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Avenue Montaigne Makeover

PARIS — Avenue Montaigne, the grand old dame of luxury shopping strips, has had a facelift. <br><br>In the last year, Calvin Klein, Marni, Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci have all set up shop there. Plein Sud opened in August. And most recently, in...

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PARIS — Avenue Montaigne, the grand old dame of luxury shopping strips, has had a facelift.

In the last year, Calvin Klein, Marni, Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci have all set up shop there. Plein Sud opened in August. And most recently, in mid-September, Gucci flung open the doors to a stunning 7,500-square-foot showcase. Coming soon is a Gianfranco Ferré boutique.

Dior president Sydney Toledano, whose retail flagship sits on the street, attributes Montaigne’s resurgence to the opening of recent restaurants there, such as the Costes brothers’ trendy L’Avenue, and designer Patrick Jouin’s revamp of the Plaza Athenee bar.

“Montaigne has always been a tourist destination,” said Toledano. “But now it’s attracting more locals. It’s a destination, a place to see and be seen. People like to feel a shopping experience. They dip into a store and then lunch at the Avenue or drink at the Plaza. The Avenue Montaigne now has buzz.”

Toledano added that the wide avenue is easier accessed by car than Faubourg Saint Honoré, its equally chic but quite narrow shopping counterpart that counts Hermès, Lanvin, Prada and Comme des Garçons as tenants.

Traffic has become even tighter on Saint Honoré since Sept. 11, as police threw up barricades and blocked access to the nearby American embassy.

“Shoppers don’t like the traffic on the Faubourg,” said Toledano. “There’s no place for chauffeurs to wait. So Montaigne is getting those customers.” Dior operates shops on both streets.

Faycal Amor, designer and owner of Plein Sud, said he targeted Montaigne for the prestige.

“Montaigne ranks, like Madison Avenue in New York, among the most important shopping streets in the world,” he said. “But over the last three years, the street has gotten much more lively and fun.”

Plein Sud’s 2,500-square-foot boutique, next to Emanuel Ungaro, replaces Dolce & Gabbana, which in July transferred just a few doors down to a 5,500-square-foot space in the new LVMH headquarters building. The LVMH building, slated to open next year, is also expected to house a Louis Vuitton shop.

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Amor described the new shop, with its ochre walls and black washed wood floors, as a “more sophisticated interpretation of Plein Sud’s baroque aesthetic. It’s more modern than Plein Sud shops in the past. It’s purer. But there’s still an atmosphere evocative of southern France.”

Meanwhile, Gucci opened a two-story store on the corner of Montaigne and the Rond Pont des Champs-Elysées. It is the second Gucci unit to employ the new, softer concept, designed by Tom Ford and architect William Sofield. The concept was unveiled at the firm’s Madison Avenue shop in early September.

The space features dark wood paneling, poured concrete displays and an ultra-modern mosaic floor that leads to a sweeping carved-stone staircase. It boasts 15 display windows on the ground floor, where the men’s and women’s accessories lines are showcased. On the second floor, featuring men’s and women’s shoes and ready-to-wear, there are another dozen windows.

Bruno Keeps It Simple

French designer Vanessa Bruno wanted to get back to basics for her new shop here in the arcades at 12 Rue de Castiglione.

“The idea was to do something authentic,” said the designer. “So we stripped the walls to show the original brick and exposed the beams in the ceiling and left open a skylight in the back. I wanted the place to have soul.”

French store designer David Exbrayat, who has done interiors for L’Eclaireur here, created the 1,300-square-foot unit, which will serve as the concept for future Bruno boutiques. Bruno’s Left Bank shop on the Rue Saint Sulpice has already been redone using the concept.

“I love the Rue de Castiglione,” said Bruno of the street that links the Rue de Rivoli with the Place Vendôme. “It has an upscale feel. But I wanted the shop to be accessible to everyone. It’s meant to be sophisticated but not overbearing.”

Meanwhile, Bruno has just opened a shop in Tokyo, her eighth in Japan. And New York retailer Steven Allen has dedicated his 60 Wooster Street shop exclusively to Bruno’s designs.

“I’d love to have my own shop in New York,” said Bruno. “We’re on the lookout for the right space. It’s next on my agenda.”

That’s It

Good things often come in small packages. At least, that is the case with It, a 250-square-foot accessories-only shop that opened at 66 Rue des Saints Peres here, on the Left Bank, this summer.

“We wanted to do something new,” said Minako Norimatsu, a Japanese fashion journalist who runs the store. “Paris didn’t have a one-stop destination for trendy accessories.” The minimalist shop, designed by French architect Joseph Dirand, stocks Marc Jacobs, Chloé, Ruffo Research, Helmut Lang, Maurizio Pecoraro and Agnona, among others.

“Accessories are as important as clothes now,” said Norimatsu. “Why not treat them as such?” And why did Norimatsu choose to name the shop It? “Because all of the It girls of Paris will want to come,” she said.

Street Sweep

Forget spring cleaning. A bevy of boutiques here have redecorated this fall, from Jean Claude Jitrois, at 40 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, to Yves Saint Laurent’s new accessories outlet at 6 Rue de Grenelle, on the Left Bank. Lanvin, marking the arrival of Alber Elbaz’s freshman collection for the house, refurbished its two-level flagship at 15 Faubourg Saint-Honoré with dark wood fixtures and sleek lamps. YSL’s accessories store, with a dark, mysterious ambiance, boasts a sleek interior with polished fixtures and mirrors. In a similar vein, YSL has also redecorated its men’s store at nearby 6 Place Saint Sulpice.

For his part, Jitrois tapped French designer Christophe Pillet to completely overhaul his small store. “It’s supposed to be very sexy,” said Jitois.

Pillet covered the walls in leather and hung stalactite-like glass tube lights from the ceiling. “I wanted it to be like a modern boudoir,” said the designer. “There’s even a leather bed.”

Meanwhile, a spate of shops are slated to bow during fashion week. They include a new concept Chanel shop at 21 Faubourg Saint Honoré, a Philippe Starck-designed Jean Paul Gaultier shop at the 44 Avenue Georges V and Kenzo’s revamped 10 Place de la Madeleine flagship.

Also of note will be the accessories designer Mina Poe’s first shop, designed by celebrated decorator Alberto Pinto and located at 19 Rue Duphot. Poe, an emerging talent, designs high-end, one-of-a-kind bags and accessories.

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