The joint venture between diamond mining and marketing company De Beers SA and luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is opening its first U.S. store today. The 6,000-square-foot flagship at 703 Fifth Avenue marks a step forward in the company's long-anticipated plan to target the American consumer with a retail strategy that De Beers LV executives said will mark a departure from that of its competitors.
"It's the most important market for us," said De Beers LV chief executive officer Guy Leymarie. "It represents more than 50 percent of the worldwide consumption of diamonds. We wanted to be ready when we entered this market."
De Beers LV, which was created in 2001 and is based in London, has a U.K. flagship on Old Bond Street and four boutiques in Japan. While Leymarie said business at each location is doing well, the company wanted to update its approach to better position itself for its American debut.
This approach involves continuing De Beers LV's emphasis on the sale of fine jewelry featuring only diamonds.
"We think the De Beers name stands for diamonds," Leymarie said. "On the retail level, we wanted to make a very focused strategy on what we can bring to this market in terms of our experience with diamond selection."
The company also wanted to make what Leymarie called a statement of modernity.
"We thought the London store was too masculine and this is something we tried to correct here," he said.
Milanese architect Antonio Citterio was brought in to overhaul the Manhattan space, which previously was occupied by Louis Vuitton before the brand's move up the street to 1 East 57th Street in February 2004. While the renovation has the same interplay of transparent glass, etched glass, aubergine glass, mahogany wood, honed limestone and neutral accents in colors such as light purple and ebony that Citterio used in the London location, the New York store focuses on intensifying the impression of transparency and light to create the illusion of what Leymarie called "walking inside a diamond."
"The brilliance and sparkle of diamonds will be a very strong focus for us. When you are talking about diamonds, you are talking about brilliance and sparkle," said Leymarie of the company's choice to explore those concepts in the store's design.
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