By  on January 2, 2007

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hoping to resonate better with Palm Beach shoppers, the two-year-old BCBG Max Azria boutique has been refashioned as MaxAzria, the company's designer division.

Sandwiched between Valentino and Kaufmann de Suisse on Worth Avenue, the 2,000-square-foot location was too tony to downplay or let go, according to MaxAzria creative director Lubov Azria, who staged a benefit for the area's Norton Museum of Art for its grand opening in December.

"The young socialite set is so excited to have a store that's not as traditional or classic as the typical Palm Beach choices," she said of attendees, including co-hosts Ariana Boardman, Natalie Matthews and Kate Johnson. "The response to our resort collection trunk show that night was amazing, especially from the Latin crowd, which is totally new for us."

Among its 32 pieces inspired by Tulum, Mexico's carefree lifestyle of loose, drapy silhouettes and sandals, bestsellers were an oversized cardigan in beige, chunky tape yarn retailing for $590; an A-line, knee-length corset dress in black or beige cotton silk bengaline for $900, and elastic-waist belts with hook closures and oversized wooden buttons for $350. The company manufactures only 50 items per style, a factor Azria said will definitely please the area's clientele.

"They never want to see someone in the same garment at all their social events," she said.

Compared with the 800-square-foot store in New York's SoHo neighborhood and larger spaces in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Calif., Palm Beach's size falls in the middle. Azria said its Spartan decor with organic touches like a floor-to-ceiling tree trunk and crystal surfaces mimicking water emphasizes the collection's socially and environmentally conscious direction.

"The boutique's design concept is that of an art studio where women come to be fulfilled beyond shopping," she said of elements like distressed wood floors, antique Indonesian display tables and vintage rolling racks, and walls decorated with kimonos, art and mosaic tiles. Notebooks and books about art, architecture and history are part of the selection.

Azria said there are no plans to open more MaxAzria stores beyond the current four.

"We treat this division as a very special but small portion of the business," she said. "The budget is tightly controlled, and everything is simple."

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