By  on April 1, 2005

MIAMI — It’s been go, go, go for Marc Jacobs and company. After the rose-themed extravaganza to launch two stores in Los Angeles — Marc Jacobs Collection and Marc by Marc Jacobs — the designer headed straight to South Florida to kick off another Marc Jacobs store in Bal Harbour Shops last week.

But Jacobs’ idea of a laid-back, peaceful respite in conjunction with an intimate dinner and soft opening was not to be had.

“I’m not on spring break!” said the designer, all bundled up in a Marc cargo jacket despite the evening’s smothering humidity. Sipping a Diet Coke on The Raleigh’s terrace, he seemed the antithesis of all the youthful debauchery occurring in South Beach that weekend, exacerbated by the omnipresent thumping bass from the annual electronic music conference.

South Florida had fallen off Jacobs’ radar after the mid-Eighties when he partook in Miami’s fringe art and nightlife scenes. The company’s recent domestic expansion to nine stores — including four stores in New York, two in Boston and one in San Francisco, with a 10th scheduled to open in Chicago — has allowed him to rediscover America after years of residing in Paris. “It’s strange to fly domestically, from Los Angeles to New York to Miami,” he said, proud not to have missed one U.S. opening yet.

While his business partner and company president Robert Duffy planned to hit the beach for some much-needed rest and relaxation, Jacobs had lined up a day of visiting the Rubell, Margulies and de la Cruz art collections and was disappointed to hear expectant artist Rachel Feinstein couldn’t make the dinner because she wasn’t feeling well.

“More than any place or decade, I’m inspired lately by my friends and clients in the contemporary art scene. They are my realistic muses,” he said.

As in Los Angeles, the company stocked the Bal Harbour store with an explosion of color and tiered, party frocks fit for dancing atop the city’s plentiful nightclub banquettes. With 1,700 square feet of selling space, Bal Harbour is the smallest of the Collection stores, according to Duffy, who will use its narrow box shape sans historic architectural details as a prototype for upcoming collection stores in London and Paris.Shoppers in sync with famed Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus’ mantra, “Too much is never enough,” caught Duffy off guard. Originally taking the minimal approach to merchandising, such as one handbag per shelf, he soon gave up and put everything out.

“They kept asking for more and more and wanted to see all the options,” he said, pointing to stacks of colorblocked cashmere cardigans for $895 and rainbow rows of Blake and Selma leather handbags with pockets for $950 and $1,400, respectively.

Duffy reported the first customer bought a crocodile bag, and the second bought a diamond bracelet. “It was so cool, like boom, boom,” he said. “There’s a definite glamour here, a richness that’s not subtle,” added Jacobs.

First-day sales totaled between $40,000 and $60,000, according to Duffy, who was surprised handbags and shoes outsold ready-to-wear. Clothing constituted 50 percent of sales rather than the normal 80 percent.

The Bal Harbour store also differs in that it’s housed inside a shopping center, a departure from the company’s penchant for off-the-beaten-path locations. Its resistance to malls was partially eased by the familiarity with Bal Harbour Shops’ clientele and setting through ties with Marc Jacobs’ parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The company plans to continue selling accessories to the center’s anchors Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, but has pulled all clothing to present a complete story on its own. “Built-in traffic and doing windows in front of a crowd is still weird to me, though,” said Duffy, who had piled the entire storefront with colorful silk rose blossoms.

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