The designer is pioneering new perspectives on merchandising in the 650-square-foot corner unit, which will showcase beauty alongside leather goods, jewelry and other accessories from his fashion collection.
The boutique opened to the public Saturday, further demonstrating how closely Van Noten’s fragrances and lipsticks, introduced about one year ago, commune seamlessly with his other designs.
In addition, there will be pouches for perfumes exclusive to the store, along with combs, a mirror and a lip brush. From his main fashion collection will be handbags, small leather goods, jewelry, scarves and some other small accessories.
“It’s important to show that everything is sharing the same vision,” Van Noten said in an interview. “We don’t see the makeup and perfume as separate from the clothes. For me, it’s like one big, unified project, and I really wanted to underline that.”
He noted that the store, while small, is loosely divided into zones for each product category. “But of course, we have quite a lot of display cases where we show how everything is done in the same spirit,” he noted.
The new store, at No. 9 Quai Malaquais, sits next door to Van Noten’s men’s boutique, which opened in 2009. His flagship Paris women’s boutique, which opened in 2007, is a lipstick’s throw away at No. 7 on the same street, with only a café and narrow Rue Bonaparte in between.
“It’s so perfectly situated. And the location is also very visible. Even when you pass by car, you can’t miss it,” the designer enthused.
Van Noten noted the three retail addresses will share similar facades, and some design elements, but separate entrances. “I like the fact that you have to go outside to enter the different stores. It’s like a different universe, different but still the same,” he said.
The building for the new beauty and accessories unit, dating back to 1625 and known as the Hôtel de Transylvanie, has a unique history that appealed to Van Noten. It previously housed an art center known as Galerie Bréheret, founded in 1887 and operating on the Quai Malaquais since 1929, displaying works by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
“It’s really a unique opportunity,” Van Noten said. “And it feels like an exercise because from next year on we plan to open more stores in the same concept where we will mix accessories and beauty.”
He declined to say how many beauty/accessories units might open, noting that’s dependent on space opportunities. The Quai Malaquais unit brings to 11 the number of freestanding Dries Van Noten stores in the world.
With its diminutive scale, and sumptuous materials, the boutique was conceived as a “bijoux,” or jewel, according to the designer.
“I hope the whole atmosphere of the store is going to feel very special,” he said, mentioning the presence of alabaster, Calacatta marble, velvet and a chandelier composed of different kinds of Venini glass.
He noted some of the materials and classic French moldings wink to Paris perfume stores from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
“We are in the middle of all the antique dealers and the art galleries, so we anted to create an environment which fits also in the neighborhood,” he explained.
Van Noten was a pioneer in planting his boutique down the block from the Beaux-Arts school in a district more recognized for antiques and art than fashion.
“It’s also quite a personal experience,” he explained over Zoom from his Antwerp headquarters. “It’s kind of a little salon… Even though it’s a small space, we really wanted to give people a special and unique experience.”
Is he forging a new retail concept in combining fragrance and accessories? “I don’t know if we are charting something new, but we do it in our own way,” said Van Noten, noting that he transposed some elements from his Los Angeles flagship on La Cienega Boulevard, which opened in 2020 and made headlines with its rotating exhibition spaces, music room, tropical garden — and a re-commerce section.
To wit: the designer noted some archival items, including accessories from his 2020 collaboration with Christian Lacroix, are likely to find their way into the new beauty and fragrance store. A blackened room is dedicated to these objects.
“Also in that store, we plan to sometimes do exhibitions of, say a jewel designer we like, or an artist we can invite to show works and things like that,” he explained. “Of course, the L.A. store is 800 square meters, and this one is 60. So it has to be small art.”
The designer described a strong consumer response to his launch into beauty.
“Of course you talk to a lot of different people with perfume and also with the beauty,” he said. “For instance, the lipstick offers a very nice entry price so you see a lot of young people also going to come to the stores, and maybe those people are going to be our future [fashion] clients,” he said.
The designer hinted at more scents coming on stream in 2024, and further expansion of the beauty offer. “It’s really a very exciting project for me,” he enthused.
Perfumes will still be represented in his other Quai Malaquais stores, with one called Quai Malaquais among the most popular, especially with women, while many men have embraced rose-based scents. “I think that’s fantastic,” he said.
Van Noten, who founded his business in 1985, has been showing his women’s collection in Paris since 1993. He sold a majority stake to Spanish fragrance and beauty group Puig in 2018, setting the stage for a foray into fragrance.
For the record, the designer wears his Cannabis Patchouli scent.