Byline: Constance Haisma-Kwok

HONG KONG — Yves Saint Laurent has begun its retail expansion in Asia, opening its first new-concept store here since Gucci Group acquired the brand in 1999.
Securing the 3,000-square-foot space in The Landmark, Hong Kong’s premiere shopping center for designer labels, was a coup for the company, since space in the mall is highly coveted and rarely available. In fact, Gucci’s largest store in the territory is also located in The Landmark.
“We’re delighted to have a space big enough to house the women’s collection, men’s wear, accessories and shoes,” said Mark Lee, president and managing director of YSL, at the opening reception.
Lee said the boutique’s design is “a concept developed with Tom Ford,” but he also intimated that “this is an interim concept that allows us to roll out quickly.”
According to Lee, the desire for speedy openings is not just an effort to capitalize on the publicity generated by Ford’s debut collection for Yves Saint Laurent, it is also an integral part of the company’s global plan.
“We will open 20 stores around the world this year,” he said. “Our whole strategy is centered on stores.”
Lee described the shop’s design as “clean and modern. It allows us to focus on the products.” Divided into three sections — women’s ready-to-wear, accessories, and men’s ready-to-wear — the design incorporates stark white walls, gray “flannel” carpeting and sofas, and white marble entryway tiles for a minimalist look.
Square partitions separate each section of the store, with the center wall boasting a video screen and display space for scarves and neckties. Shelves that appear to float are used throughout to display shoes, handbags and travel bags, while brushed steel display counters house cigarette cases and small leather goods.
The black, white and gray decor reinforces Ford’s “stripped down” vision for spring-summer rtw, which is also almost entirely black and white. Throughout the boutique, the only color comes courtesy of blood-red orchids, although this is most likely temporary; black orchids are currently being bred specifically for use in YSL stores.
Hong Kong, which Lee termed a “very important” market, has not had an Yves Saint Laurent fashion presence since the closing of the small Rive Gauche boutique in 1998. It is the first major city to welcome the new concept store and should provide a good indication of how well Ford’s version of Saint Laurent is received. His work for Gucci sells strongly here.
On opening night, Hong Kong’s socialites appeared eager to snap up Ford’s latest designs. The launch event, a festive cocktail party-cum-late-night fashion show, attracted nearly 400 guests, including some who turned up already wearing dresses from the new collection. Others waited for the opening to do their shopping. A popular local actress, Rosamund Lam, for example, changed into the black miniskirt, silk tunic and high-heeled wedges she bought during the party and wore the ensemble for the rest of the evening. After cocktails, guests were invited to lounge in a specially erected black tent where a slew of imported models — some from as far away as Brazil — paraded the spring collection. And to complete the evening’s sensory experience, the scent of YSL’s Opium had been sprayed throughout the mall.