By  on November 23, 2005

BEVERLY HILLS — From the floor-to-ceiling LED plasma screen to a private, VIP salon upstairs with white mink and gold-leaf monograms in the dressing rooms, Dolce & Gabbana has doubled the pleasure of devotees here with a newly expanded and refurbished Rodeo Drive door that's been promoted to flagship status.

The store, with alternating walls of black glass and mirrors and contrasting basaltine stone surfaces, boasts separate adjacent women's and men's boutiques at 312 and 314 N. Rodeo Drive, respectively. The expansion doubles Dolce & Gabbana's presence to 12,000 square feet, upping the selling space by 35 percent.

The only U.S. door that mirrors the Milan flagship also bumped up the luxe factor: Interior designer Ferruccio Laviani infused a sensuality to the space, its stark, ultramodernity tempered by black Murano glass chandeliers and baroque furnishings. It's all the more dramatic with lighting created by Isometrix's Arnold Chan.

"L.A. is...is always on the forefront of what's happening — what's new and exciting," Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce said by e-mail. "We have lots of celebrity friends, musicians and artists there who we love to dress. It's one of the most creative and talented cities in the world!"

It's also one of the most lucrative for the Italian house, second only to New York among the five U.S. signature stores, said Glenn McMahon, president of Dolce & Gabbana U.S.A.

When the original 6,000-square-foot boutique on Rodeo opened in June 2004, analysts projected first-year sales of $14 million, or more than $1,200 a square foot — slightly higher than the $1,000 a square foot at the better-traveled Rodeo doors.

"Los Angeles is a fantastic market for Dolce & Gabbana. Overall, the L.A. business continues to grow by double digits," McMahon said, commenting only about this store. The growth is on par with the company's overall double-digit rise this year in profits and sales.

Although the new Rodeo concept has been testing only a couple of weeks, McMahon said customer response has exceeded expectations. Apparel sales are up 20 percent compared with this time last year.

The women's and men's wear sales ratio is 60/40 here. "It's a healthy mix," McMahon said.Accessories are providing the greatest excitement. The first floor is dedicated completely to handbags and shoes, elevated from its once "secondary status to apparel," McMahon said.

The result is a 25 percent increase in sales from this time last year.

"Now that we have significantly developed the men's and accessories businesses, there's a real reason to go out and create these flagship stores," McMahon said. "And as the [accessories] business develops and grows, we wanted to make sure it has a proper presentation."

Even though the men's and women's boutiques have separate street entrances, they can each be accessed from inside.

The revamped studio services and VIP "boudoir" is not limited to celebrities, yet any client will require an invitation before she can settle into the black sofa or order from the full bar. "We often design special one-of-a-kind unique pieces and we wanted them showcased in a very special way," Gabbana and Dolce said.

McMahon spoke hours before boarding a plan to Milan where, he said, the next steps for U.S. expansion would be on the agenda.

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