BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — In the retail equivalent of an extreme makeover, Louis Vuitton today is unveiling the transformation of its space on Rodeo Drive, the luxury goods company’s second North American flagship.
This was no nip-and-tuck job. Vuitton, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and has maintained a presence on the famed Beverly Hills shopping street since 1982, traded up to 12,700 square feet of retail space from about 1,000 square feet. The reconfigured store comes in at a total of about 16,000 square feet, which puts it among Vuitton’s five largest locations. The worldwide flagship at 1 East 57th Street in Manhattan, which bowed in February, is the biggest store at 20,000 square feet.
“Our business in the U.S. is booming for the moment,” Vuitton president Yves Carcelle said during the Christian Dior fashion show in Paris on Tuesday. “And Los Angeles has always been an important market.”
The opening comes as the luxury sector — despite economic uncertainty, the U.S. presidential election, terrorism and the war in Iraq — shows few signs of cooling off in 2005, experts say. Louis Vuitton, which has 332 boutiques worldwide, has opened 15 stores since the beginning of the year and is to launch its unit in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the end of this month. The company in September christened a 9,700-square-foot unit in Shanghai as the latest arrival in that booming market.
As another measure of thriving luxe, Ralph Lauren in September opened Polo’s first store in Milan, a 16,000-square-foot palazzo that is believed to be the designer’s most expensive store to date, and Fendi is said to be planning 15 new stores a year for the next three to four years.
The three-floor Vuitton shopper’s fantasy is the latest high-profile addition to Rodeo Drive, which has undergone an $18 million renovation that heralded the arrival of newcomers such as the 24,000-square-foot Prada Epicenter designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, which opened with a flourish in July.
While the design of the Prada store seems to focus more on the architecture and, in turn, almost appears to keep the clothes — and the customer — at arm’s length, the Vuitton space, designed by architect Jun Aoki, is intended to maximize product viewing at every turn.
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