By  on October 19, 2012

MIAMI — Louis Vuitton is getting into gear for the long haul in South Florida.

Preceding its permanent Miami proper store due in 2014, the brand opened a temporary location Friday at 170 N.E. 40th Street in the Design District, formerly occupied by the Tomas Maier boutique. It chose to work with an existing layout rather than follow a prototype, according to Valerie Chapoulaud-Floquet, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America.

“The look will be unique among our doors,” said Chapoulaud-Floquet, who jazzed up the property’s plain white exterior with a vibrant mural by Los Angeles-based artist Retna. “It made sense given the context of being in an arts district.”

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It’s the first time Louis Vuitton has commissioned artwork for a facade versus traditional placement throughout interiors. Retna, whose paintings are already displayed on warehouse walls in nearby Wynwood, based his latest local work on a scarf he designed for the house using his signature letters. The mural’s “Miami Vice” palette of hot pink, teal and azure blue pays homage to the tropical city he calls his second home.

“This piece is much more colorful, layered and painterly than my usual flat, graphic style in a single color,” he said, almost in disbelief that a graffiti writer who came up in Los Angeles’ gang culture could be working with a luxury brand like Louis Vuitton. “It shows how people are more accepting of this niche of art that wasn’t highly regarded a short while ago.”

Chapoulaud-Floquet said the house originally reached out to Retna to mentor inner-city children as part of its charity commitment to the Overtown Youth Center in Miami. In addition to the facade and scarf carried at the Design District store, he created three works for the second-level’s gray-and-white VIP salon filled with natural light.

The entrance’s original, sectioned-off area was transformed into the Travel Room decorated with brass accents, Parisian antiques and teak furniture. The same materials are used in the women’s department, whereas men’s wear is enveloped by dark mahogany walls. A full assortment of accessories, eyewear, shoes, costume jewelry and textiles is represented. Sales will determine whether capsule collections for ready-to-wear are expanded.

“We didn’t want to overload the space, and no one knows the Design District’s potential. It’s still in its discovery stage,” said Chapoulaud-Floquet, who omitted fine jewelry and watches for the launch as well. “I don’t think they will capture this neighborhood’s trendy, young clientele as much as shoes and ready-to-wear.”

The brand’s Miami demographics have evolved since opening its first U.S. store outside New York in 1981. Along with a strong local base, Brazilians have become more prominent among a generally increased Latin American clientele. Chapoulaud-Floquet said Russian and Chinese tourists don’t frequent Miami as much as other major U.S. cities, though she expects the latter to arrive eventually. Though similar items sell consistently worldwide, she has high hopes for Miami, which already ranks in the top five U.S. markets.

“For decades, it’s been a pioneer city for us and still has a lot more potential to grow,” she said.

In February, the permanent store opens at Aventura Mall following its temporary location launched last year. The considerably larger retail experience features two floors linked with an internal staircase and a prominent exterior facade.

Chapoulaud-Floquet said there aren’t immediate plans for more stores beyond the Design District and Aventura.

“As the market grows stronger, though, we’ll look at other opportunities,” she said.

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