Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — With a touch of theatrics, exclusivity and naughtiness, Bloomingdale’s on Monday will open Moulin Rouge shops for its 59th Street flagship and the Century City, Calif., branch.
The 600-square-foot shops — inspired by the upcoming 20th Century Fox movie musical “Moulin Rouge,” starring Nicole Kidman, and a desire to perk up a pretty tough season for selling fashion — will stock plenty of sexy, lacy, off-the-shoulder, corseted and boned sportswear, along with eveningwear, petticoats, camisoles and accessories made just for the store by 25 designers and vendors.
“The Moulin Rouge was the Studio 54 of 100 years ago,” said Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction, who talks like he could have been a regular at both. “It was where socialites, street people, hookers and gents got together. It was a decadent, but exciting era.”
The theater’s variety format still features the famous can-can finale, as well as magicians, musicians, jugglers and scantily clad women swimming in tanks with dolphins. The women wear top hats.
Bloomingdale’s won’t be quite so daring, but there is a real element of risk tying shops to films or shows that could become blockbusters or bombs. No retailer does it as fast and as frequently as Bloomingdale’s, which successfully marketed off the show “Rent,” with a Rent shop that lasted for three seasons selling miniskirts, vinyl skirts and T-shirts. “Evita” and the show’s Fifties-inspired stylings also played well at Bloomingdale’s, as did merchandise themed off “Out of Africa,” “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Annie Hall.” The Seventies’ disco look of “Saturday Night Fever” generated less heat.
“We’re a cutting-edge store,” Ruttenstein said. “If we don’t take chances, we’ll no longer be there. We think Moulin Rouge is going to succeed. I haven’t been this excited about a promotion in a very long time.”
Regardless of how the movie fares in the box office, Ruttenstein believes, “The clothes stand up on their own — for fashion, quality and value. We asked the designers to be inspired by the film and create modern interpretations for us. Hopefully, the Moulin Rouge shop, to be situated right in the middle of the third floor bridge department, will draw heavy traffic that flows to through the floor.”
The evocative Moulin Rouge merchandise, Ruttenstein said, is unlike other clothes at retail this season and more like what was seen for fall.
“Many of the fall collections in Paris had some of the same elements, like Donatella Versace’s and Chanel’s corseted looks,” he said. “We weren’t anticipating that would happen, but felt lucky that it did. That’s going to make our offering very strong. These are fun things, not just for evening, but for day-into-evening, as well. April and May is when you sell a lot of clothes for weddings, graduations and summer parties.”
For exclusives, Bloomingdale’s tapped Victor Costa, Anna Sui, Katyona Adeli, Max Azria for BCBG, Jessica McClintock, Kitty Boots, Necessary Objects, Skinny Minnie, ABS by Allen Schwartz, Tahari, Yigal Azrouel, Kenneth Jay Lane, Kokin, Swarovski and Christian Dior.
The store projects about $250,000 in sales from the shops, and more volume from Moulin Rouge products that could be sold elsewhere in the store. The shops will be opened at least until the end of June and will be boosted by Bloomingdale’s Moulin Rouge windows on the Lexington Avenue, Third Avenue and 59th Street sides of the flagship starting April 19.
As reported, Bloomingdale’s will affix a six-story cutout of Nicole Kidman in her can-can outfit on the Lexington Avenue facade that same day, and she’s scheduled to appear at the store to unveil the windows in Hollywood-style with escorts in white tie and tails and a bevy of can-can dancers. Bloomingdale’s does not pay a licensing fee, but does give 20th Century plenty of hype for Moulin Rouge.
Dior is doing an exclusive makeup line called Moulin Rouge colors, with white skin powder, deep red lipsticks and strong eye makeup to be carried at all Bloomingdale’s stores. There are also petticoats from Kittie Boots, priced at $30; Kenneth Jay Lane $165 earrings in beads and rhinestones, and a $500 choker; Kokin’s $225 rhinestone-brim top hats; crocheted gloves from Shaneen Huxman for $40; a Swarovski eye mask for $375; marabou boas for $24, and satin opera gloves at $45 to $48 at or above the elbow.
The shop will also have hosiery in fishnet, stripes and lace from Oroblu, Levante and Gerbe, from $12 to $31.50.
“There’s a tendency for hosiery to be a dying breed, but we saw a lot of hosiery on the runways of Paris, Milan and New York,” Ruttenstein observed.
A combination of things inspired Bloomingdale’s to get into the act. A Vogue spread on the movie in December with photos by Annie Leibovitz caught the eye of Ruttenstein, and around the same time, 20th Century contacted Bloomingdale’s marketing department in search of a retail partner to tie into the movie and help promote it. That’s when the ball got rolling.
“Every now and then a film comes along comes along that has big fashion impact,” he said. “The spirit of Moulin Rouge hovered over the Paris collections. This movie could be one of them.”
Bloomingdale’s next production will be inspired by Momma Mia, a show with Abba music coming to Broadway in October. It’s about a wedding on a Greek island in the Seventies.
“The clothes in the play don’t inspire anything, so we’ll create our own interpretations,” Ruttenstein added.