Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Leam (Rome, Italy)

Getting your designer fix in Rome isn't really difficult, especially if it's Italian brands you're after. I was directed to head to Leam thanks to a fellow blogger (the lovely fglovesbags) and unlike most boutiques, this one has an extensive range of labels you probably won't find elsewhere in the city. What makes it even more worth visiting is the fact that we're not talking about one store, but five in total: Leam Donna, Leam Uomo, Leam Limited, Baby Leam and Leam Outlet. This post will cover the main Leam women's boutique, Leam Limited (a slightly cooler women's section) and the outlet division.

Starting with the main store, you could be mistaken into thinking Prada and Cavalli is all you'll find here. To be honest, that thought crossed my mind at first and browsing the shoes didn't reveal anything special. Moving on to the bags, I started getting nervous (where were the Balenciaga bags... where??), lots of Fendi - the last thing I needed after visiting the Palazzo - more Prada and too much Gucci. All logo-ed, all very bling and all incredibly colorful. The store design was what kept me going though: I loved the way the mannequins were placed throughout the boutique and having a mezzanine between the two levels gave the whole area a more interesting structure.

Having passed the mezzanine (more Fendi bags), I got to the second level which is where I found a very sizable selection of this season's ready-to-wear. I was pleasantly surprised to find other brands as well: Diane von Furstenberg dresses and tunics occupied one entire rack and there was a good range of Marni on the other side of the room. Missoni, Pucci and Dior were all represented in addition to Miu Miu, Valentino and any other big name you can think of. Definitely your one-stop place for all that is luxury fashion.

By contrast, Leam Limited, situated right next door, doesn't scream opulence, though the goods found here are equally expensive. The shiny modern hallway leading to the front door is lined with mannequins while the interior is striking in its cool minimalism: instead of comfy sofas, you'll find big rocks to sit on from where you can enjoy whatever the two video projectors happen to be displaying on the back walls.

The slightly elevated floor in the middle would have reminded me of a boxing ring if it hadn't been for the very artistic-looking red shelf snaking its way across this area. The collection here consisted mainly of Balenciaga (including 2 current-season bags I saw for the first time in person), Issa, Luella and Yohji Yamamoto, as well as items from more local design talents such as Ermano Scervino and Cesare Paciotti.

(images: 2tr architettura)

Of course none of the products sold come cheap, so Leam was clever enough to set up a standalone outlet store across the street. And I must say, this is probably one of the tidiest shops of its kind. Items are clearly labelled and categorized by garment or accessory type, starting with jackets and dresses in the front and continuing with jeans, tops, shoes, trousers, skirts and blouses towards the back. This is also where you'll find last-season shoes and bags.

I sighted Balenciaga jackets and ankle boots, beautiful Chloé dresses and Mulberry bags - from 40-70% off. Everything was in top shape and a lot actually came in 'normal' sizes. Menswear and items for children/babies can be found in the basement. The only negative thing: if you're shorter than 5'9" you might have trouble accessing the clothes on the upper rack.

So there you go: three very individual stores called Leam and all worth visiting for slightly different reasons.

Address: Via Appia Nuova 30-32, 00183 Rome
Via Faenza 10-12, 00182 Rome (Leam Outlet)

Leam Homepage

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lanvin Boutique - Window Update (Paris, France)

Back in Paris, but there are still one or two Rome posts to follow. I did however want to post this first. As mentioned in my first Lanvin post, the wonderful thing about the Parisian boutique isn't just the store itself, but the ever changing window display. Even those who could care less about the luxury brand have to admit that the scenarios depicted in the storefront are both delightful and entertaining. I have yet to witness a passerby walk past the women's or men's boutique, without stopping and admiring what the visual merchandisers have put together as part of Alber's vision.

First up are long overdue images of the Fashion Week windows I forgot to post. I was too late to snap the men's boutique window, so I've taken this shot from the Lanvin website:

I happened to be passing the Lanvin boutiques again a week later as the windows were being redone in broad daylight for the world to see. This must be the best visual merchandising job ever (imagine playing around with wigs and props, including plastic babies). The current windows seem to have some sort of royalty theme: most mannequins have sashes on with titles reading "Duchess Lanvin" or "Lord Lanvin". I really like the mannequin dogs as well, though they don't seem to have royalty titles...

First up, Lanvin Homme, starting with the main window:

Lanvin Femme, again main window first:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fendi Boutique / Palazzo Fendi (Rome, Italy)

Overshadowed by Milan when it comes to ready-to-wear, one tends to forget the role Rome has played in the fashion world. The birthplace of Italian Couture, thanks mainly to Valentino who opened his first store in the nation's capital, Rome is also the origin of another luxury giant: Fendi. I probably wouldn't have remembered this if I hadn't passed the company's relatively new Fendi boutique and global headquarters, aptly named Palazzo Fendi... for it is in fact palatial and very difficult to miss.

I have slightly mixed feelings towards any brand that has marketed both its monogrammed and single logo to death (that includes LV and Gucci) - you would have thought that back in 1966 someone like Lagerfeld would have had the foresight to know that his double-F 'Zucca' creation would end up on knock-offs all over the world. Nevertheless I tend to forgive both him and the other aforementioned logo-brands by shutting my eyes when walking through the handbag section and admiring the amazingly crafted clothes instead.

Though Fendi is probably more famous for its 'It'-bags, especially the Baguette, the company, originally founded in 1918 by Adele Casagrande, started out as a fur and leather speciality shop and still masters this skill to this day. When entering the huge flagship (it takes up an entire block), leather is probably the first thing you'll notice, as you'll be greeted by an entire floor of leather bags and accessories (and the occasional canvas logo thing I'll choose to ignore). Fortunately most of this season's bags are relatively tame and more classic than what Fendi sometimes produces (remember the bag you could paint yourself?). And thankfully as Karl isn't in charge of bag designs, I won't have to blame him for any of the few odd creations I found.

Although I didn't spend too much time in this section, I did spare a few minutes more in the adjoining shoe department. And despite finding the occasional logo-ed boot or heel, I also sighted some really pretty strappy sandals and cool shoe boots. The footwear area lead right into a bright hallway showcasing a few mannequins wearing this season's clothes with a video projection of the runway shoes running in the background. The stairway leading up to the 1st floor is impressive and again reminded me of being in a Palazzo: it consisted of dark carved wood, a massive chandelier and a sky roof at the very top. In designing the interior, Peter Marino was obviously trying to channel traditional Roman architecture (including his use of local travertine and San Pietrini stones) which contrasted nicely with the modern fluid lines found throughout the rest of the boutique.

A fair warning to animal lovers: while leather accessories might not make you queasy, the 2nd floor fur section could send you running for the nearest exit. Though I'm indifferent to fur in general, seeing the rows and rows of different colored mink, chinchilla and sable stoles, jackets and coats that took up about half the floorspace was a bit of an overdose. I must admit that on its own they probably would have looked divine (and not to heavy or grandmotherly), especially the stole with fur shaped into little roses. What I did find unnecessary though was the white fur buggy. I don't see how it can ever get that cold in Rome and most of the fur seemed to be in places that wouldn't keep a child warm anyway - what a waste (of an animal's life no less).

On to the more fun stuff though... the vast clothing section that took up the remaining floor is truly worth looking at. This season's laser-cut and intricate embroidery (broderie anglaise) is even more striking in person and Lagerfeld's beautiful sheer layered dresses and skirts are like works of art. Even though I'm not going to be getting any Fendi outfits anytime soon, the standout pieces for me were the dresses with silk applique roses and the 3-tiered layered bell-shaped skirts. There were a few more bags on this floor as well, but the clothes are what you need to be looking at.

Even if you're not a Fendi fan, I'd say this flagship is worth a visit just for the building's architectural elements alone. And if you are a Fend lover, you might want to go sightseeing first, as you'll likely spend half a day here.

Address: Largo Carlo Goldoni 419-421, 00187 Rome
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sun: 10:30-19:00

Fendi Homepage

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

De Bach R. (Rome, Italy)

In Rome, most shops seem to stock either designer items or retail brands that can basically be found anywhere else in the world. But amidst all of this (actually on my way to the TAD store), I came across a small shoe shop that was packed with people. What first grabbed my attention though weren't the shoes themselves - though they are worth looking at - but the way they were displayed.

I'm not sure if someone out there had the same idea as Mr. Louboutin, when it came to being inspired by birds. In this case the footwear isn't laid out in individual cots, but can be found sitting along an entire wall of interwoven white branches where they are perched randomly, just like the feathered creatures they are supposed to represent. And if you visit the store when it's darker outside, you'll get the full effect of a halogen lit back wall that illuminates all the shoes in a white glow. To add a little extra to this ambiance, loudspeakers reproduce the sound of chirping birds, making you feel like you're actually in an aviary!

Now on to the actual shoes. The brand with the full name on the label reading "Herzel de Bach" might sound more Germanic (with some French thrown in) than Italian, but does in fact hail from Rome. When I did a web search on the name, I came up with hardly anything, so there's not much I can say about the company other than it seems these shoes probably aren't available elsewhere. Which is just the best excuse to pick up a souvenir if you're ever in town, as few people will be likely to have these items in their closet.

The first things that caught my eye were the various gladiator inspired sandals and heels in numerous colors - still very on-trend this Summer. The flat sandals were my favorites (especially the patent black versions), although I found a very nice selection of colorful and metallic heels, as well as a gold strappy number that looked like it was inspired by the YSL cage boot. Towards the back I sighted some Givenchy shoes, so I'm guessing they also occasionally stock other brands.

Prices ranged from 130 - 280 EUR, so they're not all that cheap, but they seemed good quality enough. These shoes can also be found in another flagship a few minutes away on Via di Propaganda, but if you want to see a more unique shelf display, this boutique is where I'd go to first.

Address: Via del Babuino 123, 00187 Rome
Opening Hrs: Mon: 15.30-19.30, Tue-Sat 10.30-19.30

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TAD (Rome, Italy)

One of Rome’s more unique and popular shopping paradises is TAD (short for 'Tendenze e Antiche Debolezze'), the city’s first and only concept store situated near the Spanish Steps. Unlike most boutiques of its kind TAD has divided its 1000 sqm floor space into separate rooms, thus creating a shop that resembles a private home (a very rich person’s home mind you).

The first thing that will draw you to the store is the brightly lit entrance ‘tunnel’ that changes its colors every few seconds and is patterned with the silhouette of what looks like ivy (or some other foliage). I guess this is appropriate, because this hallway leads right into the flower section courtesy of Alessandra Rovati Vitali, with floral arrangements that look more like art than greenery.

If this isn’t your thing, keep moving, the next room is where you’ll find the first designer clothing area - a beautifully open space with dark wood floors, giant potted plants and rattan armchairs. I spotted the usual suspects such as Chloe and Marni, but also found racks full of elegant Ossie Clark dresses and Hussein Chalayan tops.

The adjacent ‘TAD Lab’ room is filled with high-tech gadgets, art books and various international fashion and lifestyle magazines. It also had a power plate, though I’m not sure if it was solely for decorative purposes (it was out of order) or if people are actually supposed to use it.

Moving along, I found myself in the beauty and fragrance area, which had quite an impressive selection of products from all over the world, including Fauchon perfume (I didn’t even know they created scents!), bath products from the London brand Nougat and Jo Malone candles. For those who need a bit more pampering, TAD also offers manicures and hairstyling services thanks to Roberto D'Antonio’s in-house salon.

Next up I was greeted with more fashion, this time the designer section also featured accessories, shoes and bags. A lot of Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney, but no Alexander McQueen, although supposedly this is the only place in Rome that sells items by the British designer. Oh well, better for my wallet I guess, so I kept browsing the endless racks and shelves filled with expensive goodies. Another room on the opposite side had even more luxury items, although thankfully there was also a nice collection of more affordable basics (shirts, knitwear etc.).

Probably the largest and most impressive room is the homeware and furniture area – all products produced by and for TAD. This includes everything from couches to cushions to vases. An adjoining room houses a very good range of fabrics (again, exclusive to TAD) so you can customize any item you may be interested in. If you’re into art, there’s a ‘Living Gallery’ which features exhibits showcasing upcoming talents – all works available for purchase of course.

Once you’re done with all this, you can recover from your thorough shopping experience in TAD’s own café (check out the beautiful winter garden!) where you can indulge in yummy delights or relax by sipping their aperitifs. Overall, a nice place to unwind if you want to get away from sightseeing, but beware… this shop is popular with fashionistas and tourists alike, so you’ll get your fair share of people browsing, snapping pics and posing next to flower displays.

Address: Via del Babuino 155 A, 00187 Rome 
Opening Hrs: Mon: 12.00-19.30, Tue-Fri: 10.30-19.30 
Sat: 10.30-20.00, Sun: 12.00-20:00 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Impressions of Rome (Italy)

Ok, I've decided it's actually a shame to launch right into shopping-related posts without dedicating one separate post to the city I happen to be in. I'll probably do the same (in some cases retrospectively) for other locations as well.

So on to Rome! Not the shopping capital of Italy (there's Milan for that and perhaps Florence would come in second) but the capital nevertheless and probably one of the most beautiful. My priority when it comes to Rome, is to see as much of the actual city as possible, stuff myself with good food and perhaps if I see something interesting shopping-wise, I’ll pop in for a moment. But Rome isn’t a place where I will purposefully dedicate a day or two just to spend in retail environments (unlike London or NYC). So a fair warning: the Roman shops I’m going to post about will be relatively random, depending on which places I happened to pass.

As my Significant Other likes to put it: Rome is like one big outdoor museum. I couldn't agree more. You can't really walk around without bumping into another monument every 2 minutes. Paris can be like that, but the big avenues make it less noticeable. Below just a few more pics...