By  on July 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to retail environments, thinking globally might be the corporate mandate, as stores share a unified look regardless of location.

But, as Christian Dior recognized when it came to reopening an expanded Aspen boutique, only acting locally would do in the Rockies.

"I was regularly going to Aspen and observing how the women were shopping at our small store," recalled Marla Sabo, president and chief operating officer of Christian Dior Couture USA, of the prime location at 201 South Galena Street. "They would tend to relax on a banquette and choose their dresses, shoes, their handbags and jewelry in a very relaxed way. And it was in a way that was really about wardrobing themselves."

So, after the space next door became available when Louis Vuitton moved across the street — allowing the Dior store to double in size to 1,200 square feet — the company opted to break from the high gloss, high concept of its retail environments.

"We decided this store would need to be far more residential in style," Sabo said.

To that end, the Dior in-house team introduced pale parquet floors and snow white and opalescent gray Louis XIV chairs positioned center stage on the selling floor. Unlike its distinct addresses elsewhere, the Aspen location occupies a landmark brick building that was once a bank. In fact, the old vault remains as a unique decorative element.

There are plenty of signature Dior elements found at the other doors, to be sure: white lacquered walls, glass box cases and leather upholstered banquettes. And, as with many other Dior stores, the modern front room is filled with handbags on white shelves and Lucite fixtures.

Combined with classic moldings and furnishings, the entire setting suggests an intimate salon.

"We wanted the store to function almost as if it's a dressing room. There's a home-like feel to it," Sabo said. "So people are encouraged to relax and take their time and receive the best customer service we can offer. It really goes back to the idea of a couture salon type of atmosphere — not unlike the Dior salon in Paris."The store had been closed since May, but the manager was on call to its Aspen clients, supplying them with product from surrounding stores in the region. With twice as much space, the new store contains the full collection, including furs, gowns and accessories. There is also, for the first time at this store, Dior Fine Jewelry designed by Victoire de Castellane.

Aspen shoppers — be they the well-shod locals or the part-timers and weekend visitors from Texas, New York and California who descend on the mountain retreat for its many summer festivals — responded enthusiastically during the opening last weekend.

Although the company will not release sales numbers, it reported brisk sales of its day and evening ready-to-wear combined with handbags or shoes. That's exactly the kind of "wardrobe shopping" Sabo observed during her previous trips to Aspen. And on Saturday, one client forked out $18,000 for a Dior tie-dye crocodile Detective bag.

The "residential" concept alterations at the Aspen store are not the first for Dior U.S. stores. The 3,900-square-foot door at the new Wynn Resort in Las Vegas also was tailored to that city's sensibility. Unique to it is the 17-foot illuminated and etched-glass facade.

Sabo wouldn't comment on the next possible door for Dior, only saying that expansion was continuing.

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