Three outerwear makers are opening stores at home and abroad, but not necessarily on familiar terrain.
J.Mendel's unit in Moscow launched last week, Dennis Basso's Atlantic City location welcomed its first shoppers in November and Ramosport will christen a boutique in Beijing this month.
The launch of the J.Mendel store generated $700,000 in sales — a figure that even surprised the designer Gilles Mendel, who found himself helping shoppers at 10 p.m. when he was due at the post-opening dinner and fashion show.
"It was the most surreal moment,'' he said. "I have never seen so many women in Christian Louboutin boots and every color of the Kelly crocodile bag....At 10 p.m., I was still in the boutique crowded with women trying, looking and buying. The best part about it was they would go for it [fashion-wise], they understood the aesthetic. You can see in Russia how people are really starving for newness, modernity and luxury in an exclusive way."
Last week in Moscow, Mendel spoke at a luxury conference organized by the International Herald Tribune and the store opening seemed to bring to life the event's discussions about how consumers are becoming more sophisticated globally. Opening-day shoppers sought out Russian sable coats that retail from $70,000 to $250,000 and shrunken tweed mink coats with fox trim for $22,000. First-year projected volume is $7 million to $10 million, Mendel said.
"I'm looking at Russia to become close to our number-one market for fur products very soon," he added.
Julien Macdonald, Natalia Vodianova, Justin Portman and Fiona Scarry were among the guests who joined more than 100 others at a restaurant after a cocktail party in the new boutique.
Basso's Pier Shops location in Atlantic City had a soft opening last month and in that time fashion-forward items have been driving sales. Contrary to Basso's expectations, consumers are favoring fashion pieces such as broadtail and sable coats at $48,000, shearling and fox coats at $6,500 and fur-trimmed cashmere sweaters at $1,500.
"I thought some of the more conservative pieces would be popular but the interest has really been in the fashion pieces," he said.
Basso and Harper's Bazaar will host a cocktail party Dec. 14 for the grand opening of his 2,000-square-foot store at the Pier Shops at Caesars Atlantic City. With stores in New York, Chicago and Aspen, Colo., this outpost will be his fourth. Architect John Lindell, who also designed the Chicago store, has given the Pier Shops space a modern and minimalist feel to accentuate the fur coats, ready-to-wear and accessories. There are also home-related items like fur pillows and throws.Basso's ready-to-wear and accessories account for about 35 percent of the offerings, and both categories are being sought by shoppers, Basso said. Retail prices range from $1,500 for the cashmere-trimmed sweaters to $150,000 for a Russian sable coat. First-year projected volume is $4.5 million.
Basso said he also has been surprised by the store's traffic, especially on weekends. "It's connected to the casino and there is an enormous amount of traffic on the weekends. It's a huge destination at this time of year."
The prospect of opening a store in Atlantic City required some thought because initially "I didn't know if that was where I wanted to be," he said, but added the neighboring stores that include Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. made the location appealing.
"When you're building a designer brand, it's very important to keep your exposure and where you are available at the same level as other luxury brands,'' Basso said. "People who shop for quality products want to have options. In making all of our [real estate] selections it's very important for me and for the Dennis Basso label to position my stores with surrounding neighbors that are of the same level of quality."
Launching more stores at potential sites like Rodeo Drive, lower Manhattan, London and Paris is part of his five-year strategy. "We're focused on having our own stores so that we can be in control," he said.
Meanwhile, another outerwear label, Ramosport, has its eye on China. This month the company will open its first flagship in Beijing's Huamao Mall. The company decided on the Far East as a sign of its commitment to the Asian market and China, in particular. The French details found on Ramosport coats and jackets are well-suited for Beijing shoppers and for the region's weather patterns, said a company spokeswoman.
The Chinese store's decor — a palette of grays, silvers, lacquered white and polished steel — mirrors the interior of Ramosport's rue Saint-Honoré boutique in Paris. The colors can also be found in the women's and men's collection designed by Ramosport's creative director, Silvia Gavina. The Huamao Mall opened in October and houses other European labels.