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Retail, Style Milestones for Versace

Versace has reason for a double celebration. The company launched its renovated flagship here, unveiling a sleeker, more understated side of the decadent...

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BEVERLY HILLS — Versace has reason for a double celebration.

The company launched its renovated flagship here, unveiling a sleeker, more understated side of the decadent Versace style. In addition, creative director Donatella Versace will accept the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style award on Thursday night.

The 5,000-square-foot unit here was the first that the company overhauled from top to bottom.

“Everything is completely brand new, from the floors to the shelves to the ceiling,” said Roberto Lorenzini, president and chief operating officer of Versace USA.

The black-and-white color scheme is accented with Italian crystal display units and glossy black terrazzo marble floors, juxtaposed with matte white walls and ceilings.

“This is a new concept defined by Milan,” Lorenzini said. “For the U.S. market, the renovation is definitely an important step for us, because it’s going to show what Versace is becoming.…The boutique is more sophisticated, elegant and modern.”

The store maintains a Rodeo Drive address — 248 North Rodeo Drive — but is located in the open-air Two Rodeo shopping complex, which intersects the iconic shopping street. Tiffany & Co., Gianfranco Ferré, Badgley Mischka and Gucci Fine Jewelry are among Versace’s neighbors in the center.

The revamp is part of a worldwide initiative to update all company stores that began in 2005 with the renovation of the company’s Fifth Avenue boutique in New York. The boutiques in Milan, Brussels and London have been completed; the Beverly Hills store is the fifth to undergo renovation.

Handbags and accessories were relocated to the second floor from the first, displayed on built-in shelves of alternating black lacquered wood and white leather. The company’s ready-to-wear collections moved from the first floor to the smaller, oval-shape second floor, accessible from a wide, winding staircase. “We dedicated the whole ground floor to the accessory business [because] it has shown amazing growth in the last year,” Lorenzini said.

Prices for apparel in the Gianni Versace collection, the top tier under the Versace umbrella, range from $500 for a sweatshirt to more than $150,000 for gowns. Handbags range from about $2,000 to $7,000.

The company hopes the overhaul will generate double-digit sales growth. After renovations are finished on the six remaining U.S. units, “we may potentially be opening new retail stores,” Lorenzini said.

Donatella Versace and her late brother, company founder Gianni Versace, will be honored at the annual Walk of Style event, which celebrates icons in the fashion and entertainment industries. Sharon Stone, Prince Rupert Everett and Elizabeth Hurley are among the guests expected to attend the festivities at City Hall in Beverly Hills.

“The award signifies worldwide recognition of the talent and genius of both Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace,” said Giancarlo Di Risio, chief executive officer of Gianni Versace Spa. “The brand Versace has always been strongly connected to the world of cinema, celebrity and music, so this award is very fitting with the brand’s history, present and future.…Celebrities understand that Versace embodies luxury and atelier expertise. They appreciate the cut above the norm that Versace offers.”

Versace has been a go-to label in Hollywood since the Eighties, and has been responsible for some of the most discussed red-carpet looks in recent memory, including the diaphanous green dress worn by Jennifer Lopez at the 2000 Grammy Awards.

Stylist Daniel Caudill, who has dressed celebrities in Versace, said the fit, paired with glamorous, camera-ready looks, is why stylists turn to the label. “[Versace] dresses have a lot of detail, and it’s easy for things to not look right when there’s detail,” Caudill said. “But when [the dress] goes on, everything falls in the right place. There are details inside and underneath the garment as well. They are dresses you know will stay put.”

Photographs from Versace’s spring 2007 campaign, shot by Mario Testino, will be affixed to banners on main avenues in Beverly Hills until Feb. 25.

A plaque bearing the names of both designers and their signatures will be embedded into the sidewalk of Rodeo Drive. Previous honorees include Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford.

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