PARIS — "I think this is really cool," Fendi chief executive Michael Burke said Thursday, pushing open the back door of Fendi's new Avenue Montaigne flagship here that gives way to the enormous covered courtyard and auditorium of parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. "I don't think any other store in the world has this."
Tonight, barren trees will decorate the space, reprising the set from Fendi's show last week in Milan and representing the first time designer Karl Lagerfeld will present his fur and fashion designs in the French capital. A party will follow.
Ultimately, Fendi hopes to use the courtyard to stage fur fashion shows during couture week, Burke said during an exclusive walk-through on Thursday.
The 5,400-square-foot store, which opens Saturday, replaces a smaller unit on the nearby Rue François 1er that Burke allowed had a cumbersome, chopped-up layout, an out-of-date "dark store" interior and, while only about half a block away, a location too distant from the "absolute epicenter" of Paris' most desirable fashion avenue, smack between Dior and Louis Vuitton. He said the high-profile location, and a sumptuous design by architect Peter Marino, should allow the Roman fashion house to double its business in Paris, already one of its 10 most productive stores in the world.
Burke declined to give figures. However, sources estimated the two-level unit should generate sales of about 12 million euros per year, or $18.1 million at current exchange rates.
"This is the fashion capital of the world. We needed to have a store in keeping with the importance of Paris," Burke said. "We were not up to our full potential."
With its sparkling amber-lined window displays and a spellbinding, large-scale silver sculpture by Loris Cecchini glinting inside, the unit already attracts attention from the street.
Once inside, shoppers can discover on two levels the luxury brand's complete product offering — something Burke struggled to achieve in the previous three-story location, encumbered by a hulking central staircase that ate up selling spaces.
The main level of the new boutique is devoted to accessories, with colorful handbags winking from undulating travertine shelves like candies. The front of the store is devoted to the iconic Baguette, celebrating its 10th anniversary, while the B. Fendi, its discreet new cousin, the Doctor B. and other lines get their own showcases, including the hand-stitched Selleria range.The Cecchini sculpture — a splintered vortex of gleaming balls — funnels shoppers past a wall of fur scarves, Spy and evening bags, or toward a shoe salon, another new feature on Avenue Montaigne.
Upstairs is a vast showcase for ready-to-wear and furs, categories that posted the highest growth rates last year, Burke said. Fur selections range from 5,000 euro, or $7,500, "travel" jackets in mink all the way up to 200,000 euros, or over $300,000, for exceptional styles.
"This gives us a real credibility in furs and rtw," Burke said as he drew a semisheer curtain — interwoven with strips of mink and echoing the textures in the wavy, rust-colored walls — that creates a VIP selling area. "It's like one gigantic fitting room. That's how the floor is laid out," he noted.
Among the exclusive items for sale are new designs unveiled during the show on the Great Wall of China last October, which are carried in three other stores: Rome, New York and Los Angeles.
One of LVMH's star brands, Fendi is on track to post double-digit growth in 2008, Burke said. The company's retail expansion also continues, with five stores in China slated to open this year, along with new locations in Las Vegas; Delhi, India; Qatar; Macau, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia.
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