It doesn't officially open until Tuesday when the window coverings will come down, but The Shophound got inside the long-awaited and much-discussed Saint Laurent boutique in SoHo over the weekend, and whatever anyone might think about the Hedi Slimane version of the brand, we can confidently say that it is one fabulous boutique.
While we would love our readers to be under the impression that we were specially invited for a preview, the store actually had a "soft" opening over the weekend (while it awaited "full, final approval", we were told), and though the windows were still covered, a doorman was happily admitting pretty much any schmo who wanted to come inside. And also us. Here's what we learned:
- There's a good reason why the store was moved from Mercer Street to its current space on Greene Street.
It's simply a better space. It's not surprising that parent company Kering (formerly PPR) would invest the resources to move the store's site for one of it's flagship luxury labels. It's worth it. The same design elements in Slimane's store concept would have looked perfectly impressive in the previous, smaller, lower-ceilinged shop (which will now be converted to a men's store for Kering's other celebrated couture house, Balenciaga), but they look much more striking in a bigger space. You will see the same white silk marble, square chrome racks and fixtures in Saint Laurent shop-in-shops at Bergdorf's and Saks, but they really sing on a grander scale here, where one entire wall is fitted with marble paneling and shelves running its entire length containing meticulously arranged shoes and accessories. One monumental double rack for women's clothes, another for men's and two tall glass cases for more accessories round out the rest of the fixtures leaving lots of airy space. It is all very crisp and pristine which would be intimidating if it weren't the case that...
- The staff is lovely and welcoming.
As most New York shoppers know, this is not always what one finds in the city's designer boutiques. When we said that any schmo was welcome in the store, we might have been suggesting that perhaps on an unseasonably hot and humid 85° Sunday afternoon, The Shophound might not have been looking our most elegant. Nobody seemed to care, and the salespeople were personable and engaging, casually joking about how long it took to finally get the store finished and open, and swiftly offering us water. As we turned to head out, one staffer stopped us to make sure we had seen that...
- The dressing rooms are remarkable.
Spacious and skylit, they are fitted with a sleek gray velvet covered chair and seven or eight-way mirrors so you will be able to how everything looks from absolutely every angle —even if you may not want to. Also...
- It turns out that Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent collections look better in person than they do on the runway.
And the store makes an excellent setting for them. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the merchandise is fully in yet. The racks were mostly filled with samples from the Fall 1023 collections to pre-reserve, but the shelves were well stocked with handbags and shoes, which is probably what they are expecting to sell more of anyway. Are $350 printed t-shirts going to save the brand? Time will tell, but we are guessing that the black $545 boat shoes with white soles are probably being copied (or, rightfully, copied back) at this very moment by Sperry Top-Sider, or at least they should be.
Unfortunately, it wasn't possible for us to get any sneaky photos of the new store. We added the images below from the YSL website to show a basic idea of the store's design elements, but they are from a different boutique. Photos will be taken in the next few days, and we will be sure to link to them as soon as they show up on line. We are guessing that, with this store finished, an even grander revamp is likely in the works soon for the 57th Saint Laurent Street flagship, of course, "soon" is a relative term these days at Saint Laurent with any number of twists along the way.
Saint Laurent Paris 80 Greene Street between Spring & Broome Streets, SoHo
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