PARIS — Elie Saab, the designer known for opulent, second-skin gowns, plans to open an 11,000-square-foot Paris flagship during couture week here next January.

Modeled on his sole freestanding store in Beirut, Saab’s French address will house a couture salon and atelier, as well as the designer’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections. It will be located at 1 Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, a hop away from fellow Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad, who opened his first Parisian boutique last January.

Saab said last Friday that the Paris store marks the beginning of a retail rollout, with flagships planned for New York for the end of 2007 and others to follow in Los Angeles and London.

“It’s only logical to begin in Paris, it being the capital of fashion,” said Saab, who also plans to do an ad campaign next year. “Until now, I’ve been anti-advertising and have enjoyed a one-to-one relationship with clients, but we’re going to totally launch the brand into the fashion system.”

Known primarily for his couture, Saab’s international renown took a quantum leap in 2002 when Halle Berry accepted an Oscar wearing one of his dresses. He held his first rtw show in Paris last October.

“Ready-to-wear is doing particularly well in the States, in particular elaborate cocktail wear, long gowns and lavish accessories,” Saab noted.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.