DUNHILL EXPLORES A SOFTER SIDE
Byline: Marc Karimzadeh
NEW YORK — Dunhill is looking to attract women by softening its image, but don’t expect dresses and a new line of cigarillos.
The English brand has long been associated with London’s tony Mayfair district, known for its aroma of cigar smoke, bespoke tailors and men with clipped accents parading the streets in tapered pinstripe suits.
But Dunhill is in the middle of an overhaul, led by new chief executive officer Simon Critchell. When the luxury men’s brand moves its New York flagship from Park Avenue to 711 Fifth Avenue in February, it will unveil its new global store concept here that’s inviting to women, with a softer line of accessories, a more unisex appeal and a prominent custom-tailoring service open to both sexes.
“Before, Dunhill has always been a men’s brand, with men’s wear, leather and hard goods such as jewelry and watches,” said Critchell, during a recent stopover in New York. “Many people didn’t really know what it represented, no one perceived a real focus. The new Dunhill is not just about men’s wear anymore.”
Alfred Dunhill Ltd. is part of Compagnie Financiere Richemont AG, the second-largest luxury goods company in the world, with brands such as Cartier, Chloe, Piaget and Baume & Mercier. Last March, the conglomerate moved Critchell, who was running Richemont’s U.S. division in New York, to London to transform Dunhill.
“Over the years, Dunhill has been a little quiet, a traditional brand,” said Critchell. “But that will change with the new store design and new image, which is not just in the look of the store, but also in the merchandise.”
The repositioning of the brand began last April with the opening of a Bond Street store. The store was designed by Dunhill’s artistic director, Giampiero Bodino, who designed the furniture; Japanese artist Keiichi Tahara, who created the interiors, and French architect Christophe Carpente. Store details include a soft bamboo floor set against rich red walls and soft gray textured ceilings. It also features a butler-trained staff and a bespoke area with a leather floor and private fitting and measuring rooms.
This will act as a blueprint for the new Dunhill unit on Fifth Avenue, which was used as Cartier’s temporary store before.
While Critchell declined to give sales projections and the percentage expected to be derived from female customers, he said: “We wanted to grow [the women’s business] through the way we merchandise things. The new store is airy and you can easily walk through the store.”
Critchell said Dunhill has “next to no” wholesale business in the U.S. and, by next year, it plans to put together a program to build that end so the brand can be sold in some 100 doors. It also will renovate the existing 11 stores and open at least five more over the next five years.
Additionally, Dunhill intends to make a prominent feature of its custom-tailoring service. For the past 14 years, Bruno Cosentino has been the company’s tailor and will continue to make suits in the new store.
“[A man’s suit] looks more completed,” said Cosentino, who learned his trade while growing up in southern Italy. “The attraction is that it looks like a man’s suit, but it’s worn by a woman, which makes it exciting.”
Suits retail from $2,700 to “the sky’s the limit,” though most are in the $3,000 region.
Rather than traditional advertising, the company will address smaller groups of women directly by inviting professional women’s business associations to store events featuring seminars on tailoring. Dunhill recently held such a seminar with the Harvard Business School Club of New York and the Bank of New York, where Dunhill raffled off a custom-made suit.
“There were 30 percent women and they were very excited about the opportunity,” said Christopher Scinto, vice president of merchandising and marketing. “A couple of women made appointments for fittings, so it was encouraging.”
As for its accessories, the company launched its Club line last April. Club’s leather goods are reminiscent of a gentlemen’s club, with dark leather lined in green leather, resembling polished wood paneling. Dunhill’s Cricket line, launched last September, is made with the natural vegetable-tanned leather used for cricket ball, and it has similar stitch detailing, with styles including gym bag, desk set, pen pots, paperweights and leather envelopes.
“There is always, in every woman’s life, a man that is important, and Dunhill will be a place where she will find something for him,” said Critchell. “And maybe she will see something she’ll like for herself.”