By  on April 24, 2006

LONDON -- On a balmy evening in May 2004, Bond Street was abuzz with a party to fete the reopening of the Asprey flagship. Lawrence Stroll, Asprey's shareholder of reference, and his partner, Silas Chou, gave their guests a night to remember.

They decked the refurbished store, on which they'd spent $50 million, in Asprey's signature deep purple, right down to the garbage bins. Shoeshine boys in purple uniforms sat outside the front entrance, giving guests a last-minute polish, while window washers in purple overalls and no shirts worked on the glass until it sparkled.

Inside, servers passed around boiled quails' eggs packed into purple Asprey gift boxes. In between bites of hors d'oeuvres and sips of champagne, 1,500 guests watched Asprey's artisans polish silver plates and mount chunky diamonds in rings.

"It was a very understated affair," said guest Kenneth Cole with deep sarcasm. "A moderate display of midpriced merchandise."

"I feel like a proud papa," said the cigar-puffing Stroll, who, along with Chou, had purchased the Asprey and Garrard brands in July 2000. Their plan was to focus Garrard on high-end jewelry and silver while turning Asprey into a global luxury brand extraordinaire, one that would go head-to-head with Tiffany and Hermès. The brand's refurbished 40,000-square-foot flagship on Bond Street was already Europe's largest luxury goods store, filled with 23,000 different products, from emerald-cut engagement rings to purple cashmere sweaters to silver saltcellars and first editions of "Mother Goose."

From the beginning, Stroll and Chou, who declined to be interviewed for this story, vowed they were committed to Asprey, no matter how long it would take to build the business. The previous December, they'd opened a 20,000-square-foot, $50 million flagship in Manhattan's Trump Tower, and some 40 smaller stores were on the horizon. Their goal was for Asprey to hit $400 million in sales by 2012, and then they would mull taking the company public.

After their success helping transform Tommy Hilfiger into a megabrand with sales of $1.87 billion, the two were flush with cash and full of hope. Asprey was going to be their biggest coup yet. With three royal warrants; a posh clientele dripping with titles and country estates, and a dusty, utterly British brand name full of potential, the brand was going to be their next cash cow.

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