Lisa Versacio seems to understand what young women want. Sensing that Millennials were craving femininity in their furniture, Versacio in 2002 founded West Elm with a midcentury modern vibe and an added touch of elegance. She then nailed for Restoration Hardware a similar cohort with fashion home brand Brocade Home, and subsequently launched global brand development company LVNY Studio.
C’est Beau 1872, Versacio’s latest and most ambitious project, is aimed at 18- to 25-year-old consumers and was inspired by her athletic nieces and their fellow soccer-playing friends. Dedicated to the fashion, jewelry, beauty, home and gift categories, C’est Beau is a digital and physical retail double-play.
The 5,500-square-foot retail concept store at 1/2 Bond Street in Manhattan’s SoHo, has seven arched windows facing Bond Street, and a wider one at the far end of the store, where C’est Beau’s experiential programming, including free facials, will occur. A coffee bar is near the entrance.
“I envision being here for a long time,” Versacio said, adding that the rent for the space is blended and less expensive on the second floor, while pricier on the smaller main level. Versacio is also moving her office and product development team to the location.
“What I saw when I found this space, is, obviously we’re a retail store and we have product, but I also want it to be very social,” she said. “It’s very social, albeit shopping. You walk in and grab a cup of coffee from the coffee bar and pull up a chair to the first product bar. Each bar focuses on one of our product categories.”
The jewelry, beauty and gift bars — each with four tall white counters arranged as a square and surrounded by white wire stools — display the entire collections. “Bar tenders” or product experts man the bars and process sales for consumers so they don’t have to stand on a line.
“The whole thought process was sort of the ability to discover different areas and different products,” Versacio said.
Duvets, comforters, shams and sheets are displayed along two walls and on a fully clothed bed. Proprietary patterns and fabrics include a geometric print, painterly watercolor design, and solids in a palette of white, mocha, gray, flax and blue and gold velvet.
Fashion is the only category that’s not majority-designed in-house, but Versacio said, “We’re working on our own collection right now.” At the center of the large, airy store are Montblanc puffers, $299; Monrow super soft zip hoodies, $135; Levi’s jeans, $98; C’est Beau’s own racerback tanks, $24, and B. Tempt’d Lace Kiss bralettes, $18, streetwear-inspired pieces that Versacio believes will resonate with customers.
“When I really looked at the landscape, literally the only group for this age group is Urban Outfitters,” she said. “There’s space for something a little fresher.”
Principles for C’est Beau, Versacio said, were gleaned from observing her young friends. “They’re getting dressed, wearing makeup and jewelry…expressing their femininity,” she said. “Since they’re time poor, they leaned toward products that were simple and not fussy, and because they’re athletes and need to rest their bodies in preparation for the next day, so their rooms were their sanctuaries.”
The idea behind the beauty offering gelled when Versacio was “looking for something in my cosmetic bag — we all do it — and I realized that you have five to seven items you always use. I’ve always tried to see if I could curate all the products I need from the same brand, and I never could.
“Simple, that’s what we were going after,” she said, adding, “that doesn’t mean we’re missing anything. There were definitely certain attributes I wanted to include, SPF, vitamins C and E; peptides, green tea, and white tea.” The collection includes color cosmetics and treatment products, with names such as Lights Out Smoothing Cleanser, $28; Night Moves Vitamin C Serum, $28, and Wing Girl gel eyeliner, $16.
Versacio emphasized the special events. “For a new brand to communicate just online is difficult,” she said. “We’re going to have a constant flow of activities, free makeovers, express manicures and other interesting things. Here we’ll be serving different beauty ingestibles such as Skin Te, a sparkling tea infused with collagen. To me, that’s the next elevation of beauty supplements.”
The chief executive officer obsessed over lighting for the space. “I looked everywhere for the perfect pendant. I found these at an Italian company,” Versacio said of the subtly shimmering clusters of modern flowers made from recycled plastic. “You don’t want to walk into a store targeted to you and find your grandmother’s chandelier.”