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PARIS — By evoking the glamorous couture salons of old, Andrew Gn is taking personal shopping to a whole new level.
This story first appeared in the October 29, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Paris-based designer has transformed his company headquarters and showroom, located in an 18th-century town house, into a spectacular private salon filled with art works and antiques, where his well-heeled customers will be able to shop by appointment starting next month.
“It’s a space which is in line with our products,” he said. “We’re so not into fast-fashion and we’re totally not into mass luxury. The product itself is a very exclusive product.”
Gn drew from his extensive collection of antiques to furnish the space, which consists of an intimate boudoir, decked out in black and gold, and a high-ceilinged showroom dominated by an 18th-century Murano glass chandelier formerly owned by Italy’s historic Doria Pamphili clan.
“It came in eight traveling trunks,” he said of the 13-foot-high blown-glass masterpiece, which was so large, he had to split it in two.
The designer, known for his use of lavish fabrics and ornate embellishments, said the space, where racks display his latest collection, was inspired by couturier Paul Poiret’s Atelier de Martine decorative arts workshop, founded in 1911.
“What’s really interesting about the early 20th century is that it was really the beginning of eclecticism,” said Gn. “People started traveling, they started bringing things back, they started looking at Asia, they started looking at different exotic countries.”
Such a globalized approach was bound to appeal to the Singapore-born designer, who was brought up between Asia and Europe.
Covering an entire wall is a mural painting by Iranian artist Roshanak Varasteh, depicting pomegranates, gold branches, birds and gazelles.
“I like her work because it’s again very me — it’s all about combining ancient and contemporary. I always believe that if you don’t look back, you can’t look forward,” he said.
The opposite wall, which conceals a spacious fitting room, is fully finished in black lacquered paneling embellished with gold flowers — an Anglo-Japanese look inspired by artist James Whistler’s Peacock Room, painted for his patron Frederick Leyland in the late 19th century.
Dotted throughout are antiques ranging from a bronze vase and huge cast iron urns to Egyptian-inspired chairs and settees from Liberty of London, dating back to the early 20th century. The latter sit in the boudoir, whose walls are covered in a black-and-gold arts and crafts style fabric specially woven for Gn by a silk maker in Lyon.
“We’re almost doing what a couture salon would be like about 50 or 60 years ago,” he said. “Women will be lounging around here, and we might have a model — like in the old days — who will come out and show the clothing.”
The service is tailored to his high-end clientele, which ranges from celebrities like Beyoncé Knowles and Eva Mendes to Middle Eastern royalty, European socialites, prominent Americans and Asia’s fast-rising elite.
“A lot of our clients are extremely discreet. They’re not on social pages. And I think privacy is actually the ultimate luxury today as well, that they will be able to shop without anybody around,” Gn said.
Those recession-proof clients have allowed the privately owned house not only to weather the downturn, but also to envisage a new phase of expansion after 14 years of existence.
The brand’s high-end ready-to-wear is currently distributed in 120 points of sale worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom in the United States and Harvey Nichols in London. On Nov. 12, he will trek to Chicago for a trunk show and private dinner hosted by the specialty store Neapolitan
With the luxury sector rebounding, Gn — who has moved his business operations across the street — is in talks with potential partners to open similar private shopping salons under his own name in the United States, in addition to London and Beijing.
“My whole dream in fact is to make it fairly unique, every single space, because I think that shops these days are so uniform,” he said. “A new era is starting and everything is looking very good now. However, we always believed in luxury and I think this is quite an ultimate expression of that.”
Now if he could just provide the transport facilities to match.
“Unfortunately, our courtyard is not big enough for the helicopters,” he said in a mock-rueful tone.