PARIS--Bottega Veneta is at home in its new digs here.That's how creative director Tomas Maier characterized the new 3,400-square-foot Paris flagship boutique that's slated to open today and will be feted with a socialite-studded cocktail party tonight during couture week."I liked the space because it felt like a house," Maier said. "I like the idea of going from room to room and the fact that you don't see everything at once."The home-versus-store idea also extends to the fixtures. "In most boutiques, everything is built-in," he explained during a walk-through. "I prefer the idea of real furniture pushed against the wall." To wit: display cabinets stand like china cabinets, but house luxurious leather goods instead.Since Gucci Group acquired the Italian accessories and fashion house in February 2001, Maier has been expanding the product range and updating Bottega's retail image.As reported, stores in New York, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach, Fla., have received interim renovations, but the flagship here is the first to showcase a new store concept created by Maier and architect William Sofield, who collaborates with Gucci Group creative director Tom Ford for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent stores.Other flagships with the new concept are slated to bow on Sloane Street in London this month and on Via Montenapoleone in Milan in September. Maier noted that each will be customized slightly to their location, with facades kept largely intact.In Paris, shoppers enter at 16 Rue du Faubourg-Saint Honore, but actually traverse up to five different buildings as they navigate the two levels. Handbags, including those made from precious skins, occupy the two main rooms on the main floor, with luggage and women's shoes displayed in rooms toward the back.An unusual winding staircase leads to another warren of unusually shaped rooms upstairs, showcasing women's ready-to-wear in one and men's footwear, accessories and apparel in others. One room, lined with glass display cases, showcases a range of new home accessories, including candles, cashmere blankets, pillows and other home goods, along with limited-edition accessories.The materials and fixtures, in a range of rich earth tones, are designed to convey a sense of fine craftsmanship and luxury. These include walnut tables, walls covered with cloth, mohair furnishings and door handles sheathed in leather.Gucci declined to provide sales projections for the store. By yearend, Bottega Veneta will count 44 stores worldwide, including nine in the U.S., eight in Europe and 27 in Japan.The Paris flagship replaces a smaller franchised unit on the Left Bank that closed earlier this year. Bottega joins a host of new and revamped boutiques on the tony fashion strip. Recent arrivals include Prada and Commes des Garcons, while Chanel and Feraud will soon unveil new concepts."

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