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Bal Harbour Bash

MIAMI — It’s party time for Dolce & Gabbana after two decades in business.<BR><BR>Kicking off what should be a string of soirees culminating with its 20th anniversary in September, Dolce & Gabbana threw a late-night bash and...

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MIAMI — It’s party time for Dolce & Gabbana after two decades in business.

Kicking off what should be a string of soirees culminating with its 20th anniversary in September, Dolce & Gabbana threw a late-night bash and fashion show last week at The Forge, one of Miami’s famed stomping grounds for decadent revelry.

Host Alison Spear’s high-tech silver corset dress with Swarovski crystal straps from the spring-summer 2005 collection mirrored the Miami-based architect’s clean, modern design projects.

“Their evening clothes fit me the best,” said Spear, who claims to have been a fan since the first day she could afford them. The crowd included hip-hop impresario Pharrell Williams and art photographer Iran Issa-Khan — not to mention a drag queen in a snakeskin bodysuit with Eighties’ big hair who was there for the restaurant’s regular weeknight debauchery. But most guests opted for Dolce & Gabbana’s more traditional, black evening ensembles. The design house’s signature red roses were everywhere, of course injected with a little South Florida flair in the form of giant, juicy lemons.

Though Miamians are one group that never needs an excuse to party, this time there really was a bona fide occasion: the opening of Dolce & Gabbana’s latest store and redesign at Bal Harbour Shops. The unit doubled its size to almost 3,000 square feet and moved to a central corner location on the shopping center’s first floor. Gabriella Forte, president of Dolce & Gabbana, said the company plans to expand to 5,000 square feet in November to accommodate its larger divisions. Miami’s changes reflect the company’s overall growth.

“We were a young company before, but have grown the business incredibly over the last three years,” she said, estimating a 30 to 40 percent increase in merchandise and 50 percent to more than 100 percent annual increases in sales for individual categories. Forte said the designers wanted a new store image that complied with this maturity and advanced standard. “The new design is a marriage of the evolution of the clothes and the place to house them,” she said.

Aside from the men’s shop in Los Angeles, Miami is the first combined women’s and men’s store in the U.S. to undergo the redesign. The women’s store in Los Angeles is slated for completion in September, followed by New York in March 2006. Forte said all the flagships worldwide have or will be renovated, too. “Whether they’re done before those in the U.S. really depends on if it’s a renovation like in Paris and London or an entirely new store like in Shanghai,” she said. Milan and Hong Kong are already finished.

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Architect Ferruccio Laviani drew inspiration from the designers’ love of black and luxury, and from their large personal collection of Murano glass. Smooth walls of black glass with mirror insets, Murano glass chandeliers and velvet or mirror furnishings complement rather than compete with the collections. “We are in the business of clothing, after all, so it’s about using the most precious materials down to the wood,” Forte said.

Technology isn’t as important as service and comfort, said Forte, who wants a sense of ease throughout the shopping and fitting experience. The Milan store features the prototype for large fitting rooms, which have become necessary with the expansion of one-of-a-kind, special-occasion pieces and wardrobing for a more diverse customer base than its former, strictly high-fashion crowd. Customers have come to rely on the label for complete outfits, classics pieces like cashmere V-neck sweaters, and day to evening clothes, rather than must-have items.

“We’re not just about the HotPants of the season anymore,” Forte said. “There’s an awareness factor that we’re multioccasion dressing.”

Accessories also require more space and emphasis since the company brought the division’s production and distribution in-house four years ago. “They weren’t there before with the licensing agreement, and now they are,” Forte said. In Miami, smaller side windows showcase the season’s “It” items, and a backlighted chessboard of black glass and opaline plexiglass displays eyewear much more properly and dramatically than traditional cases.

Where real estate permits, the company prefers separate men’s and women’s stores. Forte reports men’s also has grown considerably to the point it’s justified to focus solely on their needs and fittings. “It would be nice to have a men’s club so all the attention can be on him,” she said.

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