By  on June 5, 2008

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Nanette Lepore doesn't shy away from mixing politics with fashion, and she's found the right town for the launch of her ninth store.

The contemporary sportswear designer opened her boutique May 23 in this chic retail enclave near Washington, D.C., which boasts such neighbors as Louis Vuitton, Barneys Co-op, Christian Dior and MaxMara.

The 2,218-square-foot shop incorporates romantic, modern and Baroque elements in a setting that pays homage to the essence of femininity.

"We started years ago with our first store in New York trying to relate it to the 1950s power rooms in posh hotels," Lepore said. "That whole feeling is very soft and feminine and yet I love a more modern touch."

The store's minimalist interior features vintage white floral Italian chandeliers complemented by pink marble floors and large antique tin mirrors. This is also Lepore's first U.S. store with a shoe salon — the first location to have one was in London — which sits on a broad circular platform. A curved wall houses built-in niches to showcase the shoes, which are backlit by cathode lighting. The store carries Lepore's full range of apparel, shoes and fragrances. The collection retails from $175 to $695.

Lepore said she expects customers to be a little on the conservative side in this area and will tone down her selection, as she does in her Boston store. "They tend to like more conservative pieces in Boston and we're assuming it will be similar here," she said. "We'll be more careful and give daintier pieces that are not as outrageous or chunky. We'll also cut down on the wacky bright colors."

She also plans to capitalize on the existing customer base she built through the stores that carry her line in the area — Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, to name two. Lepore said she anticipates her newest boutique will have annual revenues of $2 million.

"I do think it's going to be a new customer base here — a whole different woman who is active and works and is often in politics," said Lepore. "We don't have that many people who work in politics in New York."Lepore plans to continue rolling out boutiques and is considering several cities, including Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco. A second New York boutique is slated to open by the fall, she said.

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