It may have taken five years to source the perfect location, but Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana finally has a home in Melbourne.
The brand was looking to secure a large box shape store but has instead opted for a two-storey shop front in the newly renovated Mayfair building at 171 Collins Street office building.
The heritage building is undergoing a $280 million reinvigoration and currently houses BHP’s headquarters, Evan and Partners, Egon Zehnder International and a new Andrew McConnell restaurant due to open in 2014.
Nestled into the coveted “Paris End” of Collins Street in the CBD, Dolce & Gabbana’s flagship store will occupy the ground floor of the building, covering 325 square metres of space.
Dolce & Gabbana will be the only fashion retailer within the building, but it will neighbour other high end designers along the iconic shopping strip including Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Prada.
Leasing Information Services managing director Simon Fonteyn told SmartCompany he’s not surprised the prestigious fashion company took so long to secure a location.
“They need to establish a flagship, and flagship locations in the CBD are difficult to obtain,” he says. “There’s a lot of competition from the larger international brands for these sorts of locations.”
“It’s a promotion strategy, particularly for a company like D&G. They’ll be a major supplier to other stores in things like sunglasses, so it’s important for them to showcase the brand like that. It’s a very typical strategy, and one also followed by retailers like Zara and Topshop.”
The brand’s founders and designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, hope this will be the first of many flagship stores in Australia, with Dolce noting that Melbourne is a major market for luxury goods.
Dolce & Gabbana’s retail strategy calls for its store interiors to reflect the brand’s signature Italian style while also referencing the cities they are located in.
In Melbourne, the opulence associated with a Dolce & Gabbana product is evident throughout the rich interiors.
The store is clad in volcanic stone shipped from Sicily, Italy (Dolce’s heritage) while two spectacular Murano glass chandeliers hang from the ceilings.
Brocade wallpaper lines the walls, while velvet ottomans and chaise longues sit atop the sweeping basalt stone floors and walnut wood and glass furniture house Dolce & Gabbana’s latest collections.
The company has worked closely with Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business Louise Asher to launch its first Australian store, with Asher calling the decision a clear vote of confidence in the strength of Victoria’s retail industry.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is delighted that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have chosen Melbourne as the location for their first Australian fashion house,” she said. “The desire of international brands to be part of Melbourne’s vibrant fashion scene gives customers a wider and more sophisticated choice and provides the retail market with greater diversity.”
Asher also believes Melbourne’s status as the shopping and fashion capital of Australia will demonstrate that the retail industry is a key contributor to the Victorian economy.
“Victorian retail is a vital part of the state’s economic well-being. In the year to July 2013, our retail turnover was $64.7 billion, which is five per cent higher than in the year ended November 2010,” she said.
News of in-demand retail space comes as welcome news for the industry.
At the end of last month, multinational shopping centre owners Westfield revealed that its new tenancy contracts could be lowered by up to 10 per cent, after which international retail giant H&M announced it had chosen Melbourne’s iconic GPO building for its first Australian store.
CFS Property Trust, which currently owns 29 retail properties estimated at $8.6 billion, is also luring luxury brands to prestigious Australian locations.
Currently, CFS is developing the Emporium Melbourne Project, which will have a variety of concept and large flagship stores and house some of the world’s most renowned international and luxury brands, with Japanese retailer Uniqlo and UK retailer Topshop confirmed.
The trust is also in the process of developing DFO Homebush in Homebush NSW, a $100 million project that will reportedly house retailers Armani, Bose, Burberry, Max Mara, Michael Kors and Zegna.