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PARIS — As part of a master plan to woo the growing ranks of fashion-conscious men, Galeries Lafayette has transformed its first floor into a 10,760-square-foot showcase for accessories.
Doubling its offer, the French department store now displays about 100 brands, including 30 that are new to the retailer and some that are exclusive, such as Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Fendi.
Other brands, including Paul Smith and Burberry, were present before but previously had no dedicated accessory space. Dior Homme is set to move in next month.
“Accessories are even more important for men than for women,” asserted Saad Daher, head of the men’s buying team at Galeries Lafayette. “They are no longer what their name implies; they have become essential — a mode of expression.”
Daher said the male shopper has evolved rapidly in recent years: “He is more fashion-educated than ever before and understands how to mix and match brands in ways only women knew before.”
Although Daher deems market research predicting double-digit growth for men’s wear encouraging, he said it was not the decisive factor for the makeover. “If we had been driven by numbers, we would have kept the shirts on the first floor, which are a much more profitable category, but we didn’t,” he said. “We moved them to the third. There is something new happening in fashion every day, and we needed space to express that.”
The floor is split up mainly by category — watches, leather goods, hats and even bow ties and suspenders — with multiple exposures according to price positioning. There is what’s dubbed a “creative laboratory” for trendy niche brands, a “bijoux bar” for male jewelry and a beauty space. A lifestyle area displays items including cameras, books and high-tech gadgets.
A wall showcasing 750 different models of sunglasses makes a big impression. “I dare say, it is the most important space in France, possibly even in Europe. We are keeping it as exclusive as it can be,” said Daher. “Dior has just launched its Asian fit here.”
The floor also boasts designated pop-up spaces to serve as a launch pad for new brands or specific fashion trends. This month it’s the Karl Lagerfeld watch collection by Fossil. In April the theme shifts to “fashion sports,” giving the floor to Lacoste’s runway collection and Franco-Swedish contemporary gymwear brand Ron Dorff.
Mannequin displays will rotate frequently to highlight what Daher called “fashion expression” and to keep up with the pace of change. “Last week it was all about the color blue, because we really believe in this color,” he said. “Every three weeks there will be something new.”
At the so-called laboratory, the focus is on “fashionable niche brands of high quality that will speak to someone who is educated about fashion,” Daher said. For the moment, these include leather goods by Jerome Dreyfuss, Melinda Gloss and Comme des Garçons, among others, along with select men’s jewelry pieces by Ginette NY, Redline and Samuel Gassmann, which are exclusive to Galeries Lafayette.
Daher predicted that the new accessories department would change the store’s image. “On the one hand, we have remained totally Galeries Lafayette, a department store which is open to everyone. On the other, what people will discover in the luxe and lab corners, they didn’t expect to find here,” he explained.
The price range reflects that attitude, ranging from affordable to luxury in order to attract a broad public. “Watches start at 39 euros [$50.50 at current exchange], yet a box designed by Hermès for Leica sold out instantly at our Leica counter. And it cost 22,000 euros [$28,487.80].”
Although Daher would not divulge any figures about the performance of its men’s division, he said, “We are already above our budget, meaning we have sold more than expected, and we have gained market share in France — in Paris, especially.”
The new space, which boasts light beige stone floors, chrome and brass furnishings, as well as a Piet Mondrian-inspired graphic on the ceiling, was designed by architect Bruno Moinard, who last year revamped the women’s fashion and luxury floor.
Behind a discreet gray door, a VIP lounge has been set up for high-end watch shoppers, who may eye haute horlogerie pieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Tag Heuer or IWC that fetch up to 200,000 euros, or $259,060.
The transformation is only the first step of a greater plan set for completion in 2014, when the delicatessen floor, the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, will be moved across the street to Galeries Lafayette Maison. “The whole building will be dedicated to men, adding one extra floor, bringing the total number to four,” said Daher.
The changes to the Boulevard Haussmann flagship are taking place against a broader backdrop of sprucing up at department stores in the French capital.
After having already put a greater focus on men’s luxury footwear and leather goods, last month Printemps freshened up its men’s division with an exclusive selection of new brands, including McQ, T by Alexander Wang, YMC and Kitsuné Tee, aiming to attract the 21st-century urban male.
Le Bon Marché, on the Left Bank, unveiled its new men’s floor last fall. The upscale department store features a barber shop, a shoe-shine stand and a dedicated concierge, in addition to a selection of ready-to-wear and accessories located in the Art Deco building’s basement. That area was recently linked to a new wine cellar on the opposite side of the street, home to La Grande Epicerie, a prestigious address for gourmet shoppers.