By  on August 21, 2007

In October, Gilles Mendel aims to tap into Russia's estimated $720 million luxury goods market by opening a freestanding J.Mendel store in Moscow.

Mendel lined up a joint venture with the Landau Fashion Group, which owns 10 freestanding designer boutiques and four multibrand stores in Russia. The Moscow store opening is set for Oct. 1.

Reached by phone between fittings for his Bryant Park runway show during New York Fashion Week next month, Mendel said, "Russia is definitely the perfect market for luxury goods. The Russian customer has no limits when it's something exclusive. We have many luxury things in fur and we are doing more in ready-to-wear."

Aizel Trudel, president of Landau Fashion Group, said he expects first-year sales to be "in the high seven figures."

The J.Mendel store will be the designer's fifth and will bow at 10 Stoleshnikov Pereulok, near the street's Chanel and Hermès stores. Mendel said he thinks there is room in Russia's thriving luxe market for a new fashion house such as his. The locale also has sentimental value to Mendel, whose great-grandparents sold fur in Leningrad in the late 1800s. His family's company started as a furrier for Russian aristocracy more than a century ago, he said.

"For me, it is quite thrilling to be back in this country," he said.

The Moscow location is a classical space in an 18th-century building. The 2,000-square-foot boutique has black-and-white mosaic tiles, custom-made fur furniture, bronze fixtures and mirrored ceilings — similar to the designer's Madison Avenue store.

The designer's Russian sable pieces should be among the bestsellers with Russian customers, he said.

With stores in New York, Paris, Aspen, Colo., and Chicago, Mendel is setting his sights on Los Angeles. Internationally, Mendel expects to strengthen sales in London, China, South Korea and Turkey, which are places where he already has a presence.

Mendel will not have much time to unwind once his Sept. 7 runway show is a wrap, before jetting off to Moscow for an opening party. He will also return to Russia in November to speak at the International Herald Tribune's luxury conference.

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