Lanvin Shop a Showcase for Clothes

Alber Elbaz is proud of his enlarged, new-look Lanvin boutique, which reopened here Tuesday with raw concrete floors, gleaming lacquer panels, industrial-steel fixtures and vintage Art Deco furnishings

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PARIS — Alber Elbaz is proud of his enlarged, new-look Lanvin boutique, which reopened here Tuesday with raw concrete floors, gleaming lacquer panels, industrial-steel fixtures and vintage Art Deco furnishings.

But please don’t pay the decor too much attention.

“It was not at all about making a beautiful boutique; it was about making a boutique that makes the clothes more beautiful,” the designer said. “The main issue for me was to find a way to elevate the clothes in the best way, in an intimate way.”

The store, at 22 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, was shuttered for three months of renovations, which added about 1,100 square feet of selling space on an upper level, accessed by a curving, mirror-lined staircase. The main floor spans about 1,500 square feet.

The new floor houses a shoe salon, with a forest of shoe “trees” showcasing Lanvin’s fast-selling ballerina flats, plus a separate room for evening dresses, which will make way for Elbaz’s new bridal collection come January.

Although the unit is Lanvin’s most productive in the world — market sources estimate sales of 60,000 euros, or $83,280 at current exchange, per square meter — Elbaz did not employ traditional commercial logic in the layout.

While most luxury boutiques put the accent on high-margin leather goods, Elbaz devotes a large amount of space at the front of the store to his theatrical windows, which this week display mother-and-daughter mannequins, both with Pepto-Bismol-pink skin, wearing matching big-shoulder dresses. Racks of Lanvin’s fall collection run along the length of one wall of the narrow store, interrupted by concentrated displays of fast-growing accessories categories. Two glass cupboards house rows of handbags near the front of the boutique, while costume jewelry is showcased at the back of the store. Eyewear is displayed in a tall glass console near a central seating lounge adjacent to fitting rooms.

Black-and-white fashion photos from the Lanvin era, and Thirties furniture by Armand-Albert Rateau give the store a residential feel, an ambiance much in vogue in luxury retailing today.

Still, Elbaz said he doesn’t want people to feel too much at home. “If you’re home, you never spend money,” he joked.

This story first appeared in the September 20, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer also sought to avoid the sterile ambiance of, say, a hotel lobby. “The most important thing was to give the feeling of comfort,” Elbaz said. “I think it looks like Paris more than anything else.”

In fact, Elbaz said many of his loyal customers were adamant that he not change the boutique, even if “when I got here, there was no decor.”

The new boutique, by Elbaz and the firm Architecture & Associés, sets the design vocabulary for future openings, including a new freestanding women’s and men’s boutique in Moscow opening in late November, and a new Bergdorf Goodman corner coming before the end of the year. A slate of locations in the Middle East — including Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait — is also on the drawing boards.

Key elements of the decor include clothing rails modeled after a kimono stand, period mirrors, aged oak walls and wardrobe-style merchandising such as stacked sweaters, and accessories peeking out of drawers.

There are 32 freestanding Lanvin boutiques in the world, including 14 that are company-owned.

Lanvin’s much larger men’s shop across the street, which boasts some 8,600 square feet over four floors, is scheduled for a similar renovation next year.

Elbaz said he opted to forego an opening party for the boutique, but he’s got plenty of other projects to keep him busy, including a Lanvin coffee-table book by Rizzoli coming out Oct. 26.

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