Monday, May 23, 2011

The Long Walk Towards A&F Paris...Flip-Flops on Foot!

We have reached the end of a long journey where lies the gates to blissful FIERCE paradise... (image source)
Excited much!?! Mais, oui! The opening of A&F Paris has given us so much to talk and shout about - it's crazy! The recordbreaking 101 Promo Boys heated things up...and then came the opening doors to the magnificent flagship! The fact that it's Abercrombie & Fitch in Paris - the most beautiful and wonderful city in the whole wide world! - is enough to make even the most devoted A&F fan overwhelmed! Most of you are probably so overwhelmed that you haven't even given a thought as to how this all came to be... The history that surrounds A&F Paris - the steps that the Company took towards the realization of this dream are as significant as the abs on every one of those Promo Boys!...No other flagship has been surrounded by so much attention and detail as A&F Paris.

The successful opening of a flagship store, not only in Paris, but on the famed Champs-Élysées on top of that, is a mark of high respect to any brand in fashion retail...Abercrombie & Fitch is a brand that truly commands respect....Needless to say, May 19 is a landmark in the history of Abercrombie & Fitch...and the journey began four years ago...

Encouraged to pursue European expansion, on account of success of A&F London, the Company had Paris in sight as an absolute must for an A&F flagship. With no time to waste, it went in pursuit of the perfect spot. To Abercrombie & Fitch, acquiring locations that encompass architectural integrity is key to its expansion plans. Its top priority is to house its international stores within structures that boast world-renown addresses, commanding respect within their cultural spheres and also attention on an international scale. For the future flagship in Paris (a city jammed with more globally renown shopping streets than any other), only one fit the bill...

A&F Paris in circled in white on the upper left corner; Avenue Montaigne,
lined with luxury shops is a walk away; the Grand Palais is on the lower
right corner. Image from Google Earth, copyrighted, and used here only for
illustrative purposes. (image source)
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées: it is the king of streets; known to the French as La plus belle avenue du monde. So special is Champs-Élysées (incredibly steeped in history and culture) that the French government itself regulates what goes on it - protecting it from unworthy establishments is its primary goal (H&M was denied lease back in 2007). Abercrombie & Fitch was, thus, required by law to ask government permission for a lease. Taken into consideration was the near-luxury image, global brand recognition and momentum, and respect for design and integrity that Abercrombie & Fitch has cultivated over the years. To no surprise, in 2008, the Company was given the go-ahead to open shop!

The hottest brand on the planet opening one of its FIERCE shopping meccas in Paris - the capital of fashion, sex, and lights! Very exciting, but the Company actually didn't boast about it and remained rather quiet on the matter. Word got out nevertheless and spread far and wide; the anticipation began steaming up for sure by 2009. OhLaLa was among the first to post about it in April 2008 and included financial figures: €2.2 million as down payment with a €3.3 million ($4.5 million USD) monthly lease. Champs-Élysées has the highest rates in real estate, so this is of no surprise. What is more notable: A&F will pay three times more than the previous tenant of no.23, Thai Airways.

Hôtel de la Païva seen on the right (or adjacent left) of A&F Paris.
(image source)
No. 23 on Champs-Élysées offers the perfect location: It's around the corner from the Avenue Montaigne (where people from around the world come to shop; lined with the houses of Dior, Prada, Chanel and the like), and is a fair walk away from the beautiful Grand Palais (a historical and architecturally revered structure that today showcases high-art exhibition and the extravagant Chanel fashion shows of Karl Lagerfeld). See the Google Map above. Funny enough (considering the previous facts), one reporter mentioned that no.23 was "on the lower end of the avenue, which is traditionally not the fanciest part of the Champs-Élysées." Anyway, this reporter continued by sharing that the building to the adjacent left (no.25 Champs-Élysées) is none other than the gorgeous Hôtel de La Païva. (hôtel, or more formally hôtel particulier by the way, means "grand private house" in French and not "hotel" as in the English sense). Built within 1856 and 1865, it was the manor of the notable and luxuriously-ostentatious Polish-Jewish French courtesan, La Païva. The structure cost around 10 million in gold, and even the gifted Auguste Rodin worked on the facade - today, it is houses the Louis 25 restaurant.

Structural renovations on no.23 began in summer 2008 with Selldorf Architects (exclusive designer of every A&F flagship for over half-a-decade), and the renovations were even called "drastic ones!" A massive construction wall covered the entire facade from public view. The only thing that was obviously known, as with other historic buildings housing its flagships, is that A&F would be preserving the quality and significant architectural aspects (that which gives character and meaning to the structure inside and out) while implementing Abercrombie iconography. Still, there was no telling when the flagship would actually open. Naturally, the anticipation (l'impatience!) escaladed even more with the mystery of the date, and it remained in the minds of all the excited French fans!

The hot banner announcing the opening date.
Finally, in February 2011, the Company announced the opening date, May 19. Why in May? After all, isn't Christmas the most wonderful (and profitable time of the year) - the time when every flagship since 2009 has opened doors?  I'm no tourist specialist, but from everything that I've read on the City of Lights (which is quite a mountain), tourism gets its heaviest during the summer season (starting around May). And Champs-Élysées becomes absolutely  jammed with tourists from around the world. So you can bet that a lot of that traffic is going to be aware of the A&F flagship. This is the other reason for opening on Champs-Élysées (apart from the reverence of the location): it will bring in a mass of shoppers from not only in France, but from the world over as well.

When the day came ever nearer, spokesman Eric Cerny, told the Columbus Business First, "Our flagships are a very elevated shopping experience." And indeed, the Company took many, many measures to assure the opening of a flagship worthy of Abercrombie & Fitch and Paris - to live up to that expectation. Promotional day for the opening finally arrived on May 12 as 101 of the hottest A&F male models (flown in from A&F's flagship locations around the world) lined the front of the flagship, making everyone's day even hotter than it already was. If the flagship was not on everyone's minds before, it most definitely was now!

On May 19, the journey came to a magnificent end as the grand gates (guarded by gorgeous models) swung open to Abercrombie & Fitch in Paris. Everything (the costs, wait, anticipation - everything!) was completely worth it. At the end of that long path now awaits one of the most exciting A&F locations on the entire planet...Your beautiful A&F flip-flops must be worn out by now after the long walk, but you made it...enter FIERCE paradise, where chiseled angels await you with open flip-flops and much more await...