By  on May 27, 2005

NEW YORK — Playboy magazine and its products have been around for decades, so it's a wonder that Playboy stores haven't sprouted sooner.

The first Playboy Concept Boutique opened in Tokyo two and a half years ago, and the first one in the U.S. had its grand opening party on Monday in Las Vegas, at The Forum Shops at Caesar's. After Las Vegas is up and running for a while, stores could open in other big U.S. cities, according to Aaron Duncan, senior vice president, creative director of Global Licensing, Playboy. Miami is a possibility for the next store, although locations have not yet been decided.

"It was a terrific challenge finding ways to create the essence of Playboy in a store and dimensionalize the brand," said Jay Valgora, the design principal of Walker Group, the architectural and design firm that created the store.

Inspired by the Playboy mansion, the magazine's archives and its signature rabbit head, Walker Group designed the 2,000-square-foot store with lots of iconography. There's a video wall showing Playboy parties, round couches inspired by Hugh Hefner's bed, sheer drapes and a chandelier to set a separate mood for a lingerie boutique; zebra wood veneer by the point of sale; stones set in clear counters reminiscent of the mansion's grotto, and outer rooms with intense graphics to create niches and "a voyeuristic sense of looking through windows," Valgora said.

As for the rabbit head, "We incorporated that in creative ways, with profiles of it in the fixture design and furniture," including banquettes and panty tables, Valgora said.

The other challenge was that Playboy wanted to have a clean, fashionable look to the store, even though the brand sells a broad range of merchandise. The store, owned and operated under license by the Waikiki Trader Group, sells Playboy apparel, accessories and lingerie, one-of-a-kind Playboy memorabilia, select artwork, and vintage product from Playboy's archives.

Among the authentic products are $30,000 bunny costumes, Hef's slippers priced at $5,000, and Alberto Vargas paintings from $50,000 to $75,000. There are also $3,500 "brown books," which are mock-ups of Playboy issues made by hand by art directors that Hef reviewed, as well as logo T-shirts that start around $12, and $2,500 leather jackets with rhinestones. Of the merchandise, 85 percent is women's clothing, lingerie and accessories."It's a total fashion store, no different from any other fashion brand," said Duncan. "You can see firsthand what the Playboy lifestyle is all about." Even many of the selling associates have the radiance of Playboy Playmates.

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