PARIS — Given Christophe Decarnin’s ultrasexy, ready-for-the-disco designs for Balmain, one might expect lots of black lacquer or even mirror balls in his new store concept.
Rather, the French couturier’s original flagship at 44 Rue Francoise 1er has been painstakingly returned to its original 18th-century grandeur, from pale Versailles parquet floors to the elaborate ceiling moldings prized in Parisian apartments. Iconic Forties furniture serves as a nod to when Pierre Balmain first set up shop in 1945, while smoked glass shelves and a tiny television tucked into a wardrobe screens Decarnin’s latest runway looks.
“Christophe wanted to revive the soul of Balmain’s historic headquarters, while linking it to the brand’s future,” said Balmain chairman and chief executive officer Alain Hivelin. “It’s a return to the source.”
The 2,500-square-foot boutique, shuttered for renovation last November, reopened its gold-leaf trimmed doors this week and will be christened with a cocktail party Monday as Paris couture week begins. Market sources estimate the boutique should generate annual revenues of 7 million euros, or $9.9 million at current exchange.
Paris architect Joseph Dirand oversaw the boutique’s transformation at a cost of 1.8 million euros, or $2.6 million at current exchange, which involved scrapping a vaguely Art Deco decor and sourcing 18th-century sculptures and stone floor tiles from French chateaus.
Maximizing the store’s unusual layout of a small entrance and vast upper floor, Dirand sought to create an apartment that unfolds “little by little.”
Hivelin, an earnest executive almost as press-shy as Decarnin, said the new boutique design sets a template that will be reflected in forthcoming Balmain boutiques and shop-in-shops. Projects for 2010 include corners in Harrods and Bergdorf Goodman, plus freestanding stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Bangkok.
“We have the potential to double this line in two years,” Hivelin said, describing sell-throughs of 100 percent at Harrods and sales growth in excess of 50 percent in recent years.
Yet he was adamant about keeping a tight rein on distribution of a collection that includes artfully destroyed T-shirts retailing for $1,624, jackets from $5,333 up to a runway dress for $59,856.
“I feel that if we extend the distribution too much on this line, we might endanger the exclusivity our customers have the right to expect from our brand,” he said, raising a finger for emphasis. The strategy is to grow revenues through the roughly 250 doors that carry the top women’s line, while gradually expanding the product range with accessories, including shoes, bags and eyewear. Men’s wear is sold in about 110 doors.
That said, Hivelin is quietly testing future growth avenues for the brand, recognizing the nosebleed prices of Balmain’s top collection puts it out of the reach of many potential clients, particularly in fast-growing markets, including China and Southeast Asia.
Balmain already quietly sells a Mongolian cashmere range in China, and will soon “test” Blue Label, an apparel collection for fall-winter licensed to Balness, a French producer, and priced about 40 to 50 percent less than the top line.
Hivelin said he plans to continue cutting “old licenses” having trimmed a dozen last year, to concentrate on select “larger businesses with larger partners. We’re looking to reintegrate the global image of the brand."
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye