John Varvatos has made a move into the Middle East.
The New York-based men’s brand on Tuesday night opened a 2,937-square-foot store in the Fashion Avenue section of the Dubai Mall.
The store, which is the 31st retail unit for the label, is part of a geographical licensing deal with Casa Vida, which is part of Emaar Properties, a real estate firm that owns the Dubai Mall, according to Mark Brashear, chief executive officer of John Varvatos.
Under the terms of the deal, Brashear said, Casa Vida will open two additional stores in the Middle East over the next 18 months. The locations have not yet been identified, he said. “We’re looking at a couple of different options.”
Emaar operates over 6.7 million square feet of retail space in Dubai and also owns the Dubai Marina Mall, Souk Al Bahar and the Gold & Diamond Park, according to its web site.
The addition of Varvatos is part of the expansion of the fashion and lifestyle offerings at the Dubai Mall that involves adding another 1 million square feet and 150 new brands to the Fashion Avenue area of the mall. The company has a goal of attracting over 100 million visitors in the next three to four years.
For Varvatos, the Dubai store is part of a new “growth phase” for the brand after a couple of years of stagnation. “We opened two stores in the U.S. this year and reacquired our partner store in Mexico,” Brashear said. “It’s part of a re-energizing of the John Varvatos brand.”
He said that since the London flagship opened three years ago, 25 percent of the business in that store came from the Middle East so it made sense to open a store in Dubai.
Designer John Varvatos called Dubai “the center of the universe in the Middle East. When you look at it, 80 percent of the residents there don’t come from Dubai so there are a lot of international people. And the number-one part of the economy is tourism.”
He said he’s visited the area a number of times and found it “very sophisticated and progressive from a style standpoint. They’re also very embracing of West fashion.”
The Dubai store will carry all of the company’s collections including John Varvatos Collection, Star U.S.A. and Bootleg by John Varvatos.
Brashear said the store will “introduce the American rock ‘n’ roll vibe to the region, which is not all that common there.” He noted that the selection is “geared more premium,” and includes the runway collection from fall ’18. He said interestingly, the bestseller in the region is the company’s crushed velvet suit program, which came as a bit of a surprise but indicates there is a fashion customer there.
In terms of store design, the aesthetic is closest to the Madison Avenue unit, Varvatos said, and features ”an uptown, residential apartment look.”
It has white walls, herringbone wood floors, black crown molding and customized metal screens and doors. An Edison chandelier, a hallmark of John Varvatos stores worldwide, hangs in the center above silk rugs.
Varvatos said the design gives the store an “elegant look” that, while reminiscent of New York City, ”takes on the sensibilities of the region.”
To introduce the store to the city, Varvatos on Tuesday night hosted a party where Machine Gun Kelly performed. The musician and actor had appeared in the John Varvatos ads in the fall of 2017 and “remains a good friend of the brand,” the designer said. “He has a big following in the region and when we called and asked if he would attend, he said, ‘I’m in, I’ve never been to Dubai.’”