Byline: Philip Vlasov / With contributions from Constance Haisma Kwok, Hong Kong

MOSCOW — The Russians are shopping, and Giorgio Armani hopes they drop by his newest store — his first in this country.
Located in a newly restored complex on Tretyakovskji Proezd, the Moscow flagship spans 7,376 square feet over three floors. It carries the Giorgio Armani and Classico collections for women and men, plus the full range of accessories.
A few minutes walk from Kremlin, and next to the hip Art Nouveau Metropol Hotel, this store is Armani’s second biggest after the Tokyo boutique. It is also one of the 33 new stores the group has opened this year.
Armani’s arrival adds another big name to the bubbling luxury scene in Moscow, which has been flooded with designer boutiques over the past decade.
“Essentially, we wanted to make sure that we had the right partner and the right location, and also the interest of a customer,” said Robert Triefus, corporate vice president of worldwide communications at Giorgio Armani SpA.
“At this moment, we have a very progressive partner, we found a location that is unique, and we think that the Russian consumer is excited about the idea of Armani coming to Moscow.”
The company’s Russian retail partner is Mercury Distribution SA, a luxury goods trading company. Mercury owns the Moscow Trading House, home to Chanel, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna and Fendi stores. Mercury, which has been operating for about eight years, also owns high-end watch and jewelry outlets.
“With Mercury, there’s a real understanding about what a quality brand should be, and how it should be presented,” said Triefus. “They respect the Armani name, and they want to present it in a way that supports the values of Armani.”
Mercury owns and operates the new Moscow store under a franchise agreement with Armani. Triefus added that Armani was already looking for locations in Moscow to accommodate Armani Casa and Emporio Armani stores.
During a video news conference here last Wednesday, Armani talked about his interest in expanding to St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. He added that he was pleased about the timing of the Moscow store opening. “It’s always better to be sought after instead of imposing yourself,” he said.
Armani had planned to stage a fashion show as part of the boutique opening, but canceled it due to last month’s attacks in the U.S.
The architect Claudio Silvestrin, who designed the Armani boutiques in Paris, Milan, Chicago and Sao Paulo, Brazil, also worked on the Moscow store.
The walls and floors are made of cream-colored St. Maximin stone, while the furniture and fixtures are made from Macassar ebony and oxidized brass. With high ceilings and narrow, linear stairways, the interior is sleek and uncluttered.
“It should have the feeling of being in a space, not in a boutique,” said Silvestrin. “A general, big space where you feel comfortable, not claustrophobic.”
At the opening party last week, guests drank champagne and cognac under a heated tent to protect them from the cold and rain.
“Just look around,” said Silvestrin, smiling and pointing at the high-heeled women who were wrapped in sables. “They are so tall in Moscow, and so smart too. This is like Hollywood. And what is Hollywood without Armani?”
Named after Sergei Tretyakov, a mayor of Moscow who commissioned the building of the street in 1870, Tretyakovskji Proezd has played an important role as the trading and cultural center of Moscow. Its architecture mimics that of the medieval architecture in the Old City.
From the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, Tretyakovskji Proezd accommodated numerous shops owned by local merchants selling exclusive goods, mostly imported from London and Paris. For at least 30 years during Soviet rule, the street was closed off and used as a storage space.
Now, apart from Giorgio Armani, the street will house Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna and Tod’s boutiques, as well jewelry stores including Tiffany & Co., Chopard and Bulgari.
Other major Western brands in Moscow include Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Krizia, Genny, Max Mara, Escada, Benetton and a host of beauty brands, such as Estee Lauder, L’Oreal and Lancome.
As reported in WWD, Armani has been on a major store-expansion kick, with new or refurbished units in Milan, London, Paris, Japan and in the U.S., among other areas. In Hong Kong, for example, the designer last month signed a lease for a megastore totaling 29,000 square feet at 11 Chater Road. It is slated to open in the fall of 2002.
That store will have an 11,000-square-foot Giorgio Armani boutique on the first floor that will sell the women’s and men’s collections, and will also be designed by Silvestrin.
The first floor also will sell Armani and Emporio Armani accessories, and will contain a 1,200-square-foot Armani cosmetics store — the first of its kind. Next to it will be a 500-square-foot Armani flower shop.
The second floor, which is connected to other major shopping centers via pedestrian walkways, will contain an 11,000-square-foot Emporio Armani store, an Armani Jeans boutique and a 5,000-square-foot Emporio Armani Caffe. In a first-time collaboration, noted Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas will design these three areas.