WRITING: RANDI BERGMAN
As the pandemic continues to ravage the state of the status quo around the world, we’re hit with constant updates about the untimely deaths of onetime retail giants. Today’s news is about Le Chateau, which announced today that after 61 years in business it plans to close its doors. Founded by Herschel Segal in Montreal in 1959, Le Chateau was Canada’s first fast fashion brand, selling affordable, high quality takes on everything from disco to goth in malls across the country through the decades. (Fun fact: John Lennon and Yoko Ono wore fleece suits by Le Chateau during their legendary Montreal Bed-In in 1969.)
For millennials, though, Le Chateau reached its zenith in the mid to late 1990s, as the ultimate source for tube tops, Jessica McClintock knockoff prom dresses, Spice Girls chunky square toe platforms, spaghetti straps, butterfly clips and so on. In short, it was Le absolute Shit. (Just a few weeks ago, Twitter was a-buzz with tributes to the prom palace.) At the Promenade, the suburban Toronto mall of my youth, Le Chateau stretched across a corner unit with its gleaming, faux brushwork countertops and overhead lighting. I’d visit the store each Sunday after $4.25 movie matinees, armed with a small allowance and hungry to buy whatever piece of spandex was on sale that day.
If we’re being honest though, we knew this day was coming. Despite a hefty mall presence and aesthetic that still resonated with the Quebecois Karens of the fashionscape, Le Chateau had lost the recipe to its secret sauce years ago. Like so many brands whose best years are in the rear view, Le Chateau failed to do what seems so glaringly obvious to nostalgia obsessed millennials everywhere: bring back the goddamn archives. A quick perusal of any trendy vintage store would net you countless Le Shit originals that feel as relevant as the day they were purchased. Surely there is a treasure trove of patterns locked away somewhere? As I write this, I’m wearing a sixties-redux mini dress with curving purple outlines circa 1996. It’s just one of the Le Chateau relics in my closet that still gets yearly wear. It’s hard to imagine that pivoting the business to address this market wouldn’t have net massive profits.
As we mourn the halcyon days of iridescent pleather, we disassociate from a reality of squandered potential, choosing, instead, to appreciate all the times we felt crazy, sexy and cool in Le Chateau wares, even with a full mouth of braces. But damn, it cuts deep.
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