Interview Samantha Bartoletti
Photography Romain Bernardie-James

Good Neighbor

Fashion in France is much more than just Paris. Head to Avignon, for example, and you’ll find Nicolas Ivars’ stores, which hold a perfectly curated selection of fashion and accessories. At Circle there are boards and skatewear. At theNextdoor, well-chosen streetwear from established brands mixes it up with newcomers. While at Acte 2, open since October 2014 in a beautiful old theatre built in 1732, the stage is perfectly set for a play of more high-end brands. Plus, the weather’s way better than Paris. 

(This piece was featured in our SS16 magazine - september 2015)
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Nicolas Ivars, 42, originally from Apt, a small town in the heart of the Luberon in Provence, and the founder and buyer for the stores Circle, theNextdoor and Acte 2. 

What makes your stores unique?

We always say that our aim is to offer products that surprise, but which resemble our clients and unite them. We like offering alternatives to the prevailing classicism without becoming too “disguise-like”. A daily wardrobe that allows itself a touch of madness. From a business point of view, what makes us different is our history, the fact that we’ve been around for more than 15 years, and how we’ve built the business up while listening to the market and only rarely falling for the siren call of ultracommercialism. 

What inspired you to open the stores?

I began with Circle, a store selling skateboard gear and streetwear. Then we opened theNextdoor for a more mature and casual offer. Then there was the website for theNextdoor, and since October 2014, Acte 2. We’ve never really had any long-term plans. I simply and instinctively tried to sell what excited me. I had the chance to find customers who wanted this stuff and who have followed me through the stores’ different stages. 

Is there a buying team at theNextdoor and Acte 2?

It’s just me, myself and I. Well, almost. I do buy in France with Alban Rinaldi, our Mr. Internet, and gather feedback from the stores before each salon or trip. The choice of brands, the general direction and our selection are, however, totally personal. 

How do you manage your time? Which part of your job do you prefer?

I’m totally passionate about my job and it takes up a lot of my time. My vacations are often spent visiting fashion capitals, and while culture and exploring are on the agenda, I also have to visit the best stores. To be able to manage you need to be able to delegate. I try to surround myself with great people so I can take a step back and spend more time with my family and my five-year-old son, who remain my priorities. Buying is actually one of my favorite moments of the process, even if it should be the most difficult part as you’re talking about money and results. 

What are your criteria for choosing a brand?

Quality, a strong identity, creativity, selective distribution, and a recognizable style. 

What are the differences between theNextdoor and Acte 2? How do you decide which brands go into which store?

To me the two universes are complementary, which is why we have chosen to combine the two selections on the website. With Acte 2 we want to offer more contemporary looks and designers that move us towards bigger fashion names, while theNextdoor is reinforcing the ideas we’ve already put in place: a casual, street-chic universe with exclusive brands or ones little distributed in Europe, notably Japanese labels. We definitely love Japan. 

The French fashion scene is very focused on Paris and unfortunately tends to forget the rest of France. How is Avignon different to Paris and how does the clientele differ?

Being outside of Paris does have a few disadvantages. But then we could never exist in the capital. In the same way, people often think – wrongly – that the regions are less up on fashion. This might have been the case in the early 2000s, but I’d say that in the past five years any fashion gap has disappeared. Our clientele is knowledgeable and reads up on our choices, risks and bets. But being outside of Paris does mean we have to work harder to be credible with brands, but we know that and we just deal with it. It’s actually a good way to stop us becoming complacent, keep on asking ourselves questions and moving forward. In general, though, the climate – with 300 days of sun a year! – and the quality of life make up for any extra work. 

The interior design of your stores is stunning. What was the idea behind them?

TheNextdoor was an English deli for about 30 years, an Avignon institution. We kept the shopfittings that had been made-to-measure by British workmen from Bristol and then renovated certain parts to welcome our collections. Acte 2 was an incredible opportunity – after three years of negotiation with the city – to move into a historic building. It was originally Avignon’s first theatre, which is where the name comes from (as well as it being the second act after theNextdoor). The Avignon theatre festival is renowned across the world and it really is a privilege to move into the building. The look of the interior is the result of my most recent trips to Tokyo. 

The site’s great, too. How is the buying process different for the online store? Is it a different clientele?

Thanks for the compliment! Alban – who manages the site – is obsessed by customer service and image. With his brother, who’s a photographer, he works really hard to always offer something different for a national audience. Our aim is to have a large and cutting-edge selection with five-star customer service and a real visual identity. From a business point of view, the site is a completely separate, autonomous store, which is growing every month. Even if the majority of our visitors are French (60%), foreign visitors actually generate more revenue. Personally, supplying the site allows me to have great fun with choosing new brands. It’s also a plus for our bricks-and-mortar customers because it’s more than simply a shop window. It’s a vision that requires no explanation; people and customers quickly understand where we want to go. 

What will you do next? Would you consider opening a store anywhere else in the world?

Acte 2 just opened its doors and there are still lots of things to put in place. We want the selection to be more and more cutting edge in this space. It’s a beautiful setting and we have to make it even more so. Looking at how things have gone until now, I want to grow slowly but surely – and that will take the time and above all the energy it takes. Opening a store elsewhere has crossed my mind a few times, but I’m attached to my region, my family and my friends, and I want to see my son grow up in that context. 

What trends do you see for the upcoming seasons?

For theNextdoor we are adding some new labels to our favorites: Blue Blue Japan and Bedwin & the Heartbreakers (the result of my most recent Tokyo trip). For Acte 2, we continue to go more high-end with Acne, Marni, Sacai, Raf Simon, and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Which can all be found on the site. 

How do you see the future of menswear?

You can’t ignore the technical advances offered by new materials. Overall, I think that comfort will come increasingly to the fore, combined with elegance. One foot in the past, the other in the future, and the head in the present. 

What do you expect to find at trade shows? How does a show like MAN help you in your job?

I expect a show to have a soul and, like a store, a logical and coherent range, with surprises and a great atmosphere. MAN increasingly meets my expectations. It’s intimate, cutting edge and very professional. 

What does a brand need to do to earn your respect?

I look at a collection’s inspirations, the manufacturing quality, any timeless and specialized aspect a piece might have, and finally, very importantly, the details. 

How has the fashion market changed since you started working?

Everything goes so much quicker. Trends last for less time or run out of steam when they hit the general public. There weren’t so many brands before. We’re well placed to say that the Internet plays a major part in whether a season or a service is good or bad, and in a brand’s lifespan. 

Any buyer’s tips or general advice for upcoming brands?

The advice I would give, with absolute humility, of course, is to be interested in customers, and immersed in trends but never overwhelmed by them. Above all, don’t lose your soul by looking for a “disguise,” but instead keep your direction and signature. 

Any tips for places to go in Avignon?

Bars and restaurants 

La Comédie 15 Place Crillon
Le Barrio 13 Rue des Infirmières
Bistrot Balthazar 74 Place des Corps Saints
Le Crillon 15 Place Crillon
La Fourchette 17 Rue Racine
Subito 24 Rue Saint-Étienne
Naka 4 Place de la Principale

Furniture stores

La Galerie 5, 6, 7 17 Rue Petite Fusterie
Flôshop 41 rue Joseph Vernet
CQFD 16 Place de la Principale

Clubs

Shelter 25 Rue Carnot
Les Ambassadeurs 27 Rue Bancasse

Record Stores

La Licorne 62 Rue des Fourbisseurs
General Music 30 Rue des Fourbisseurs
What is your motto?

I’ll borrow one from Bob Marley, which Shawn Stussy, someone who has been really influential for me, used as a print on a T-shirt I owned as a teenager: “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” 

thenextdoor.fr

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