Spring just started but Neiman Marcus got into a summery mindset with a “pool party” Tuesday evening at its NorthPark, Dallas store to celebrate the launch of its exclusive “A La Piscine” capsule collection by Christian Louboutin.
“Think of a bright summer day lounging by the pool, with the family, the kids, the pets, a skateboard, flip-flops, or it’s one of those long wedding parties that starts at lunch and goes into the evening,” said Louboutin, explaining the inspiration for A La Piscine, which translates to “at the swimming pool.”
Louboutin attended the event, and mingled with guests as they sipped Palomas and perused the vivid neon colors, splash prints and festive spirit of the footwear, accessories and lifestyle products in the A La Piscine collection, devoid of black or neutrals.
The evening began with 45 loyal Louboutin shoppers meeting with the designer in the NM Cafe in the store, then moving to the 3,000-square-foot activation area on the main floor, where there were another 125 clients. The installation evoked a Palm Springs pool club on a sunny day circa the ‘80s with its simulated pool, a “Loubi” bar, lounge chairs, grass, floor-to-ceiling palm trees, Louboutin “lifeguards” in their swim trunks, and merchandise displayed throughout the space on neon glass tiles.
“I was afraid because there was no water in the pool, but it looked quite real,” said Louboutin, whose team in Paris and the Neiman’s team were involved in creating the installation.
“The beginning of summer for me sparks sweet ’80s nostalgia, so I thought why not bring a pool party to Dallas to kick off the season” and join the fun, said Louboutin. “It’s important that you get to meet your customers. It creates a good dynamic.”
For Neiman’s, it’s also about creating “retail-tainment.” That’s the luxury retailer’s strategy for creating unique experiences in its stores, often with exclusive products to draw a crowd and motivate shopping. Neiman’s has been investing more in its top luxury brands to offer newness and exclusivity.
“Through our integrated retail model, we are deepening relationships with our customers and the brands they desire most,” said Geoffroy van Raemdonck, chief executive officer of the Neiman Marcus Group. “This collection is the perfect example of our approach to create exceptional experiences for our loyal customers…”
So far this spring Neiman’s has conducted 20 immersive experiences and has another 15 planned. Next up is a Brunello Cucinelli exclusive “Icon” capsule in April.
The A La Piscine capsule, available in all 36 Neiman’s stores and online, includes sneakers, loafers, slides, flip-flops, handbags, lifestyle accessories, T-shirts with handwoven details, tumblers and pet accessories including dog collars — 28 exclusive styles and a total 38 exclusive stock keeping units. There is even a skateboard. “It looks more like a bit of art frankly, a collectible, but it’s highly functional,” said van Raemdonck.
“Everyone was delighted to meet Christian. He spent four hours in the store,” van Raemdonck said. Before and after the event, Louboutin signed almost 200 products that Neiman’s is delivering to the clients. “He’s got like 30 magic markers and for each piece he signs, he choses the right color and writes something,” van Raemdonck said.
The installation at Neiman’s NorthPark store has been duplicated at the retailer’s Beverly Hills store. Both will be up through March.
“We had a capacity crowd at NorthPark, with 165 guests filling our immersive activation space,” said Lana Todorovich, Neiman’s chief merchandising officer. “We don’t call it a pop-up space because the idea of a pop-up is so outdated in our minds. What we are doing is really integrated retail, with exclusive products, sold online and in stores, and a lot happens through our sales associates who do a lot of preselling. And then there is the physical installation. The way we are engaging does not resemble anything in the past.” The project with Louboutin, Todorovich said, was about eight months in the making. “It’s been a big investment.”
Nowadays retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online, are all negotiating for exclusive product from designers, which means being extra creative. But Louboutin said working hard comes naturally to him. “Working harder and harder has never been a problem for me,” he said.
He also said providing exclusives harkens back to when you could find different products in different stores around the world.
“Now a lot of things have become global,” Louboutin said. “So in a way, the exclusive comes back to the fact that if you were to go to a specific city for a specific shop, you will not find the same things you find everywhere. I understand totally the mentality of wanting something exclusive for your store, because I travel a lot. I like to go to a specific place for fabrics, for example, or for ribbons I would go to another place somewhere in the world. So I do understand. It’s nice to have the feeling that you are going to find something that you’re not going to find anywhere else.”
Creating exclusives for stores may require “a bit more work,” Louboutin acknowledged, “but it’s worth it.”