BEVERLY HILLS — At the first sight of the new Shu Uemura Atelier at the Neiman Marcus flagship here, there’s an otherworldly sense of lightness, no doubt because of the cool white light emanating from all of that snowy opaline glass.
Among the sedate rectangular blond wood and glass cases filled with other cosmetic brands at this Wilshire Boulevard institution, the Shu Uemura area looks like it dropped in from a future dimension. Or it’s some modern art installation. Even the wood is different — an ebony-stained oak butcher block of stacked, skinny drawers is part of the vanity station. And the glossy, white laminated counter near the register contains a sink with running water smack-dab at the center of the selling floor.
The glowing white display oval, punctuated by the brand’s brightly colored products, along with a smaller one stocked with its Depsea skin care line, are part of the four components making up the 275-square-foot Atelier that the company founder christened Wednesday night before some 150 devotees.
“I feel this is a fresh start for the brand,” Uemura told the consumers and makeup artists. Among them was Gina Brooks, who will be using the brand exclusively for Madonna’s upcoming world tour, including several products she is custom-creating in collaboration with the brand.
The Atelier is a blueprint for future selling areas as the brand repositions itself as part of parent company L’Oréal’s strategic plans, said Chris Salgardo, just named Shu Uemura’s general manager — although he’s been instrumental in the new direction as senior vice president for nearly three years. “Neiman’s was very supportive, and really very visionary in allowing Shu Uemura to go the limit in terms of expressing the brand,” he noted.
Edgar Huber, president of the luxury products division for L’Oréal USA, and in town just for the event, agreed. “I love it. This is truly the rebirth of Shu Uemura. It’s strategically very important for us.”
And strategically well placed on the first-level floor. Immediately visible from both entrance sides of the retailer, it sits at the base of an escalator. Three artists and two sales associates, who’ve undergone an intense one-week training camp, make up the onsite team.
Four open components allow customers to reach out and touch everything. The glowing oval “art theater” stocks color cosmetics, tools and, on the bottom shelf, the cosmetics boxes — including the limited-edition cases Uemura signed for customers Wednesday. The “skin care theater” highlights the Depsea Therapy line, which Neiman Marcus carries exclusively. The skin care counseling station “really bumps up the customer-service level,” Salgardo boasted. And the Color Playground is a modern version of the vanity station and refers to Uemura’s Hollywood career, prompted after tending to Shirley MacLaine on the Japanese set of 1962’s “My Geisha.”
Giving credit to his new general manager, Uemura said: “Chris is somebody who knows about space, who understands people’s emotions — and that is very, very important to selling cosmetics.”
During the event, two models in ethereal gowns were painted by artists from the Tokyo team in a “performance” that involved applying the new Paradis line of colors with all the flair of a magician. Audience members watched while sampling dumplings and sushi.
The next Atelier will open at the Neiman Marcus in Houston in October.