By  on August 1, 2007

LONDON — Louis Vuitton is spreading its wings into west London.

The brand is set to open a 3,000-square-foot unit at Westfield London, a new shopping mall in the west London neighborhood of Shepherd's Bush, near Holland Park and Notting Hill, WWD has learned. Westfield London is slated to open in November 2008. An announcement is expected today.

The Louis Vuitton store will be in the luxury area of the mall known as The Village, which will be designed by Michael Gabellini, partner at Gabellini Sheppard Associates LLP. The store will be Vuitton's fourth London unit after Bond Street, Sloane Street and the financial district of the city. The brand also has concessions in Harrods and Selfridges.

"Westfield and Louis Vuitton have a good history together, and we think it's a great opportunity for us to expand in Europe," said David Slade, director of leasing at Westfield, which owns the new site with Commerz Grundbesitz-Investmentgesellschaft mbH, the German real estate asset management company.

Vuitton already has units at Westfield's malls in the U.S. in Century City, Calif.; Paramus, N.J.; San Diego, and Santa Clara, Calif. The Westfield London unit will mark the first time Vuitton is present in a U.K. mall. Philippe Schaus, Vuitton's senior vice president, called The Village an "interesting experiment" of a high-end retail concept in Europe.

"We don't have shops in malls in France, Italy or Spain. And until now we haven't had one in the U.K. But Westfield's approach is completely different, and we were also able to bring our input to The Village," he said.

Schaus added that Greater London was a growing market for luxury goods, and certain customers are looking for an alternative to shopping central London, where parking is expensive and a congestion charge for cars entering the area is in full force. "Also, the mall shopper is different from the town shopper — and that's a potential we need to tap," he said.

The Village will span approximately 200,000 square feet over three levels. Louis Vuitton will be on the ground floor, along with about 20 other luxury fashion and accessories brands. Although Slade declined to name the other brands in the hopper, they likely will include Tiffany, Dior, Prada and Gucci.He added the first floor will have more apparel retailers, including British and Italian fashion brands, and the top floor will contain a gym and spa.

In a telephone interview, Gabellini said The Village is meant to feel more like an emporium than a mall. He wanted the sensation to be like an Italian piazza or Parisian courtyard, where customers could "meander in an unfolding space."

The Village will be triangular in shape, like the prow of a luxury liner, jutting off the main mall area. Its exterior walls will be made from a delicate metal mesh fabric, with a hint of bronze. "It's shimmery and ephemeral, almost like hosiery," Gabellini said.

The interior will be curved, inspired by an hourglass shape, and there will be no straight lines. All the store facades will be made from a uniform crystalline optical glass, which creates a clean and uncluttered look. However, each brand will be able to adapt the space behind the glass to suit its image, he said.

The main part of the Westfield London mall will offer more than 260 specialty shops and five anchor stores, including House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Waitrose and Next. There also will be 40 places to dine and a 14-screen cinema complex.

Westfield has said that luxury and retail sales in London have been performing "well above" the national average — two reasons for building the megamall. But Slade said Westfield isn't stopping with London.

"The Village model in particular is a key opportunity for us to expand throughout the U.K. and Europe in the long term," he said. "It's even changed the way we think about luxury retail in the U.S., which we plan to push to another level."

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