PARIS — Twenty-six years after the first Serge Lutens boutique opened in the Jardins du Palais-Royal here, the fragrance brand has just inaugurated its second freestanding location in the City of Light. The store, at 324 rue Saint-Honoré, will serve as a template for retail locations yet to come, part of a strategy to increase the niche label’s accessibility and visibility.
Like all Serge Lutens boutiques, including the flagship in Moscow that opened in 2015, the new location has its own decor but shares the others’ spirit. They’re all the brainchildren of the brand’s founder.
Whereas the Palais-Royal shop is like a bedecked jewelry box, with a warren of hidden rooms, checkerboard marble floors, ornamental molding and a central winding, metal staircase, the Saint-Honoré shop has more of a streamlined allure.
It’s dark inside, as is its Paris counterpart, but with a design inspiration that’s a Japan-meets-Morocco mash-up. Walls are coated in black lacquer and long cylindrical spotlights from Japan dangle from the ceiling. Mirrors are round or rectangular, and marble counters come shaped like inverted triangles.
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Asked about what he envisaged, Lutens, in his signature esoteric poetic-speak, told WWD: “Nothing else than what crosses my mind. For the counters, altars with a base as thin and lapidary as a diamond tip, a floor with platinum cabochons – silver seemed too cold to me, a constant play of mirrors flanking us, rather simple points of reference…A number of elements that while of different origins present a radical whole that I dare call Serge Lutens.”
Other than the altar-like counters and low-seated, high-backed chairs with purple cushions that hark back to the Middle Ages, Lutens highlighted the cedar ceiling as a key feature of the store.
“This shop is the only one on rue Saint-Honoré [to have] a ceiling especially made in Morocco under my supervision. It is like a sort of past that arises from the present, a story reminding us of who we were,” said Lutens.
He described the boutique’s conception as “a fight with one’s self. However, in all creation, the only moment when I can express relief, even happiness, is in the final ‘ouf.’”
All of the brand’s products are on display in the 670-square-foot selling space, which had a soft opening last week. There is a section devoted to makeup, and each of the fragrance lines has its own area. On display, too, are exclusives to Serge Lutens freestanding stores, such as silk scarves, limited-edition perfume bottles and makeup compacts, plus a wide selection of ornate stoppers that fit into flacons from the Palais-Royal collection.
This boutique is an integral part of a new chapter for the Serge Lutens brand, after being acquired by Shiseido from its founder in December 2015. Prior to that, the Japanese beauty giant had served as its licensee.
“Two years ago, we defined a new strategy for the brand,” Hassan Saad, Serge Lutens’ president, told WWD. That was centered on raising the brand’s visibility and accessibility.
The Saint-Honoré artery has become a mecca for perfume brands — with Jo Malone, Christian Dior, Diptyque and Byredo shops all nearby the Lutens location. Saad said that while the Palais-Royal flagship has more of a Parisian clientele, the new shop should draw international footfall.
Serge Lutens has upgraded its merchandising units and now runs its entire distribution network.
Such strategy shifts seem to be bearing fruit, with Serge Lutens sales growing. The Paris Palais-Royal flagship should finish 2018 up 10 percent to 1.9 million euros in retail sales. This follows a 9 percent gain last year, according to industry sources.
The Moscow flagship — Lutens’ leading outlet — is expected to register sales this year of more than 4 million euros, over double that of 2017, the sources estimated.
Saad explained Chinese customers are helping spur growth. “Around the world, 20 percent of our consumers are Chinese,” he said.
Lutens plans to open a boutique in Hong Kong, a key city for the brand, within the next two years. “This is to prepare an entrance into the Chinese market,” said Saad.
Distribution, meanwhile, is being expanded in South Korea, and a shop-in-shop just debuted in Tokyo, where the label’s sales increase 30 percent to 35 percent annually. Lutens is set to relaunch in the Middle East next year.
Worldwide, its products are sold in 1,500 doors, mostly in Europe, with the wholesale business anticipated to ring up double-digit gains. Total sales for 2018 will be close to 50 million euros, sources said.
The brand has a new e-tail site servicing Europe this month.
Lutens said he dreams of opening other flagships, in New York — where the brand is currently hunting for a potential pop-up location — and in Tokyo, for a total of four. “In the two cases, it would be about cultural points of reference, a reflection on myself, here and there, French — so to speak — without really being French,” he said.
Meanwhile, other freestanding stores are expected around the globe in key locations, including possibly a second boutique in Moscow. And an entry-level fragrance line is slated for next year, among other upcoming developments.