KARAN’S TIMING WITH OPENINGS IN MOSCOW WINS EXPERTS’ KUDOS
Byline: Olga Zaretskaya
MOSCOW — The sartorial tide is turning in Russia, and retail experts here say the time is ripe for Donna Karan.
Karan, who recently opened two stores here, appeals to the new appreciation for minimalism, which may be eclipsing the city’s historical bias for highly embellished clothing.
The two stores, a DKNY unit that opened in late April and a Donna Karan Collection boutique that bowed on May 14, are operated by different local companies and are the designer’s first freestanding boutiques in Russia.
While American designers have been slow to enter the Eastern European market, Italian houses have been part of the Russian fashion landscape since 1993, when Gianni Versace opened a freestanding store here.
The first American designer store in Russia — a CK Calvin Klein boutique — opened only last summer.
Now, with the two Karan shops aimed at different segments of the market and a spate of CK Jeans stores due to open in Russia next year, American designers may be catching up to Europeans such as Valentino, Gianfranco Ferre, Thierry Mugler and Christian Lacroix, who are already established here.
The Collection boutique is aimed at Moscow jet-setters, while DKNY hopes to attract a more youthful clientele.
Russian retailers say the time is right for Karan’s look because Moscovites are hungry for new styles and new names.
“Moscow is becoming more and more international, and tastes are changing,” said Varvara Nekrassova, a retail consultant for Russkoye Zoloto, the company that owns the Moscow Collection store franchise.
“Minimalism is replacing baroque dressing, which means that women are going to choose Donna Karan and Jil Sander over flashier, shinier clothes,” Nekrassova said. “Wearing Donna Karan is now a symbol in Moscow that you are not only stylish and trendy, but have good taste.”
The 3,700-square-foot Collection boutique is on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, a busy thoroughfare that is also home to Gucci, Balmain and Zegna stores. A Fendi store is scheduled to open down the street in early September.
The Collection store carries clothes from the DKNY and Donna Karan Signature lines, as well as accessories, fragrances and items for the home.
Although Donna Karan products have been on sale for several years in a few local stores here, this is the first time the full collection has been available in Moscow.
“Our customers want to come to an exclusive boutique to make their purchases, to turn shopping into a special event,” said Nekrassova. “Because not many clients are successful mixers-and-matchers, a designer store that carries one brand is a solution for them.”
The opening of the Collection boutique was a special event, attended by 150 A-list guests the store hopes will form the core of a regular clientele.
“I already have two Donna Karan suits, and I love the way they fit me,” said Russian movie star Sergei Makovetsky, who attended the party dressed in an olive green Donna Karan suit. “The shape is simple and the cut is just perfect. I only wish Donna herself would visit us in Moscow.”
Makovetsky was not alone in his devotion to Karan. Three hundred items were sold within the first four days, including the entire home collection inventory, said store manager Sergei Rybkin. One customer spent $20,000.
Across town at the DKNY boutique, sales have also been brisk.
“We already have about 40 regular clients, many of whom frequently travel abroad and are familiar with the DKNY name,” said Svetlana Haig, the boutique’s manager.
The DKNY store is operated by a Russian company, Tsens Limited, run by Pavel Chaifets, a 29-year-old entrepreneur. He believes Moscow lacks clothes for trendy managers and is aiming to fill the void.
“You definitely can’t find Armani A|X or Gap here, so DKNY will attract young executives, students and even young Americans working in Moscow,” he said, adding that the store is expected to do $3 million in sales in its first year.
The 2,900-square-foot DKNY boutique features the DKNY, DKNY Classic, DKNY Active and D lines. Chaifets said he plans to open two more DKNY stores in newly opened shopping malls here.
Last month, DKNY stores opened in Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Johannesburg, South Africa, and Oporto, Portugal. A DKNY unit in Madrid is expected to open this week, and one in Tel Aviv will open next month. DKNY Jeans stores opened in April in Oslo and Oporto.