By  on October 18, 2007

Catherine Malandrino is getting a new home.

The 6,000-square-foot, two-level structure on the corner of La Cienega and Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles will house a new retail concept, Maison Malandrino, opening in March and featuring the designer's two collections, Malandrino and Catherine Malandrino; a new line of men's made-to-order eveningwear; a restaurant; floral studio, and library. Bernard Aidan, Malandrino's husband and the company's chief executive officer, declined to discuss sales projections for the maison, but said typical Malandrino stores do about $1,500 per square foot in sales.

On the eve of her 10th anniversary in business, Malandrino is shoring up her house. To facilitate an aggressive expansion plan, the designer is filling key management roles that had been left vacant while she and Aidan ran the company themselves. "Now we're opening our roof to a management team to help us realize a plan," Malandrino said. "I feel it's a new step in our expansion."

The company did $60 million in retail sales in 2006 and has seen double-digit increases since, Aidan said. The wholesale business is larger than retail and growing by 40 percent each season, however he wouldn't divulge the exact figures.

The designer also is forging ahead on the international front. "We have a store in the Saint- Germain des Prés [district in Paris]," Malandrino said. "We'd like to open a second store either in Paris or the South of France."

Meanwhile, a 600-square-foot shop-in-shop was scheduled to open today at Tsum in Moscow through a partnership with the Mercury Group, which plans to unveil a second boutique in Russia in St. Petersburg next year. The Moscow shop will be celebrated with a runway show of Malandrino's spring collection Friday during Moscow Fashion Week.

In Japan, Malandrino plans to open three stores over the next three years in partnership with PMD Japan, which is exclusively distributing the Catherine Malandrino collection there, beginning with the spring line.

Malandrino's plans to unveil four new stores per year in the U.S. and Europe include re-creating the Maison Malandrino in other cities. "It's possible to replicate this concept in other places," she said. "We've started to look for large spaces."In the U.S., the company is finalizing the plans for a 3,000-square-foot boutique that will open in Las Vegas in February at the Palazzo, which is being developed by The Venetian. The store will have a bigger selection of long dresses and pieces that are more luxurious, she said.

The company operates boutiques in SoHo and the Meatpacking District in New York, and in Manhasset and East Hampton, N.Y. A unit on Sunset Boulevard in L.A. will continue to operate once the maison opens. The designer also has set her sights on Madison Avenue and said she's not averse to locating above 72nd Street. "Uptown in Manhattan we could open just an accessories boutique or a Malandrino boutique" if the maison doesn't pan out, she said. Other American cities being targeted for stores include Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Houston.

Maison Malandrino in L.A. will offer valet service and European fare in the restaurant and adjoining terrace. "We thought about how we would live in a home," Malandrino said. "We want to create a very homey and relaxing environment." The house, which has a garden and fireplace, was previously occupied by an architect.

Laurent Levasseur, formerly ceo of Yves Saint Laurent of America, was hired as chief operating officer of Catherine Malandrino last summer. One of his initiatives is to develop licensees for eyewear, swimwear, lingerie and casual shoes. The designer continues to build her accessories business with a full collection of shoes and handbags. A line of fantasy jewelry in gold and silver with semiprecious stones is being developed in France with prices ranging from $500 to $2,000.

"Fur is an extension we're thinking about," Malandrino said. "I'm very interested in skin care and fragrance and anything that helps a woman feel more beautiful. I would have to find the right partner."

There has been speculation Catherine Malandrino might be sold to one of the many private equity players getting into the fashion game, but Aidan said he and Malandrino would prefer an investor to an outright sale. "If someone is able to join our vision, we will consider it," he said. "We've been very solicited. We're certainly open to talking to different people. We'll look at any opportunities."If all this weren't enough, Malandrino is working on a book about her first decade as a designer, which will be published by Assouline in time for the opening of the maison.

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