Athens extends its luxury scope

ATHENS: At the new Bottega Veneta boutique in a leafy suburb of the Greek capital, the no-logo handbags spell discreet elegance and consumer affluence.

“Luxury products have to challenge you in order to buy them,” says Marianna Tsoureka, a veteran luxury retailer whose family has teamed with the Italian brand on the new store. “Greeks are consumers, but they didn’t have access” to a lot of top brands.

Up to now, that is.

Only in the last few years have international fashion brands slowly made their entrance. Louis Vuitton was one of the first to arrive, followed by Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s and Burberry. Dior and Balenciaga arrived just last year.

But the pace is picking up this autumn, with several additions to the Greek capital’s luxury map – although many of the newcomers still are collaborating with Athens’s most-recognized fashion names.

“While obviously China and India are very important to everyone in the luxury market, especially in these economic times, the Oscar de la Renta customer has a certain taste level, and lifestyle, that will only be found in certain developed countries,” says Alex Bolen, chief executive at Oscar de la Renta.    

De la Renta is opening a 300-square-meter, or 3,230-square-foot, store on Oct. 15 in the affluent suburb of Kifissia, a project that is being done in collaboration with Harris Tsimoyiannis, its longtime local partner. A store also is opening a few days earlier in Madrid, but the fashion house is calling the Athens’s site its first official monobrand store in Europe.

Its partner, the Tsoureka family, also owns the 30-year-old retailer Rossi and runs the Luisa multibrand outlets, which showcase Alexander McQueen, Etro, Missoni, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent, among others.

Thanks to Anastasia Tsoureka, the daughter of Marianna and her husband Zafiris, Rossi also is introducing Lanvin and Manolo Blahnik franchises. Lanvin opened in the Kolonaki neighborhood Oct. 4 and Blahnik is set to pen in the same area later in the month.

“The arrival of the luxury sector in Greece is long overdue and, though slow-paced, it comes with a high chance of success when it occurs in prime spots and attracts consumers in selected areas,” says John Arapoglou, an equity research analyst at Piraeus Securities.

High-end retail also is getting a mall. The Golden Hall, the result of a €75 million renovation of the former International Broadcasting Center for the 2004 Olympics, is expected to open at the end of November. The building’s original skeleton has been retained, but its 40,000-square-meter interior is being rebuilt to house fashion labels like Furla, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Loewe, Marithé et François Girbaud and Longchamp.

While much of the planning for these projects was done long before the current financial turmoil, the retailers all voice confidence in their eventual success.

“The timing of our investment in the brands is not affected by possible opportunities that arise sometimes in period of crisis,” notes Aris Rakas. “It rather has a longer term outlook compared to the current crisis, which we hope is a cyclical phenomenon.”

His Rakas company is putting the finishing touches on two Marc by Marc Jacobs stores – the first, a 160-square-meter shop, opened in Kolonaki on Oct. 3; the second is to be at the Golden Hall. It also teamed with Diane Von Furstenberg to open a 130-square-meter store on Sept. 26 in Kolonaki.

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2 Responses

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