By  on May 4, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS — After five months and $5 million, Escada is opening a renovated 6,000-square-foot flagship here today, revealing a sleek new store concept that targets a younger, hipper customer while staying true to the brand's classic aesthetics.

The company has been working to reinvigorate the brand's image without alienating its core clientele. New creative director Damiano Biella's debut collection for fall reflected the more youthful direction.

The store concept replaces Escada's staid ivory-and-brass decor with updated neutrals such as silver, plum and black. "The idea was to create a neutral color palette, but not go with the traditional neutrals," said Lawrence DeParis, U.S. president and chief operating officer.

Central to the revamp was the creation of 14 small rooms that flow into one another, each housing different categories and subcollections of merchandise.

"The store used to be much more of an open space," DeParis said. "It now has a more residential feel. It's like a luxury home."

Sales at the store, which is on street level in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, comprise around 20 percent of total retail sales in the U.S., second only to the company's New York flagship. Ready-to-wear prices range from around $150 for a logo T-shirt from the Escada Sport line to $60,000 for a chinchilla coat, with dresses and suits around $2,000.

"[The store] is really feminine and luxurious," said Frank Rheinboldt, chief executive officer. "It's very warm. The clients don't like a too-cool concept….We really want the customer to feel that they are home. We don't want to be a black box or a refrigerator."

Rheinboldt said the store was overdue for a facelift: "It has our first-generation store concept. We have rolled out three generations after that."

A temporary Escada store was open across the street on Wilshire Boulevard during much of the renovation before closing in March.

The project is part of a worldwide refurbishment program the company launched in October. "We are spending a lot of money to upgrade our stores and put the new shop concept in," said Rheinboldt, who added that Escada plans to redo 20 to 25 stores this year, and another 20 to 25 next year.The design was conceptualized by Swiss architectural firm Caps, with principal architect Christophe Carpente at its helm. An expansion of the store's accessories sections was key to the reconfiguration.

"One of the main problems in old shop was that we didn't have enough dedicated area to accessories, maybe 5 percent of the space," Rheinboldt said. "In the new store, we have dedicated 20 to 25 percent of the space to [the category]. We're focusing much more on accessories…to show people that we are not only ready-to-wear."

Handbag prices start at around $500 for Escada Sport models, rising to around $1,000 for evening bags from the signature collection. The bags are displayed on built-in black lacquered shelves that dominate entire walls within the store. Modular tables are topped with etched-glass support vignettes comprising shoes and small accessories such as belts.

Floors are covered in alternating sections of plum carpet and Nero Assoluto, a black granite tile. The oval-shaped grand foyer is swathed in ceramic tile featuring the company's double-E logo in relief, covered in a mirror-like platinum alloy. A 9-foot chandelier made from hundreds of imprinted metal chips — dog tag-like rectangles traditionally used in the protective aprons worn by Parisian butchers — hangs from the foyer's ceiling.

The custom-made chandelier is replicated in different shapes and sizes throughout the unit's 14 rooms. The unusual design element culminates in the store's largest, most central room, in the form of a floor-to-ceiling rectangular light sculpture affectionately called the champignon atomique, or the atomic mushroom, by the company's executives and architectural crew.

White leather Mies van der Rohe chairs and side tables coated in metallic platinum alloy skirt the dramatic lighting fixture. A sunglass display lighted from behind was built into one wall, just outside a discreet enclave that houses the checkout counter.

Farther into the store is a VIP room. The inviting space features a cushy seating area and a flat-screen TV.

The brand's rtw collection hangs from racks inset into the walls of each of the store's rooms, illuminated from behind and above as though they were pieces of fine art. Dressing rooms are lined in muted-toned silk brocade, and feature built-in shelving for customers to stow their belongings."The concept was to keep lighting subdued in the stores, but to have the clothes pop," DeParis said.

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