PARIS — Having infused the Nina Ricci runway with his ethereal and romantic vision, Olivier Theyskens is extending the aesthetic to the retail floor and the advertising page.During the recent couture week here, the designer quietly reopened Ricci"s flagship with an interim all-gray, minimal interior. "Olivier and I were very adamant that the store feel different for the arrival of the goods," explained Mario Grauso, president of Puig Fashion Group, Ricci"s parent.In Paris, that meant "skin-coating" the interior — walls, floors and ceilings alike — in gray cement and installing subdued lighting, a fitting backdrop for Theyskens" feminine and fragile yet edgy designs.Theyskens has a new design concept for the Avenue Montaigne unit that will entail considerable construction, including the alteration of its central staircase, requiring approvals from French authorities. The unit is likely to be unveiled next January during couture week.Ricci unveiled its first shop-in-shop, spanning about 500 square feet, on the couture floor of Bergdorf Goodman last month."Olivier Theyskens is an extraordinary designer and his arrival at Bergdorf Goodman has been eagerly anticipated by our associates and clients," said Jim Gold, the store"s president and chief executive officer.Also opening soon are other shops-in-shops at Harvey Nichols in London, Galeries Lafayette here and Saks Fifth Avenue in Mexico City. All will feature elements that echo the future Paris flagship, including twisted matte brass fixtures and furniture inspired by the "twist" from the L"Air de Temps bottle — also a leitmotif in Theyskens" runway debut last March.The fabric covering the fitting-room walls, a floral jacquard, comes from the original fragrance packaging.Also opening this fall, with Ricci"s Russian partner, Crocus, is a 1,500-square-foot Ricci boutique at the Crocus City Mall in Moscow, along with a 750-square-foot corner at Crocus" multibrand store called Stoleshnikov Per.Launching a New York flagship is also a priority for Ricci, and Grauso said he hoped to have one open by fall 2008. "It"s really more of a real estate challenge," he said in an interview. "Olivier is mulling different neighborhoods to find the one he feels is right for the brand. Right now, he"s leaning toward Chelsea."Theyksens, who was the creative director of Rochas before that house was shuttered in 2006, has long enjoyed a strong following in the U.S., including fans of his now-dormant signature brand. For the fall-winter season, North America accounted for about 43 percent of Ricci"s worldwide sales at wholesale, compared with 22 percent in Europe and 15 percent in Asia, including Japan. Theyskens, who never had a budget for advertising at Rochas, has created striking imagery for his debut Ricci effort. He tapped photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot IMG model Anabela at Leibovitz"s property in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Theyskens opted for a simple backdrop of rain-licked greenery, a striking foil for his feathery gowns."I really admire Annie Leibovitz and her works since I met her in Belgium six years ago," Theyskens said.The global campaign is slated to break in September fashion magazines, including the U.S. titles Vogue, Elle, Harper"s Bazaar and Town & Country, Grauso said.Theyskens also plans to keep his public profile high this fall and winter with a slate of personal appearances in North America. In October, in concert with Neiman Marcus, Ricci will reprise its Paris fashion show in Los Angeles for the Couture Cares charity event, which more than 300 VIPs are expected to attend at Kelly Wearstler"s new estate. Immediately after, the designer is slated to make personal appearances at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Holt Renfrew in Toronto."Things are moving fast," Grauso said. "[Olivier] is really speaking to a lot of women."Nina Ricci is carried in 220 points of sales worldwide for fall, a jump of almost 30 percent over a year ago.Retailers cited strong initial consumer reaction to Ricci fashions by Theyskens. Saks Fifth Avenue, which staged a gala dinner for the designer and a two-day trunk show last March, cited strong sales, particularly of open-weave knitwear, soft jackets and evening gowns, said Joseph Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women"s and children"s at Saks Fifth Avenue."He"s really focused on the needs of the customer and, at the same time, he blends in his creativity," Boitano told WWD. "Our results were really terrific, especially for a first-time new collection."Linda Fargo, senior vice president, women"s fashion director and store presentation, said, "To say that we are excited about the future of Nina Ricci as imagined by Olivier Theyskens is an understatement. His work captures a romantic and almost poetic modern dressing fused with perfectly merchandised and assorted offerings. Everything a Nina Ricci customer could want is there, from sporty separates with edge, to easy, chic day-to-night dresses, to the most exceptional event pieces."
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