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LAS VEGAS — During a shopping trip to the Dior flagship at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris more than a year ago, casino and resort mogul Steve Wynn — a longtime customer — put down his shopping bags and asked the staff to call the executives in the Dior offices upstairs.
There, in the salon where Christian Dior launched his fashion-changing “New Look” in 1947, Wynn presented his own grand plans for the brand to Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture worldwide, and Marla Sabo, president and chief operating officer of Christian Dior Inc., North America.
Wynn’s idea was to bring Dior to an überluxe shopping wing of his most expansive venture to date — a planned casino on Las Vegas Boulevard that would outdo the other famous resorts he has built, including The Mirage, Treasure Island and The Bellagio.
The result of Wynn’s Paris shopping trip is the new 3,900-square-foot Dior flagship at the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino, which is set to open on Thursday. The Dior store carries women’s ready-to-wear and accessories by John Galliano, shoes, leather goods and the fine jewelry collection by Victoire de Castellane. It’s also only the second in the U.S. to include a boutique for Dior Homme, which is designed by Hedi Slimane. New York was the first.
“Both Elaine [Wynn] and Steve were in our Paris office and I happened to be in Paris at the time,” said Toledano. “They basically came upstairs and said they wanted us to be at the resort.”
It was the retail equivalent of drawing plans on a cocktail napkin, coming from a man who has built an empire by wheeling and dealing the old-school way. And Toledano and Sabo were instantly sold.
“Steve did a fantastic job [creating the] Bellagio and the numbers [at that store] were beyond what we projected,” Toledano said. “So when Steve came to us in Paris and met with us here and presented his concept, that day we were committed to go with him.”
Dior currently operates one store at the Caesars’ Forum Shops and another at The Bellagio, both about 4,000 square feet. Overall, there are currently 18 freestanding Dior boutiques in the U.S. and 45 other sales points, which include accessories boutiques at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
This story first appeared in the April 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But Toledano wasn’t hooked on Wynn’s proposal simply by the idea of bringing yet another Dior store to Vegas. Rather, it was the tony retail neighbors Wynn promised to deliver. And he planned to serve them up the way he felt customers wanted to devour them — free from any other stores that might dilute those brands, and in an environment of unabashed luxury. No tchotchkes, no touristy T-shirt shops and no mass-market brands.
Wynn, whose first big break in Vegas was trading with Howard Hughes for a piece of land that would eventually gain him control of The Golden Nugget casino, was also able to persuade Toledano to throw in the Dior Homme boutique.
The Dior store is one of the jewels of the retail esplanade. It is situated across from Graff jewelers at the beginning of the retail corridor, and is one of the first stores guests see at the VIP entrance. Among some of its neighbors are Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, Brioni, Cartier, the second Manolo Blahnik store in the U.S. and a Maserati and Ferrari dealership nearby.
“Dior is the flashy have-to-have name,” said Elaine Wynn from her spacious office at the Wynn resort, which houses original works by Matisse, Picasso and other famous artists. She planned the resort along with her husband and was instrumental in bringing many of the retailers to the new development.
Dior’s flash comes through in spades in the new store’s design. The 17-foot facade is constructed of two glass planes that have been etched with the company’s signature design — a pattern reminiscent of the cane-back chairs used at the fashion house when Christian Dior presided over it. Light is emitted from between the panels to luminous, undulating effect. The store marks the first time this particular glass facade has been used in the U.S.
Much like Galliano’s clothes and accessories, the interior is a juxtaposition of the sleekly modern flirting with the unabashedly feminine: High-gloss white laminate counters and shelving, polished limestone floors and flat-screen TVs built into mirrors mingle with classical moldings from Paris and a Louis XVI chair.
The 1,000-square-foot men’s store, designed by Slimane, is rigorously modern in high-gloss white, silver and black. Its clean, sharp lines mirror the sleek tailoring for which Slimane has become famous.
Slimane, who has not yet met Wynn, said he was excited about having a Vegas location. “It is totally fascinating for me, this fantasy world of Vegas, surrounded by the most stunning landscape,” he said.
Toledano said Dior plans to add more men’s boutiques to the women’s locations, but he would not reveal which cities would be next on the list.
As eye-catching as the stores are, there remains the question of oversaturation in a market that will now have three Dior stores within about two miles.
“Very few people competitively shop the strip,” said Sabo. “We don’t find that they go to all of our boutiques or points of sale.”
In fact, she said, their research has shown that people tend to shop close to where they are staying.
“The other two stores were continuing to outperform our expectations,” she said. “And with the consistency that we saw in that market and with a mix of locals and tourists, we didn’t think it was risky.”
Sabo, who said she expects about 25 percent of the sales to come from local customers, projects the new Dior store will outperform the other two locations in Vegas.
“I’m sure that with the geographics of the Strip in Vegas, there will be no cannibilization between Bellagio and Caesars,” agreed Toledano.
Toledano, who said the company recently extended its lease with Caesars, said he expects the average transaction and average price to be comparable to those of the stores in Los Angeles and New York.
Most importantly, said Toledano, laughing, “The people winning the money have to have somewhere to celebrate.”