PARIS — Armand Hadida is taking a leap across the pond.
The founder of L’Eclaireur, a French chain of specialty stores Hadida created with his wife Martine more than 30 years ago, is setting up his first U.S. outpost in March.
The three-story building at 450 Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles’ design district will be the retailer’s only brick-and-mortar unit outside of France, following the closing of a Japan unit in 2010 triggered by irreconcilable differences with its local partner.
“I’ve been holding out on this since 1981, when it was first proposed to me, but back then I had to say I didn’t know the U.S. market or its retail culture,” Hadida said, noting that today, 30 percent of his clientele is American.
Never mind the Californians’ widespread predilection for jeans and T-shirts, said Hadida, whose long-term vision led him to become the first multibrand retailer to introduce Oscar de la Renta to the French market at a time when local monobrand stores set the tone.
“Our customer is very niche. The U.S. is our largest market online. Let’s not kid ourselves: In the U.S., we find possibilities that no longer exist in France,” he observed.
In Paris, where L’Eclaireur operates seven locations, no boutique resembles the other, and the L.A. venue is expected to build on that tradition. “The customer is king today. He is not only highly solicited, but extremely well informed. He has no obligation to stick to his usual list of addresses, if these do not evolve. And so the offer in L.A. will be different because it needs to be different,” he said.
Apart from a handpicked selection of women’s and men’s brands, which Hadida was reluctant to reveal, the retailer will also offer custom in-store software, already in place at its Paris venues, which allows customers to scan L’Eclaireur’s total stock, including brands such as Sacai, Bottega Veneta, Paul Harnden, Dries Van Noten, Greg Lauren, Haider Ackermann and Junya Watanabe, in search of a desired item, which will then be duly delivered.
“The idea is to create a bridge between our boutique’s heritage, which is a multibrand concept and our e-business,” explained the Frenchman, praising the advantages on both sides. “Territorial exclusivity is hereby finished; it reduces inventory risks and gets rid of what I call the ‘cancer of retail,’ that is sales.”
Italian architect Vincenzo de Cotiis is to design the 6,460-square-foot boutique in a building previously occupied by a florist and the David Jones brand. It will be “neither a boutique nor a gallery, but something different,” asserted Hadida, suggesting a mix of lifestyle, art, design and fashion.
The third floor is to be used for private events. “We are in Hollywood here; I don’t need to tell you how tough it is to find a venue for a larger group of people,” he noted, adding that his daughter Meryl, who has served as assistant buyer at the family chain, would be in charge of managing the new unit.
Hadida said he is expanding because it’s the only way to grow in today’s retail environment, and because he refuses to stand still. “I’m telling you, there is no [financial] crisis. It’s a crisis induced by the absence of ideas and innovation. We have to move forward at the same speed as the world of technology,” he said, noting: “Our sales are increasing vis-à-vis our record years.”
The concept store in West Hollywood is not the retailer’s only U.S. venture. Hadida, who is also the artistic director of the Tranoï trade show in Paris, told WWD the fair’s first New York edition is slated to kick off in 2015.
The fair is to run from Feb. 21 through 23 at the Tunnel, a former nightclub.