By  on October 15, 2007

LONDON — Models in vintage Playboy bunny outfits, Playboy-branded flutes of Champagne and plasma screens showing behind-the-scenes footage of Playboy photo shoots were all in the mix at the opening of the brand's London store.

The Oxford Street store is Playboy's first in Europe and its largest worldwide at 4,000 square feet. The high-ticket location is near fast-fashion stores such as Topshop, Mango and Hennes & Mauritz.

"We love being in London and we're very respectful of the chance to be part of the fashion scene here," Christie Hefner, chairman and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises Inc., said at the Oct. 3 opening.

The freestanding store sells the brand's higher-end collection, Playboy Icon. The slinky, floor-length silk and silk blend evening gowns with slashed necklines; thigh-high cocktail dresses, and a Swarovski-studded leather jacket is designed by Christopher Chronis, head of design for Melbourne, Australia-based Global Designer Brands.

GDB owns and operates Playboy's stores, and designs and produces Icon. The collection has a dedicated boutique area on the store's third floor, decorated with plush purple carpets monogrammed with a bunny logo inspired by the brand's vintage cuff links and lilac velvet banquettes. The brand also launched its activewear line, Playboy Physical, in London.

Lorna Donohoe, vice president for worldwide retail marketing at Playboy, said the Icon collection represented one-third of the store's sales in its first week.

"It's been selling so fast and a lot of stylists have pulled [from] the collection for celebrities," Donohoe said. "It has the Playboy sensibility, but it's sophisticated and not overtly branded."

Playboy's streetwear line is sold on the first floor and hangs on steel rails shaped like the rabbit icon's ears. The basement, with black tinted-glass walls painted with neon graphics, carries the Physical collection and the brand's accessories. A white quartz terrazzo stone staircase that winds through the center of the store connects the three different levels.

"It's really important that all our customers check out the different elements of the brand," said Aaron Duncan, senior vice president and creative director of global licensing at Playboy.

Prices range from about $26 for men's underwear to $1,200 for the Swarovski leather jacket, one of which sold during the opening weekend.Hefner, who showed her allegiance to London fashion by wearing a Temperley dress, declined to give sales predictions for the store, but said the company had invested heavily in virtually rebuilding it.

"That [investment] wouldn't have made sense if we didn't think it was going to be very successful," said Hefner, adding that the company had its sights set on opening more stores in Europe. The locations include Milan, Berlin and Eastern Europe. There are also plans for stores in Latin America, and more locations in North America.

Although the store's focus is on Playboy clothing and lingerie lines, there is also a nod to the brand's heritage — the Playboy Legacy collection, comprising 48 prints from Playboy magazine's archives. The vintage prints can be purchased as a Gold Edition collection in a cherrywood box, priced at $75,000, which includes tickets for a trip to the Playboy mansion, or as individual prints listed at $1,950 and higher.

Duncan said he hoped the store would attract a mixture of customers who "think the icon is cute, no matter what it meant. Those who love Playboy to death are crazy about the archival art."

Hefner said she expected most business to be generated by "women in their 20s....We did close to $1 billion [in sales] around the world last year in just our consumer products, and most of that was products sold to and worn by women. There's clearly, then, an embracing of the brand, particularly by fashion-conscious young women who see it as being fun and sexy, but also as being accessible, sophisticated and representing quality."

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