LONDON, United States — A glamorous Kate Moss stares lasciviously from a framed photograph on the wall, while chairs upholstered in rich brocade evoke an 18th-century Italian salon. One floor below, an antique glass cabinet contains a briefcase made out of black crocodile skin next to an equally opulent condom-holder and a tasteful picture of a bare-breasted beauty nicked from a vintage copy of Playboy. What could be the private living room of a wealthy sybarite with a taste for attractive women is, in fact, Dolce & Gabbana’s new, ultra-plush men’s store on London’s New Bond Street.
Attesting to the importance of the new store, designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce were personally involved in sourcing the furniture, objets and artwork used to decorate the space, including blue-chip pieces from their own private collection.
“We found all these antique maps of Sicily — some of them handmade, antique ones — that show how the men of the time saw the island and you see how the vision had changed throughout the centuries. Then we added some touches of Britain: like for example there are two portraits of Prince William and Kate [Middleton] over the fireplace and two armchairs covered in the typical British flowery fabric,” Stefano Gabbana told BoF.
The new Dolce & Gabbana store, the brand’s fourth in London, is part of a wave of men’s only flagships being opened by luxury brands the world over, as the fast-growing and underserved luxury menswear market continues to outperform the women’s market.
Back in 2010, Hermès opened a men’s only store in New York. But the trend has really gathered steam in recent months. In February, Lanvin quietly opened an exclusive men’s store on New York’s Madison Avenue, while earlier this month, Ralph Lauren unveiled a 10,000-square-foot men’s only flagship in Hong Kong that could easily pass for the home of Jay Gatsby.
In Milan, earlier this week, Tod’s launched a luxurious, club-like ‘Sartorial’ floor dedicated exclusively to men at its Via Spiga flagship. And in the same city’s Brera district, Gucci has just unveiled a men’s only flagship, featuring a dedicated area for the brand’s made-to-measure line. Dolce & Gabbana is planning to launch further men’s stores in Amsterdam and New York.
Meanwhile, back in London, Jimmy Choo, which plans to open a men’s only store in Shanghai in 2014, has relocated its London men’s store to a larger space on Dover Street, a move that was fueled by growing consumer demand. “Following the success [of Jimmy Choo’s first men’s store], the store was relocated in May to a larger site on Dover Street to showcase the growing collection for men across shoes, bags, belts, scarves and small leather goods,” Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo’s creative director, told BoF. “We have created a destination for our male customers, featuring a bespoke bar and a series of exclusive events.”
Indeed, many of these new men’s-focused flagships offer a rich sensory and leisure-inflected experience that feels more like being at a residence or a club than a store. Bars and cafés are often important components of the experience. Dolce & Gabbana’s new Bond Street store even has a traditional barber on site and offers clients sumptuous robes and slippers to wear.
“The Sartorial floor [at Tod’s Via Spiga store in Milan] is a complete lifestyle experience,” Claudio Castiglioni, Tod's general manager, told BoF. “Its warm and cosy atmosphere is reminiscent of an exclusive and modern club where it’s possible to enjoy exquisite whisky blends in total relaxation, while spending time with friends.”
At least since the days of Beau Brummell, England has been something of a cradle of men’s fashion. And perhaps it’s no surprise that many of new men’s flagships springing up around the world are influenced by the kind of quintessentially British gentlemen’s club that Dunhill has perfected at Bourdon House, a Georgian mansion in London’s Mayfair — once the Duke of Westminster’s residence — that houses a barber, spa, screening room, bar and lounge.
But mere luxury stage sets, these are not.
“[At Bourdon House] the relationship the staff have with our customers is paramount; we know their favourite coffee or indeed their most preferred blend of whisky, we know what tailoring block they wear and their interests,” Mike Woodcock, global commercial director of Alfred Dunhill, told BoF.
On a recent visit to Bourdon House, the café was busy with lunching patrons. Similarly, a representative for Dolce & Gabbana reported that in its first few weeks the in-house barber at the brand’s new store was steadily booked by existing customers of the brand and curious walk-ins alike.
And if the experiential elements of these new stores manage to entice men, who don’t traditionally relish time spent shopping, to relax and linger a while, for a drink, a meal or a shave, they seem set to drive sales as well. Because in the words of business guru Joseph Pine, “the more time your customers spend with you, the more money they will spend now and in the future.”