By and  on September 14, 2011

Italy has a new luxury retail format, Excelsior Milano, which officially opened last Thursday. Developed by department store giant Gruppo Coin, this is the retailer’s first foray into the luxury arena.

Covering seven floors over 43,200 square feet, Excelsior Milano is housed in a former movie theater in one of Milan’s busiest pedestrian-only shopping areas, a few steps from the gothic Duomo cathedral. The building was restored according to an innovative, striking project by renowned architect Jean Nouvel.

“The store is an expression of a selection, not a parade of brands,” said Gruppo Coin chief executive officer Stefano Beraldo, referring to the tightly edited product mix.

“This is transversal merchandise — but only the best — from top wines and mozzarella to Manolo Blahnik shoes,” he explained during a walk-through. Accordingly, Excelsior Milano has teamed with Antonia Giacinti, one of the city’s most exclusive independent retailers. Three floors, designed by Vincenzo De Cotiis, are branded “Antonia” and dedicated to accessories and men’s and women’s apparel brands. Selected by Giacinti, they range from Maison Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten, Marni, Balmain and Marc Jacobs to Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Chloé, Proenza Schouler, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Altuzarra and Isabel Marant. Accessories include footwear by Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Sergio Rossi and Pierre Hardy, and bags from Givenchy and Zagliani.

Blahnik is present with an in-store shop.

“Antonia has vision, energy and determination, and she is innovative, not a traditionalist of luxury,” noted Beraldo.

Giacinti added, “We want to convey emotions and offer international fashion with Italian taste.”

One floor is dedicated to American contemporary designers and includes brands such as Helmut Lang, Theory and Rag & Bone.

On the ground floor, there is a Tiffany boutique — the American jeweler’s first in an Italian department store; a Valextra corner, and a Ladurée shop. Beauty products include Aveda and Giorgio Armani. In addition to a food court and other refreshments, there is a bistro and a restaurant.

Beraldo said he expected Excelsior Milano to generate sales of between 40 and 50 million euros, or $56.2 million and $70.3 million at current exchange, in the first year. The investment in the store totaled 30 million euros, or $42.2 million, of which 10 million euros, or $14 million, by Gruppo Coin, and 20 million euros, or $28.1 million, by real estate developer and owner of the building, Beni Stabili.

Nouvel’s vibrant design — with kaleidoscopic images and references to the original purpose of the building — paired with visual art direction by Jo Ann Tan, known for her tongue-in-cheek Moschino windows, make for a singular shopping experience. The retail format will be extended to the Italian cities of Verona, Padova and Naples.

London-based private equity firm BC Partners took a controlling stake in Gruppo Coin in May. Group sales for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 surged 38.1 percent to 1.73 billion euros, or $2.28 billion.

On Sept. 7, a preopening cocktail party drew a slew of designers and industry executives including Matteo Marzotto, Neil Barrett, Ferruccio Ferragamo, Luisa Beccaria, Giuseppe Zanotti, Francesca Versace and Alessandro Dell’Acqua, who was chosen for the first Excelsior window.

Elio Fiorucci said he was “really happy that Milan now has such an incredible place. It’s extremely high-end, carries all the best brands and I think it can become a point of reference for international trendsetters. It’s a real gift to Milan.”

“Here you can feel an international atmosphere,” said Veronica Etro. “I really appreciate that Excelsior offers a new window for upcoming designers because people want to find new names, new products. In this period of financial crisis, those aiming to make the difference can get great results.”

Roberto Rimondi and Tommaso Aquilano praised the displays. “The products are shown in a way that exalts and respects the uniqueness of each one,” explained Aquilano.

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