Louis Vuitton is taking its spring ’21 men’s collection on the road in a series of destination specific runway shows. First stop, today’s event in Shanghai.
This move to ‘local’ over global is also playing out in the retail market. Luxury houses like Chanel, Dior, Loewe and Saint Laurent have long been operating seasonal models with ephemeral summer and winter destination pop-ups in locations like St Tropez, Ibiza, Mykonos and Courcheval. Similarly, it’s also a method employed by swim and beachwear brands.
Now, smaller footwear labels such as Manebi, Amrose Paris and Adieu Paris are pivoting their strategy to embrace this way of doing things. Similarly multi-brands like Montaigne Market and even public relations companies such as Giorgia Viola are getting involved as well — even as tourism in many areas has been hit hard due to the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions.
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Manebi, the chic handmade Spanish espadrille label launched by co-founders Antonello Benati and Vera Drossopulo in 2012, was a forerunner for the trend. Benati began opening seasonal pop-ups in European summer holiday destinations in 2016. With new launch this summer in St. Tropez he now has seven — in addition to three permanent stores in Milan, Rome and Taormina in Sicily. Rome and Taormina opened this summer following the end of lockdown.
Benati emphasizes the importance of the locations — namely the top summer destinations in Europe. LVMH bought Taormina’s famous Belmont hotel in 2019 and the destination is becoming known as the Porto Fino of Sicily he noted.
Other locales are Sardinia’s Porto Cervo and Porto Rotunda, Santa Margherita (an island off Italy’s Mediterranean coast near Porto Fino), Pietrasanta near Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany, Ibiza and Panarea. Panarea is a tiny island near Sicily. “It’s really hard to reach,” said Benati. “The Arnault family go there almost every year in their enormous yacht.”
The St. Tropez boutique is just off the French Riviera town’s central Place de Lices. In line with Benati’s new store concept, it’s been designed to resemble the brand’s Instagram feed with its pink and raffia interior walls lined with an assortment of photographs — a smart way to strengthen brand identity by aligning the digital and physical. This is especially important right now, given that e-commerce has grown by 10% and now represents half the business.
“Instagram is our most important channel so I wanted to replicate the same felling that we are known for,” he said. “The pictures in the boutiques are of the beaches and locations we feature alongside the shoes on our feed so they’ve both got the same mood.”
In terms of the seaside pop-up stores themselves, these too are more important than ever. “They are mainly in Italy and with everyone still smart working the cities are really dead,” he said. “Everyone who can has left for the coast.”
The idea for these seasonal stores came from the strategy already deployed by swim labels such as Vilebrequin, he said, which is known for its St. Tropez and Porto Cervo pop-ups. Manebi’s versions are open for four to six months a year during the summer season. Although the rental agreements are nominally for a full year, the price reflects the fact that they won’t be open for 12 months.
Benati actually launched a small collection of resort and swimwear last year, first testing the consumer reaction in the physical pop-ups. He said he preferred branching out in this direction as opposed to expanding into non-summer related footwear categories. “These days it’s important to be coherent with our image and our offering,” he said. In addition to that and the footwear, his pop-ups also sell sunglasses, bracelets and beach bags by boutique labels.
Amrose Paris, the boutique French label known for its hand embroidered, crocheted, responsibly produced sneakers, is also taking its show on the road. This is both to get closer to customers craving some post pandemic human contact and also to increase the bespoke, more limited edition aspect of her line says founder Océane Castanet.
Following on from a customization pop-up in Paris’ Le Bon Marché this summer, the brand has a summer trunk show at hip concept store, Matriark in Sag Harbor in The Hamptons. Castanet will head stateside herself for a week mid August to host a customization program there too. Prior to that she will do another pop-up at art gallery, Galleria Valencienne in the Italian resort town of Ostuni in Puglia. Later this year there’s a plan afoot at another art gallery in Malibu.
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“We see the shoe as a blank canvas that can be painted and embroidered so there’s a real interest from art people,” she said. “We’ve been working increasingly with the art world. It makes sense.” This idea took off following Art Basel Miami when the designer participated in multi-brand pop-up Hello Miami run by Colette founder Sarah Andelman.
“We want to get closer to the consumer with pop-ups and make each pair even more unique via customization ,” she said, noting that these two trends were accelerated during the pandemic as people both craved more personal contact and more exclusive pieces. “I spent lots of time talking to clients via Whatapp and Instagram,” she said. “They told me they were now more sensitive to buying fewer more responsibly created and more special pieces.”
Montaigne Market’s Liliane Jossua originally launched in St Barth before decamping to Paris some 20 years ago. She now has a miniature version of her Avenue Matignon store on the island too. The buy there, she explained, is different with more accessories and less expensive items. Designers often make small collections specifically for the store that they have adapted for island life.
Jossua was set to open a new destination specific boutique on Australia’s Bondi Beach, having found the location in February, but the pandemic delayed that for now. She has recently landed in St Barths. According to Jossua, the island was barely touched by the actual pandemic with only about six cases but severely impacted by a lack of tourism.
Over July, she also spent time in Ibiza scouting locations for a potential pop-up there next year. “Each time I go to a new place I look to see if there’s an opportunity,” she said. “Life is complicated in big cities right now so it’s much cleverer to do pop-ups in the small places where people want to go to escape.
“Trunk shows have always been at the core of our strategy because they give us the opportunity to get to know our customers intimately, meet them, speak to them, see the pieces on them,” said Nour Hammour co-founder Erin Webb. The Paris based brand specializes in made-to-order luxury leather jackets, hand-cut and hand-dyed in boutique Parisian ateliers.
Interestingly, she observed, the pandemic brought the brand a new digital audience as people were actively seeking out such one-of-a-kind, heirloom pieces. Now, things have gone full circle and they are experiencing an increase in demand for their physical trunks show too.
Webb is headed back to her native California for summer and, pandemic situation permitting, there are tentative plans for pop-up trunk shows in Sn Francisco Aug. 29 and L.A. / Malibu Sept. 18 to 19.
But they don’t want to ride on the pandemic success without giving back. “We are donating a percentage of sales to local charities in each city where we will be popping-up,” she said.
But it’s not only brands who are upping sticks for the lure of the ocean. With physical showrooms on hold, Paris based public relations consultant Giorgia Viola is also touring her clients’ collections with pop-up showcases in St. Tropez and Sardinia’s Porto Cervo.
According to Viola, her destination pop-ups present a viable alternative to the virtual showroom. “People miss the physical experience and having contact with the products,” she said. “Which is why we decided to go to the beaches of the glamorous French Riviera and Italian Costa Smeralda to offer a unique experience while promoting the collections of clients who specialize in resortwear, swimwear, accessories and summer essentials.”
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The St Tropez event took place over a weekend in July at chic beach club Cabane Bambou with scenography by architect David Bitton (a Paris neighbour Viola met as a result of lockdown) and a finale cocktail on the Sunday evening with a live band. It featured labels including Sandra Mansour, Le Niné and Aura Bijoux along with Venetian slippers by Capulette and Iindaco’s new luxury satin flip flop capsule. The latter especially sat well with couture clients such as Mansour.
Current residence is Porto Cervo where Viola has taken over the resort’s exclusive Nikki Beach club for a two week showcase until Aug. 16.
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Finally, while she’s not physically showing her spring ’21 collection at the moment, Isabelle Guédon, co-founder of contemporary French footwear label Adieu Paris is still giving buyers a taste of the French plage.
She’s running her virtual showroom from the mezzanine level of her country house in Les Sables-d’Olonne, a picturesque seaside town on France’s Atlantic coast.
“So many buyers are still working from home so this location feels more personal than if I were in our official showroom in Paris,” she said. She’s set up a space on the house’s mezzanine level. It overlooks the garden and the look is all old fashioned wooden beams, vintage ’60s sofas in moss green. Her cat also makes guest appearances. “It makes everyone feel more at home, despite this strange context,” she said. “It feels more authentic.”
The first appointment involved a Zoom call with Browns Fashion which she said really appreciated the vibe. Although she can’t completely credit the surroundings, she revealed the retailer increased its spring ’21 orders for Adieu by more than double. “People are really changing how they buy,” she observed. Her own e-commerce too has substantially increased over the course of the pandemic.
As well as lending an air of serenity to Zoom calls, her garden has also kept Guédon sane while working from home. She’s been planting tomatoes, radishes and parsley. “They don’t take so long to grow,” she said, “but it makes you feel that something is really happening, even if the rest of the world is standing still.”