Sunday 17 April 2011

Uptown girl

“The world has changed and it’s time for Le Louvre to change,” admits Weir.

“But our philosophy won’t change. Le Louvre is a little oasis, a fantasy.”

Le Louvre for the 21st century, expect the unexpected

History is fine, Weir says, but it doesn’t pay the bills. It was she who insisted when she joined her mother in the business 30 years ago that customers pay for the clothes before they took them home. Luxury Lil’s approach was to send out the occasional bill. Now, only the oldest customers take merchandise home without handing over the folding stuff.

Le Louvre, the grande dame of fashion on Collins Street has moved after 80 years and been reinvented in a historic and heritage protected red-brick 1920s former tramways building. You’ll find it at a nondescript side street in the former industrial precinct of South Yarra.

“My mother had a thing about gilding everything she could get her mitts on,” Weir says. “I’m more about silver and taxidermy.” The beak and wings of a stuffed albatross will be used to display pieces by Los Angeles-based jeweller Tom Binns, and Weir is searching for a monkey skeleton and a taxidermic chicken to add a certain something to the shop’s metallic silver, pink and white interiors.

The flowing copperplate Le Louvre logo designed by artist Louis Kahn for the facade of Collins Street in the 1950s will be reinterpreted as a hot-pink neon sign outside the new building in Daly Street. The Le Louvre logo also will appear inside the store as scrawls created by graffiti artist Daniel Wenn to adorn the wall beside a floating mirrored staircase embedded with silver glitter.

In the mode for modernity by Georgina Safe, The Australian

That staircase will lead to Weir’s salon space on the second floor, which is aimed at preserving the Le Louvre’s tradition of highly personalised service on a by-appointment basis.

And there will be a lift. “That’s what started this all, you know. I just couldn’t get my clientele to go upstairs.”

But the famous front salon – will remain the same. The trademark touches of ocelot, the gilded mirrors, the elegant sofas will all return. And, of course: “No clothes on show.”


A new decade, an all-new Le Louvre and a new generation of ‘Le Louvre girls’

Mirrored staircases and logo graffiti by artist Dan Wenn have given the old dame a futuristic lift, with the space divided into an upstairs private client salon for the old faithful and a ground floor retail boutique for the next generation Le Louvre girls. For the first time, Le Louvre has a walk-in boutique aimed at younger shoppers, with the salon upstairs.

“I want it to be for the friends of our young staff and the young people in Melbourne,” Weir says. “For the first time we will have clothes that you can actually see, not locked away in cupboards. It’s to show off all the things that we have and it’s just a more modern way of shopping. Plus we’ll have a lot of new designers coming in.”

Those labels downstairs will include RM by Roland Mouret, Celine, Acne jeans, Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon jewellery, which will be housed in a more contemporary interpretation of the Collins Street store’s gilt and ocelot pelts.

Like her mother when she opened Le Louvre, Weir has looked to Europe with the South Yarra salon, and bought many of the fittings there. But where her mother preferred gold and ocelot, the new Le Louvre shimmers with silver and glass, from the boutique’s sparkling floor and walls to the cascading art deco chandelier, mirrored staircase embedded with glitter, and banquette of metallic pressed crocodile skin.

Just don’t call it a shop. Weir, an avid collector of Aboriginal art, plans to hold art exhibitions and events there. “I can’t find it in myself to have a shop and every time it was looking like a shop I’d say, ‘No, we’re having no chrome, no shiny surfaces’,” she says. “Other shops (of international luxury brands) are full of shopfittings and they look the same worldwide. There’s no mystery or excitement – you know that what you see is what you get. I want people to come in and look around in wonder and think, gosh this is so different.”

The boutique’s ranges of Acne jeans and Christopher Kane T-shirts, along with labels such as Balmain, RM Roland Mouret, Celine, and Moncler, are aimed at fashion-conscious young professionals – a sign of the times, says Le Louvre’s head buyer, Amelia Coote. “People of my generation are not used to that formal way of shopping. Fashion’s changed as well – people used to have complete outfits, like a suit, but nowadays no one wears an outfit. That’s the fun part of fashion, choosing bits and pieces and being creative. And people don’t dress so seasonally.” Formal and bridal wear is only available upstairs in the salon, where clients are fitted for gowns by Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Ann Demeulemeester, Elie Saab, Azzaro, Galliano and Marchesa for bar mitzvahs, weddings, milestone birthdays, christenings and the red carpet. “If someone is buying a beautiful dress and being really extravagant, and they want to reveal it at some big event, they don’t want to have seen it on a rack,” says Coote. “They can make an appointment and come in and have a glass of wine and be fussed over in a private salon.” From A nice little frock shop by Susannah Walker, The Age

Vogue’s PAVEMENT section featured Le Louvre’s hip new interior.Le Louvre, 2 Daly Street, South Yarra (03) 9650 1300

{Images via Le Louvre; text sources Kay O’Sullivan, The Age; Susannah Walker, The Age; Georgina Safe, The Australian}


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