Valentino has given its Avenue Montaigne flagship a couture makeover. The store has moved up the prestigious thoroughfare to number 35, the former home of the Canadian embassy in Paris, from its previous location at number 17-19. The new three-story boutique is across the road from the Dior megastore that has reenergized the street, which is seeing a number of tenants moving or expanding their premises to surf on the luxury artery’s positive momentum.
“We really believe that Avenue Montaigne is the natural place to be for Valentino, and especially this location is really the perfect one,” chief executive officer Jacopo Venturini said in a joint interview with creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. With 7,100 square feet of selling space, the store offers a VIP room and more space for handbags and menswear, a category that Valentino is boosting, with plans to stage a dedicated men’s show in Milan next month after three years of coed displays.
The brand will celebrate the opening during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, coinciding with a temporary exhibition by Italian artist Gioele Amaro. Known for his digital color fields printed on canvas, Amaro has also created a work of art that will feature on a billboard on Av. de l’Opéra from June 15.
The Avenue Montaigne boutique is the first main flagship to feature Valentino’s new retail concept, inaugurated last year and rolled out in 52 stores so far. The Paris location carries extra significance, given that the Italian brand has had a presence in the French capital since 1975, with a couture salon on Place Vendôme since 1998.
That is evident in the decor of the space, with a sweeping staircase in a patchwork of different marbles that unfurls like the train of a red-carpet dress. This contrasts with black-and-white spaces punctuated with Valentino’s signature shade of red, including a boudoir-like room lined in scarlet velvet.
Bags and shoes are on the ground floor, menswear is located in the basement, while womenswear and the VIP room are situated on the first floor. The store, which opened on Saturday, carries limited-edition versions of the VSling and Loco handbags for the occasion.
Since taking over as CEO in 2020, Venturini has built his strategy on Valentino’s identity as the most established Italian couture house. “Couture, apart from an obsession for the details, is also about the relationship that there is between the première and the client, that of course is a very intimate relationship. This should be translated also into the store,” Venturini said.
As reported, Valentino has revised its organization, eliminating department managers in favor of team managers, which allows client advisers to sell all categories. The idea is to empower sales associates, effectively turning them into ambassadors for the brand.
“I believe that in the last 20 years, due to the very high growth that the luxury market had, the role of the client adviser has become a little bit too much a kind of commodity, so nowadays, we are really focusing on having people that have really the passion for the work they do,” the executive explained.
Reflecting the same notions of fluidity and adaptability, stores should evolve to reflect the brand’s collections, said Piccioli, who plans to unveil his fall 2023 couture line on July 5 at the Château de Chantilly, a 14th-century castle 30 miles north of Paris. “To translate the world of couture into the stores means that you have to embrace people and give them an experience.”
He noted that the Paris boutique differs from the ones opened previously in cities such as Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Geneva, Switzerland; Madrid; Florence, and Chengdu, China, and those that will bow in Shanghai in July and New York City in October — the latter also with a dedicated men’s floor.
Valentino expects to end the year with 225 directly operated stores, up from 199 at the end of 2022. “There’s not a very rigid store concept” Piccioli said. “The culture of this company is definitely the culture of couture: the care, the humanity that’s linked to the couture, but also the values that the company expresses every day today, so inclusivity, quality, treating all the people the same way,”
With references spanning from the 1930s to the 1970s, the decor features Roman touches such as marbles, onyx and checkered patterns. The spirit of couture is reflected in finely crafted details such as ceramic door handles designed by Massimiliano Pipolo, sculpted plaster chandeliers by Parisian artist Alexandre Logé, and Fabio Cinti’s decorative objects made of brass.
The aim is to make the space as welcoming as possible, Venturini said. “You should really feel at home and you should really feel understood,” he explained. “We have customers that spend three or four or five hours in the store with our client advisers, and this is actually our aim.”
In parallel, the brand is revamping its online experience to cater to those clients who moved away from large cities during the pandemic. “We really reinvented the experience in the store, considering the repositioning of the brand, what the brand deserves to be, but we really need to do the same job, and that’s what we are doing in this moment, in the e-commerce,” Venturini said.
The CEO said it was hard to give a deadline for the project as changes won’t all happen at once. “You need to set a strategy and you need to decide who you want to be and in which way you want to serve your customer and what should be your added value. But then I think it’s very important to have a dynamic approach,” he said. “It’s a world where you need to evolve on really a daily basis.”
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