Cocktails and mini crab cakes aside, the event to create buzz for the first international Bloomingdale’s stores in Dubai was billed by chief executive officer Michael Gould as “an informational meeting, not a party.”
Nevertheless, the mood was festive and the location — the Powerhouse at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan — was novel. “Instead of having it in the store, we thought we’d do something different and come to one of the great icons of New York,” Gould said.
The gathering, which was cohosted by Al Tayer Insignia, Bloomingdale’s partner in the Middle East, attracted top executives from both companies as well as designers such as John Varvatos, Elie Tahari and Nanette Lepore.
The stores — one for men’s and women’s apparel and the other a home unit — are not scheduled to open until February 2010, but expectations are high.
“This is a defining moment in Bloomingdale’s history,” Gould said, noting that the retailer is determined to transport the company’s DNA to its Middle Eastern counterparts. In fact, he said certain “elements” of the Dubai stores will be “better than 59th Street” and will help catapult the store into the 21st century.
Bloomingdale’s will be one of the anchors of the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world at 12.1 million square feet.
Gould said the Young East Sider and contemporary businesses will have an increased presence in the store: “All the best designer merchandise in the world is there, but we’re going to be driving the contemporary business.” He said the goal is to create the “excitement of SoHo and 59th Street” in one location.
Shireen El Khatib, ceo of Al Tayer, said she was humbled to be “entrusted as the brand’s custodian” for its first foray outside the U.S. Al Tayer, which has brought luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent to the Middle East, said there are no immediate plans for additional Bloomingdale’s stores in the region, but that could change. “We’re going to concentrate on getting the first one right and then talk about opening more in the area,” she said.
Khatib said that, in addition to Bloomingdale’s, Al Tayer plans to add monobrand stores in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar including Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Boucheron, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta and Thomas Pink.
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