March '08
We pay attention to retail

Balenciaga, Los Angeles
The second Balenciaga meteorite has crashed on U.S. soil, this time in Los Angeles—the perfect setting for the brand's sci-fi aesthetic. From the outside, the two-floor store (8670 Melrose Avenue), which reflects in the deep blue and green of the Pacific Design Center across the street, appears as an undulating mirage ensconced in a garden of cacti and lava rock. Inside, Nicolas Ghesquière and his trusty crew (namely artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and lighting wizard Benoit Lalloz), who brought the New York and Paris boutiques back to the future and who just wrapped the new Balenciaga store in London, designed the space to project slats of natural light in vertical columns, ebbing and fading like Blade Runner holographs. On a marble floor in a familiar honeycomb pattern sit display cases that unfurl at the push of a button, while in the back a spaceship-like VIP room, with its own minibar and register, caters to the real aliens. —Liz Armstrong
Ksubi, *****L
What is it with Ksubi and trademark infringement? First came the legal name change, now comes the cheeky new website—an exact replica of Google. We can only assume Aussie co-founders Dan Single and George Gorrow aren't aware just how litigious we Yanks are and, after all, parody does fall under free speech. At any rate, the site is as clever as it sounds, to the point you might just forget you're not actually on Google and type, say, "celebrity sex tapes" or "la pequeña amy winehouse" (the cleverest of all parodies, hands down) into the search box. The search is, however, finally over for Ksubi fans outside of Sydney and New York, who can now finally nab the brand's laid-back men's and women's lines, denim and eyewear (all the summer sunnies are up, including our three faves at right)... Another cheeky label with name issues, *****L (“cinq étoiles luxe,” or five-star luxury) has also set up shop online. The entire unisex collection of fine sweats and tees—all in 100% velvet, silk, astrakhan or mink—from designer Thierry Le Pin (formerly of Joseph and Yohji Yamamoto) is available. Or wait for the first actual store at 17 rue de Picardie in Paris to open in April.
Givenchy, Paris
Shrinks would have you believe that compartmentalizing your life is a bad thing. We like to think it's a gift. And we have Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci to back us up, at least judging from his new Givenchy store in Paris (co-designed with Jamie Fobert, architect of the Tate in St. Ives, England). Recreating Givenchy's classic courier boxes, the fancy kind used to hand-deliver garments to high-flying clients back in the day, Tisci deftly devised human-sized tableaux in which to hang clothes. Each of the five blocks contains an element from the house's history, from white plaster moldings identical to those found in the couture salon to parquet flooring inlaid with the four Gs of the Givenchy logo. "I wanted the design to look as much as possible like an art gallery and offer people who walk through the door an original experience," he says. Or maybe we're just hearing voices again. Givenchy, 28 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, +33 (0) 1 42 68 31 00.

  Clemens en August, Geometry
In another example of German hyper-micro-efficiency, designer Alexander Brenninkmeijer avoids the frightful expense and aggravation of putting on a show and employing a PR machine by taking his women's and men's label Clemens en August on a world tour each season. That way, he's able to show directly to costumers (and get their feedback), usually in the calm setting of a museum or gallery, such as the MAK in Vienna, pictured here. New York is next, at Goethe-Institute from March 29 to April 1... The Bless girls reopened their Berlin and Paris stores this month with collection N° 32... We were never very good at math, but the lines—John Galliano, Won Hundred, Gaspard Yurkievich—at new men's shop Geometry (Gipsstrasse 23, Mitte) make a lot more sense… While not all the details of the new and cryptic little concept store No 74 will be revealed until July, here's what we do know: it's patterned after No 6 in London and it recently launched with a selection of Y-3 apparel and accessories. Oh, and it has a garden (you know Berliners have a thing for gardens, right?)... We're hearing about a new store called The Hunter opening soon, selling Raf by Raf Simons, Vivienne Westwood, Fabrics Interseason and Material Boy, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, Strange Fruit has closed.
Louis Vuitton, Hong Kong
Okay, so Louis Vuitton didn't launch its latest store in Hong Kong—its second largest in the world, after Paris—with a star-studded concert or a mobile art exhibit. But, we ask, did those other luxury labels take customers for a joyride on a fully monogrammed ferry? We think not. That's the length the French brand will go in filling its sparkling new four floors with rich mainlanders. Then there's the massive LED-screen on the store's façade, created by Japanese architect Kumiko Inui, just her latest large-scale project for LV. It's the first such feat of lighting in all of Asia and a tantalizing taste of what can be found inside: the house's complete range of luxury goods, from women's and men's ready-to-wear to those ubiquitous dog-friendly checkerboard totes, as well as the world's longest "bag bar" and two VIP rooms—the larger of them modeled after Marc Jacobs' Paris studio. Did we mention there's an art gallery? Louis Vuitton, 5 Canton Road, (852) 27 36 00 07

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