Prosper Assouline

Fashion designers are typically driven to open their own stores to showcase their entire collection, instead of the piecemeal selections carried by their wholesale customers.

PARIS — Fashion designers are typically driven to open their own stores to showcase their entire collection, instead of the piecemeal selections carried by their wholesale customers.

Ditto for book publisher Prosper Assouline, who will christen a plush flagship here this week stocking all his 500-plus titles along with oodles of luxury accoutrements, from library-scented candles to $11,500 Goyard trunks custom-made for tomes.

“Books often lose their value in a bookstore,” Assouline said, his grand and gilded offices with a stunning view of Place Vendôme here silently underscoring his point. “Our store will look a little bit like an apartment. It is not at all a bookstore. It will have all the elements of a luxury brand.”

The 1,500-square-foot unit, next door to Christian Dior at 35 Rue Bonaparte, boasts leather walls, natural lighting and a lounge area where customers can sit and have an espresso or a glass of champagne.

Think Ralph Lauren; not Barnes & Noble.

Indeed, Assouline even recruited a specialist who can do custom bindings or embossing — a sort of paper couture. The store will remain open until 10 p.m., a rarity in Paris, and stock unusual gifts, like book-shaped humidors, Mrs. John Strong stationery and unusual paperweights and ashtrays.

Assouline titles will dominate the space — including a wall of some 8,000 volumes and a long “book bar” — along with selections from Karl Lagerfeld’s 7L imprint and Taschen.

Launched 10 years ago by Assouline, his wife, Martine, and two siblings, the company has been ramping up its retail presence and luxury positioning.

Today, it counts 11 corners in Saks Fifth Avenue stores and outlets at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Holt Renfrew in Canada and Celux in Tokyo. Come December, another will bow at Harvey Nichols in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Club Monaco also sells Assouline titles in about 15 of its locations.

Assouline said he expects the Paris flagship to generate sales upward of 1 million euros, or $1.2 million at current exchange, in the first year and rapidly reach profitability. His goal is to open similar locations in Tokyo, New York and either Miami or Los Angeles. At present, the U.S. represents about half of the business, which is slated to generate revenues of $20 million this year.

This story first appeared in the October 5, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Its compact memoir series of minibooks — each on fashion, art or design — remain bestsellers, along with Lee Radziwill‘s “Happy Times” and the socialite tome “Bright Young Things.” Famed American couturier Charles James is set for the Assouline treatment next year.

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