The crossroads of a bustling fashion district, Omotesando is Tokyo’s Madison Avenue. Opening in September at its hub will be LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s newest building in the Japanese capital, housing four of its banner brands: Donna Karan, Fendi, Celine and Loewe. “One Omotesando,” designed by the architect Kengo Kuma, is a three-level, 17,216-square-foot structure. Celine, sold in 35 points of sale in Tokyo, will benefit from the location to inaugurate its first freestanding boutique, spanning 2,045 square feet. Loewe’s new Omotesando address will be its second in Tokyo, a 4,300-square-foot store. Details about the Fendi location are not yet available, but Karan is raring to go. “There are certain cultures that speak to me, and Japan is one of them,” the designer said. “I’m drawn to the East, its art and sensibility, especially when mixed with a Western spirit. Tokyo epitomizes that global view.” Karan’s store will be designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Studio, the same team that created her 819 Madison Avenue flagship in New York. The 3,885-square-foot space is spread over two floors, with a glass-front billboard featuring a giant advertising image as its facade. The inside of the store will reflect the look of the New York flagship, with a suspended staircase, polished black walls and a black granite platform at the center of the street level floor, while stepping down to the main floor, the walls will be polished ivory plaster with niches for fitting rooms and black plaster and brass vitrines for displaying the collection. “I want this to be the definitive Donna Karan experience for my Japanese customers,” Karan said. “It should feel like you just came and spent an afternoon with me in New York.” — Emilie Marsh and Eric Wilson

HEADING EAST: Luxury giant LVMH is slated to present a series of scholarships tonight in Paris to students whose ambitions are looking East. The scholarships, which range from $4,760 to $7,140 (converted from euros at current exchange), were established in conjunction with French business school INSEAD and the Euro-Asia Center and are geared toward developing knowledge of Asian markets and culture. The top scholarships will be awarded to two of the five international students who were selected from leading French business schools for their projects concerning various aspects of Asian business and economy. — E.M.BIGGER AND BETTER: Christian Dior opened a 4,500 square-foot-flagship in Hong Kong earlier this month, its largest store in the Far East, excluding Japan. The store is the seventh Dior boutique in Hong Kong. The opening celebrations at the new One Peking Road development in Tsim Sha Tsui included a charity auction to benefit the children of SARS victims. The store hoped to raise $40,000 at the event, which was attended by local celebrities and socialites.

Philippe Fortunato, managing director of Christian Dior Far East, said the store opening shows Dior’s commitment to Hong Kong amid tough economic times and the SARS outbreak. Christian Dior Far East operates in 12 markets in the Asia-Pacific region including Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Guam and Saipan. — David Hall

OPEN UP: Hong Kong government officials announced this week that a free-trade agreement between Hong Kong and China would be signed by the end of June. The agreement is expected to cover trade services, trade facilitation and trade in goods. The latter includes customs clearance and e-commerce. While specific details are still being ironed out, the pact will allow Hong Kong to enjoy faster access to China’s markets than is available to the rest of the world – at least until 2005, when China enters the WTO.

Analysts have noted that the deal appears to be one-sided — especially as Hong Kong already has one of the freest ports in the world. Instead, the agreement is seen as Beijing’s effort to help Hong Kong compete with Shanghai and Singapore, as well as a public relations exercise. (The agreement is set to be finalized by July 1 — the same date that new Beijing-backed antisubversion laws will be voted on by Legislative Council. The laws have sparked multiple demonstrations and protests in Hong Kong.)

One major question remains: Will Hong Kong subsidiaries of international companies enjoy greater access to the China market? If so, look for the big U.S. banks to be among the first to swoop into the mainland. — Constance Haisma-Kwok

SUPPORTING SEOUL: More than 200 of South Korea’s major apparel exporters and traders will gather under one roof for the three-day Seoul Fashion Week beginning July 9 at the Seoul Export Trade Exhibition Center to show their latest products and designs for spring-summer 2004. The exhibition is being organized by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and hosted by theKorea Fashion Association and Seoul Design Center, with the support of several other organizations, including the Korea Trade Organization and the Japan Fashion Association.Korean companies that export apparel to the United States, Europe, China, Japan and other markets will take part, the show organizers said, noting that the country’s national brand clothing manufacturers will also be represented. A special tour of major fashion streets and popular markets in Seoul will be conducted for visiting buyers on the opening day, the organizers said.

This year’s exhibition will pay special attention to Japan, a major market for South Korean apparel, the organizers said, noting that Korean apparel exports to Japan reached $730 million last year, rising 20.9 percent from the previous year. — Tsukasa Furukawa

WATCH THIS SPACE: Luxury watch brand Van Der Bauwede opened its first freestanding store in Asia this week – a flagship located in the Central district of Hong Kong. The store is located on the ground floor of The Galleria, which is also home to the Hong Kong flagships for Agnes B, Hermes and Waterford/Wedgwood.

The shop, designed by architect Roland de Leu, is just the first of many planned for the region. Bobby Wu, general manager of Luxtime, which introduced VDB to Hong Kong a year ago, said freestanding shops in Beijing and Taipei will bow this year and that a second Hong Kong store will open by the end of 2004.

Luxtime has distribution rights for VDB in the Greater China region and Wu said the flagship is as much a wholesale showroom as it is a retail outlet. “Our purpose is not just to sell the watches, but also to offer help to retailers,” he said. “We’re not here to compete with them, but to support them.”

Wu expects the store to have sales of $230,000 in its first six months. — C.H.K.

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