PARIS — Longchamp has unveiled its largest store in the world in its hometown — a bigger, sleeker and more luxurious version of its historic Rue Saint Honoré flagship.
It’s also a two-part story: The 7,500 square feet of selling space includes the French brand’s first freestanding men’s boutique, slated to open at the end of September in a space directly across the street that had housed the brand’s temporary boutique during construction.
“Paris is our stronghold,” said chief executive officer Jean Cassegrain as he led a tour of the main three-level women’s unit, which devotes a full floor to its perennial Pliage style and another for ready-to-wear and shoes, two nascent categories.
Its vast collection of handbags, luggage, small leather goods and accessories — ranging from gloves and scarves to bracelets — unfurl across the rambling first floor.
Doubling the size of the unit was a four-year process as the company annexed a neighboring building, spiffed up the exterior of the listed 18th-century corner building, relocated a wholesale showroom and secured the temporary location.
The rtw and footwear floor — with its thick carpets, beige furniture, robust orchids and sumptuous fitting rooms — is perhaps the most dramatic feature.
“We didn’t have the space to showcase clothes and shoes properly. This is going to help support these two categories,” Cassegrain said.
At present, rtw and footwear are carried in about 50 to 60 doors worldwide, a fraction of the 2,000 for leather goods.
“It’s still a small footprint,” Cassegrain acknowledged. “I think it’s a sign of confidence, and we see potential. Shoes are even closer to our DNA. Footwear is a dynamic market and I think we have an opportunity.”
The Pliage floor, which was humming with shoppers on Monday, showcases the original nylon model plus versions in leather, seasonal rodeo-tinged suede numbers and limited edition weekenders with loud prints by Jeremy Scott, a longtime collaborator. Customers can also have their bags personalized.
Longchamp’s internal architecture team, led by Alexandra von Kerssenbrock, oversaw the overhaul, yielding an airy boutique bathed in flattering light and clad in warm textures: burled maple, rosewood and ebony for walls and shelving, and creamy brecciated marble from Sardinia carved in marquetry and parquet patterns for floors. Gleaming metal railings, woven metal curtains and onyx columns add flashes of modernity.
“We need to offer a nice, compelling shopping environment,” Cassegrain said. “In a way, it’s part of what you are buying.”
Eric Carlson and his firm, Carbondale, conceived the rtw and shoe floor, which shoppers reach via a striking mirrored stairway with one wall clad in a leather bas relief by sculptor Helen Amy Murray.
Yet to arrive in a bespoke wall niche in the central atrium is a kinetic sculpture by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, a pioneer in integrating artworks into architecture.
Cassegrain declined to provide sales projections for the unit given the uncertainties in Paris, which has suffered a steep decline in tourist numbers in the wake of a series of terror attacks. But he noted that the Rue Saint Honoré, which Longchamp has called home since 1988, attracts more locals than its flagship on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Longchamp also operates a freestanding store on Rue du Vieux Colombier on the Left Bank, slated for renovation next year.
While the store opened quietly on Aug. 9, Longchamp has set Oct. 4 for the official unveiling. The company is planning a cocktail and dinner event on Oct. 4 during Paris Fashion Week, where it will also unveil its Paris Premier bag, an upscale model in deluxe French calfskin exalting its French savoir faire.