BEIJING — Montblanc is invoking the spirit of Grace Kelly and the glitz of Monte Carlo to tout its massive new flagship in the country’s capital.
The brand’s new concept store, its largest to date at 19,375 square feet, makes its home in a diamond-shaped stand-alone building in luxury development Sanlitun Village. On Friday, executives and celebrities including Jessica Alba and Naomi Watts assembled to fete the store and its inaugural installation dedicated to the brand’s Princesse Grace de Monaco collection of jewelry, watches and writing instruments.
“It’s really quite a step. It’s not about the size, it’s about a concept. I believe in today’s world, customers want to select very carefully,” Montblanc chief executive officer Lutz Bethge said in an interview. “We thought that might be a unique opportunity to create a platform for our customers to get close to our brand.”
Against the dramatic backdrop of a re-created Casino de Monte Carlo, Watts, Alba, Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Maggie Cheung, Chinese actress Lynn Hung and model Emma Pei walked the red carpet for the opening night event, each speaking briefly to the invitation-only crowd of about 1,000.
A full orchestra, beplumed dancers, and impersonators portraying Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Kelly herself entertained the crowd — though the impersonators were met largely with polite silence, perhaps not surprising in a country that spent most of that era closed to the outside world.
Montblanc, part of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, opened its first store in China in the early Nineties, tapping into a culture where corporate gifts such as watches and ornate pens are customary. The brand now has about 100 stores in mainland China operating in more than 40 cities stretching from Harbin in the north to Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong in the south. The Sanlitun concept store opened earlier this year.
“[China’s gift-giving culture] is what has created the success for us in China. People could recognize us and get to know our brand, and that has helped us to become very successful,” said Bethge.
The Sanlitun store’s first installation, expected to last through the summer, includes interactive film screens featuring the inside of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the Grand Prix and the Casino de Monte Carlo, as well as three screens dedicated to the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, which received a donation at the collection’s launch and receives a portion of its proceeds.
“We found that China and Japan have this huge fondness for her,” said Toby Boshak, the New York-based executive director of the Princess Grace Awards, who attended the opening. “This has been a long time in the making. It has turned out beautifully.”
“I didn’t know about Grace Kelly before,” admitted the doe-eyed Lynn Hung, known in Mandarin as Xiong Dailin, offering that she had heard of Diana, Princess of Wales. But the young actress was taken with the delicate, trailing diamond and pink sapphire petal necklace and bracelet she modeled for the event, which she said would undoubtedly appeal to Chinese women.
The collection includes interlocking, diamond-studded petals in bracelets and rings, and a four-petal design inspired by scattered rose petals, with tiny diamonds evoking droplets of dew. Many pieces are limited editions.
The concept store opening comes at a time of some uncertainty in China’s luxury market. With the country’s economy slowing, sales growth is expected to do the same, as evidenced by competitor Tiffany, which has cut its earnings forecast in part because of Asia’s slowing economies.
But Bethge, who declined to reveal sales figures, is resolute in his optimism for Montblanc’s China performance. The country has been Montblanc’s largest market since 2008, a position that is not expected to change.
“In the end I believe in the luxury industry…we are artisans, we are craftsmen. We are creating gifts. Montblanc is creating lifetime companions,” Bethge said. “You have to distinguish between the long term and the short term. I believe in the long term, this market will continue to strive forward. I believe in the entrepreneurship of the people here and in the economy.
“Even if at some point in time there will be a dip in the China market…in the long term, I see China as a continuing, huge opportunity for us,” he said.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews