PARIS — Declaring it “our idea of contemporary luxury,” Diego Della Valle officially threw open the doors to his new Paris flagship Thursday, a bright and sumptuous 7,300-square-foot boutique at 17-21 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore.

Naturally perfumed with the hand-stitched leather panels that line many of the walls, the store is a sprawling temple to leather goods and Italian craftsmanship. Indeed, Della Valle, chairman and managing director of Tod’s Group, flew in several of his workers to demonstrate their handiwork. One woman, stitching up a pair of Tod’s signature pebble-heeled driving loafers, explained that it takes 90 minutes to sew the shoe that helped catapult the company to fashion fame.

But the new store shows how rapidly Tod’s has expanded its product range — which spans women’s and men’s footwear, handbags, small leather goods, scarves and even leather jackets. Della Valle said he hopes shoppers explore every nook and cranny of the boutique, which sprawls over two floors. Large sofas are placed throughout to encourage lingering and lounging.

The boutique is more than three times larger than the previous Tod’s location at 52 Faubourg Saint-Honore, which will be replaced by a Hogans location come spring 2004. Della Valle will soon have a lock on the tony shopping strip when a third store, for the Roger Vivier brand he bought in 2000, bows at No. 13 in December.

Because the company is in a quiet period before it declares its third-quarter earnings next month, Della Valle declined to provide sales projections. But the previous Tod’s store was known by its neighbors to be one of the most productive on the street and sources estimate a location the size of the new store would easily generate more than $11.5 million in sales the first year.

On Thursday, Della Valle declared his arrival by planting an Italian flag outside — a photo op for journalists and a bold statement to his neighbor across the street: Hermés, a company Della Valle said he admires greatly.

Della Valle said the Tod’s store represents “the new image” of the brand, which will be reflected in future units. The décor is clean-lined and modern, which lets the rich materials come to the fore: antique stone floors, brushed steel shelves and wall panels and display cases in rich wood grains.Yet everywhere are reminders of Della Valle’s fascination with quality, from displays of shoe lasts to photographs of workers hammering and cutting leather.

Figuring luxury shopping streets around the world suffer from a worrisome sameness, Della Valle used the Paris store to showcase a new strategy: special products that are exclusive to the location. These shoes and handbags get a prime position on the back wall of the main floor, including such styles as its “Corniche” handbag in crocodile and fox fur.

Della Valle said he plans to extend this strategy to Tod’s stores in New York, Milan, Rome, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. He considers it an alternative to made-to-order leather goods, which he considers old fashioned.

“To me, waiting six months for a handbag is a silly idea,” he said. “We don’t want to wait even 30 extra minutes to take an airplane. This is a real service to our customers to offer an exclusive and special product.”

As reported, Della Valle plans to extend the offering of clothing under the Tod’s brand and invite guest designers to create looks in leather. On Thursday, Della Valle said he’s also eyeing another brand extension — eyewear — which could be in stores by mid-2004.

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