New York Opening: Dior Homme

With devoted Dior gents sartorially stranded by the ongoing renovation of the Madison Avenue flagship, this stopgap Soho store comes with a certain exigency. Located in a rather epic, neoclassical-looking building on Greene Street, Dior Homme stocks the full Dior arsenal, from accessories to fragrance to footwear to ready-to-wear.

Unsurprisingly for the neighborhood, interiors feature skylights, soaring ceilings, and exposed brick. The space’s art – a neon text piece by Scottish situationist artist Robert Montgomery – cleverly contrasts the offerings of this luxury brand. 

Berlin Opening: Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria Berlin, the gleaming new tower on the Ku’damm, is unapologetically luxurious, particularly with the opening of Les Dolites: French culinary god Pierre Gagnaire’s first gastronomic temple on German soil, located within the hotel. The lushness of the space, awash in Italian silks and floral displays, extends to Germany’s only Guerlain Spa.

But this exceedingly posh Waldorf Astoria also pays tribute to the city’s more bohemian history; the Lang Bar is an encomium to Metropolis and M director Fritz, and the Romanisches Cafe (once a hang-out of Brecht and Grosz), has been revived as a chic new all-day dining spot, complete with a terrace overlooking the Breitscheidplatz. Book a room on a higher floor for views that stretch all the way to…Dresden? Perhaps.

Miami Preview: SLS Hotel South Beach

Like a Floridian Habsburg Vienna, Miami is prone to regular invasions from foreign powers eager to share in its decadence and wealth. Recently Vegas’ Light Group made its first incursion with its BIANCA restaurant and FDR bar at the Delano; and New York’s Thompson Hotels just scooped up and is renovating the Victor Hotel into the Thompson South Beach. Hardly surprisingly, the reigning princes of LA nightlife, sbe, are also feverishly expanding their empire into the Magic City with the opening of the swish new SLS Hotel South Beach. Indeed, with this dazzling new property they are willfully ratcheting up the glam factor of what is already one of the most glamour-mad towns on the planet.
 
Never one to be outdone, the talent enlisted for the SLS by sbe’s Sam Nazarian is enough to send most of Miami’s hospitality honchos scrambling for a renovation plan. To wit, Lenny Kravitz even had a hand in the design. And with the two eponymous culinary masters helming The Bazaar (by Jose Andres) and Katsuya by Starck, as well as an 8000 square foot outpost of sbe’s Hyde nightclub and rooms flaunting almost Versailles-level opulence, expect a curious convergence of rhapsodizing foodies and lounging beauties.  

 

Rome Opening: Gran Melia Rome

This sexy new Gran Melia Rome hotel is an instant magnet for those seeking a truly contemporary luxury experience in the Italian capital. It’s something of an urban oasis, as much a resort as a hotel, with sprawling grounds boasting a river and a serenely located swimming pool. Rooms are done up in classy, muted color schemes, and each floor represents a different classically- inspired art theme.

But Gran is also aiming to seriously up the epicurean quotient of the Eternal City’s hotel scene, with Michelin-starred chef Alfonso Iaccarino helming the Vivavoce gastronomic Mediterranean restaurant, in addition to a more casual poolside eatery and lounge, and a gorgeous panoramic roof garden. A YHI Wellness area offers personalized training and beauty services, as well as a dip in the "Vitality" pool.

New York Opening: Angelo Galasso

Not many designers (er, actually probably no others) can say they’ve dressed Pacino, Jay-Z and Morrissey. But Italian fashion legend Angelo Galasso’s “Tradition in Evolution” philosophy has an appeal that apparently crosses not just a few cultural divides.

His tres elegan-tay new boutique, installed in the Plaza Hotel’s storied Edwardian Room, is his Stateside debut, and oh what an entrance he makes. Galasso’s modern-classical, masculine luxe looks are right at home amongst the space’s magnificent architectural details, including oak wainscoting, opulent chandeliers and a dramatically beamed ceiling. A seriously classy affair.

Luxury Fashion’s Profits Skyrocketing

While shoppers at Bergdorfs and Saks might still be spiriting their purchases out the door in Medium Brown Bags, new reports on the status of the luxury-goods industry show that they’re buying as much—if not more—than ever. According to profits from two of the leading conglomerate corporations in the business. While the economy may still be finding its footing with regard to financial stability, luxury’s profits so far this year are staggering. “LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods, reported first-half profits that beat analysts’ estimates as sales of fashion and leather goods accelerated in the second quarter,” says Business Week. The monolith, which includes Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy among other luxury brands, is reporting a whopping 53% (or $1.36 billion) increase in returns thus far in 2010. And, while shoppers in fashion capitals across the globe helped thwart the increase in profits, China is the leading catalyst for such a drastic post-recession success story. “On a local currency basis, sales gained 18 percent in the U.S., 21 percent in Asia, and 11 percent in Europe,” the company said at a press conference.

So, what are they all buying? According to Business Week, sales of clothing rose 18%, accessories 28%, and perfumes and cosmetics 12%, while “wines and spirits gained 21%.” Meanwhile, PPR, the French luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci Group (whose umbrella envelopes Gucci, Balenciaga, YSL, Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen), is following suit. “PPR said its sales picked up steam in the second quarter, with revenues rising 6.3 percent thanks to a recovery in international trade, and it expects the momentum to last through the second half of the year,” says Women’s Wear Daily. “Group share of net income for the first half of 2010 leapt 113.3 percent to 402.8 million euros, or $535.9 million, from 188.8 million euros, or $252 million, during the same period last year.”

Photo of Fendi FW10 via Style.com

Luxury’s Comeback, Celeb Designers No Longer Necessary

Luxury is making a comeback. “Just in time for the premiere of Sex and the City 2, there are signs that the orgy of high-end shopping that made the latter years of the credit bubble so much fun are back,” says Slate. Want proof? Sales at Whole Foods are up, high-end residential homes are bouncing back, and even luxury goods like clothing are catching consumers’ eyes. Who’s benefiting? Tiffany’s, Saks, and Neiman Marcus, for some, have all noticed sizable sales-increases during the first quarter.

What’s not helping fashion houses stay afloat are monolithic icons—Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino Garavani—helming iconic brands.

“The era of the star designer picked to create buzz and shake up the system in a venerable house is over,” proclaimed the New York Times this week. The days of designers like Lagerfeld and Valentino doubling as bona fide celebrities are coming to an end. Enter “the multitasking Christopher Bailey at Burberry, who last year was given the title of “chief creative officer” to encompass his overall role as merchandiser, brand manager, information technology innovator, advertising inspiration and e-commerce controller—all alongside his main day job as design director.” (Speaking of luxury fighting back, “Burberry announced this week a net profit of £81 million, or $118 million” for this year, as opposed to significant loses suffered last year.) Major fashion brands are electing designers like Frida Giannini (head of Gucci) and Sarah Burton (the new face of McQueen), who, while not necessarily household names, are proving they can get the job done. The bottom line, as Bailey’s so digitally savvy fashion empire goes to show, is that “the creative force [of fashion brands today] is now found in a wired office—not in an ivory tower.”

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Luxury Not Dead

The luxury industry has take quite a beating since the recession. But now that the economic crisis is letting up a bit, people with big bucks to spend are doing so. But, carefully. “The conspicuous consumption of the past has been replaced by a more quality-conscious purchasing attitude,” says Business Week. In fact, stores including Tiffany, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman have all seen substantial increases in profits in recent months (including some so high they were in the double digits). The result: “some retailers are displaying pricey items again after pulling them last year.”

Also on board the boat of luxury brands that have swam rather than sink as a result of the economic collapse: Christian Louboutin. The master shoemaker has had a monumentally successful past year as well. In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Louboutin says “his business grew by double digits in 2009 despite his opposition to advertising and marketing,” says Women’s Wear Daily. With shoes marked at $495 a pop and up, that’s no small feat. To boot, the household name very rarely gifts free shoes to celebrities.

Although, to certain customers Louboutin will offer a discount. Take, for instance, his premiere client: Danielle Steele (who reportedly owns 6,000 or more pairs of Louboutin’s signature red soles). With such a cult following, there’s no denying Louboutin is doing a lot of things right. That, and the man can dance.

The Psychic Toll of Counterfeit Bags, or Why You Will Never Learn to Love Your Frauda

The fashion industry, and Mayor Bloomberg, have railed against counterfeit goods for year and years, without giving much thought to how the knock-off business affects the consumers’ psyche, focusing instead on how it affects fashion houses’ bottom lines. Enter Renee Richardson Gosline, a professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, who has spent two-and-a-half years studying the effect of fakes in fashion via a very academic-sounding survey called “Rethinking Brand Contamination: How Consumers Maintain Distinction When Symbolic Boundaries Are Breached.” Or, “How Do You Feel Carrying Around a Fake Prada?”

As it turns out, when a lugging around a knock-off Chanel purse from Canal Street, you feel good and bad. “People originally think the counterfeit will be a substitute for the real thing, but they find out the real thing is better,” Gosline told WWD, assuring retailers that shoppers who purchase fakes will lose their desire for the fake item, eventuallu. (Although, it should be said that not all in Gosline’s field agree. Besides, some people really never stop loving their Gucci cell phone case.)

Apparently the recession and fast fashion economy has inspired counterfeit parties (in place of Tupperware ones) where some shoppers have no qualms about trading and flaunting their fakes. But for some, the stigma surrounding knock-offs will never dissipate. See the counterfeit critics on Facebook, who, sounding a lot more like mean girls, have gone so far as to start a Facebook group called, “Darling I Can Tell by the Rest of Your Outfit Your Louis Vuitton is Fake.”