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Desert Spa to Target Sheik Set

NEW YORK — Beauty is about to get a taste of the Arabian Nights.<br><br>One of the most ambitious and lavish experiments in beauty retailing is on the drawing board in Kuwait. Sheik Majed Al-Sabah caught the stunned attention of the fashion...

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NEW YORK — Beauty is about to get a taste of the Arabian Nights.

One of the most ambitious and lavish experiments in beauty retailing is on the drawing board in Kuwait. Sheik Majed Al-Sabah caught the stunned attention of the fashion world in April by opening a dazzling designer showcase, called Villa Moda, on the waterfront in Kuwait City. Now he is planning to unveil an equally sumptuous spa and beauty retail emporium.

The spa, which will be located on an upper floor of the fashion complex, is due to open in mid-November.

The spa will contain 1,230 square feet of floor space and the company projects first year sales of $12 million. Prince Al-Sabah estimates that construction costs of the spa will amount to $700,000.

During a telephone interview Wednesday, Al-Sabah said that from the beginning, even before the fashion emporium was opened, he had set his sights on opening a beauty floor and spa destination that would be seen as unique, not just for the Mideast but also for Milan, Paris and New York. He certainly did not want another “boring concept,” like those seen in Western department stores.

Since Al-Sabah’s expertise is in fashion, he turned the task of developing and running the beauty floor over to a pair of consultants, Emma Gladdish and James Leeke, operating under the Strawberry and Cream banner. Al-Sabah also will open a separate men’s area elsewhere in the store.

Villa Moda’s approach is heavy on services — ranging from botox injections to laser hair removal — buttressed with a highly selective assortment of products for sale. Al-Sabah said he is in discussions with a doctor, who would be on staff to administer the injections. Manicures and pedicures will be administered while the client is seated on a low sofa for maximum comfort. There also will be a juice bar, all part of a relaxed, clublike atmosphere.

The spa will be staffed with three skin care specialists and four makeup artists. Al-Sabah said the makeup artists will be rotated regularly to provide customers with the latest in cosmetics looks.

The objective was to provide a gamut of services, all under one roof, while instilling a boudoir ambience conducive to lounging and relaxation. Al-Sabah pointed out that 65 percent of the target audience consist of women who do not have jobs outside the home. Shopping is a main preoccupation, which is one of the reasons why Kuwait is riddled with malls. Al-Sabah described his spa as sort of a beauty club for “spoiled rich girls.”

He also pointed out that it is a highly social society. “Every weekend, there are six to eight weddings,” he said, estimating that the amount of services and makeup required by each bride, plus beauty products to take on the honeymoon, adds up to $5,000 to $10,000 per head. “It’s money in the bank,” chuckled the flamboyant Al-Sabah.

Not only does he intend to provide skin care treatments not found elsewhere, but he also wants the retail assortment to appear as unique as possible. For instance, when it came to MAC Cosmetics, Al-Sabah did not want the regular line that is distributed elsewhere in the Mideast. Instead, he began discussions to obtain MAC’s professional line. There are only 12 MAC Pro Shops in the entire world. Apparently, executives at the division of Estée Lauder are in discussions with Al-Sabah. Their interest seems driven by the fact that professionals from the Bombay and Egyptian film industry shop in Kuwait City.

He also is in discussion with Laura Mercier, Nars, Linda Cantello, Vincent Longo and By Terry. Al-Sabah, who sees most of the spa’s volume generated by beauty services and makeup, also has ideas about retailing skin care products. He plans to have a suitably niche assortment, including Dr. Hauschka, Ole Henricksen, Eve Lom, Z Bigatti and Prada.

The fragrance assortment is being envisioned as equally exotic. Al-Sabah is talking about retailing scents from Santa Maria Novella plus the most classic items from the collections of Christian Dior, Patou and Caron. As an added service, women will be allowed to mix fragrance. Al-Sabah acknowledged that scent is a passion in the Mideast, where women consume well over three times as much fragrance as in the West. Al-Sabah noted that women burn a fragrant wood, called oud, on a bed of charcoal. It is so sought after that it costs $500 to $1,000 per gram.

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