wall, there’s a landscape described in an Instagram post as fire and the sky meeting the ocean “in a magical whirlwind,” while on another there’s “a bust of a woman with free, proud curves standing like reassuring mountains, happy and gentle.”

“To me, Soho is the Holy Grail,” Damas says. “To have a boutique next to the stores I used to go to when I was younger is a dream come true. There are a lot of tiny boutiques, and they were not perfect enough for me. I wanted a big boutique with beautiful architecture. It was really important for me to find the perfect place.”

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Damas hopes that by being able to see, touch and experience the clothes in person, on the rack, American customers will have that same opportunity to appreciate each piece individually that European shoppers have had. Though the brand’s online presence is majorly responsible for sales and for creating a worldwide community, she admits that even she prefers to shop in person — a factor that solidified her want of a U.S. flagship.

“For me, Rouje is my universe. It’s a lifestyle brand. It’s really important to have real places to shop,” says Damas. “I love what Diana Vreeland said: ‘It’s not about the dress you wear, but it’s about the life you lead in the dress.'”

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