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How LEVEL shoe district intends to sweep you off your feet

Looking for a new pair of shoes to match your latest outfit or just looking for that “one extra pair” you really REALLY need to complete your collection?…  Well, Level, the shoe district with 15,000 options might be just what you need if you live in Dubai or just happen to be visiting for the holidays. 

Level Shoe Store entrance

Part of the Chalhoub Group, this 96,000 square-foot store inaugurated in 2012 is a shoe paradise where you can find over 250 brands and 40 luxury boutiques in one single location. But much more than a convenient one-stop store, Level Shoe District aims to offer a “unique retail concept and destination”.  So what is it that differentiates Level from other shoe stores?

SERVICES are the name of the game it seems. While the store offers a wide range of traditional services and amenities – ranging from the inevitable café (Vogue), to the in-store stylists and concierge assistance, they also propose more unique services such as their own in-house cobbler and sole treatment lounge that might just make the difference.

If you ask my husband, the cobbler would be the seller. Nowadays, talented artisans with real savoir-faire are so hard to find that one would go miles out of their way to find one that really knows “his business”, and more importantly, that won’t ruin your favourite pair of shoes. In Level, the cobbler – a master purveyor of traditional shoemaking – creates not only ready to wear and bespoke footwear for gentlemen, but can also cater to your oldies but goodies and bring them back to life with special treatments including mirror shine, patina, full leather re-soling and heel replacement for both men and women.

Now, if you ask ME, I just can’t wait to indulge in one of the 3 dedicated Margaret Dabbs treatment lounges. A fully trained Podiatrist, Margareth Dabbs set up a series of Foot Clinics starting in 1998 in London, and pioneered the now renowned “Medical Pedicure”. Since 2013, she has taken her expertise and brought her professional podiatrists and nail technicians to Dubai to offer first class treatments. Fusing health and beauty and retailing her award winning product range, she provides outstanding care that visibly transforms the feet.

Level is not only a shoe store but a dream come true, pampering you from tip to toes when it comes to feet. What has brought them to the next level is certainly the quality of the overall experience, catering needs with savoir-faire and attention to details.

Personally, while in the store, my feet were barely touching the ground!

 

 

Abu Dhabi où règnent le luxe et la démesure

Présente à Dubaï lors d’un séminaire #efapmbaluxe autour du luxe, je me suis dit qu’une visite à sa voisine Abu Dhabi s’imposait tant ces deux villes sont proches. Quelques heures de transports suffisent pour passer d’un Emirat à l’autre, alors pourquoi s’en priver ? Et le jeu en vaut la chandelle : j’ai été subjuguée par la ville aux milles visages.

Contrairement à Dubaï où l’apparat et l’artifice sont les maîtres mots et où les malls de luxe éclipsent les mosquées, Abu Dhabi se montre bien plus humaine, plus chaleureuse, dirais-je. Cette dernière en a bien conscience et se dessine comme la capitale culturelle des Emirats Arabes Unies notamment avec l’ouverture prochaine de musée du Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Je me revois encore dans ce bus en chemin vers Abu Dhabi, laissant derrière moi les gargantuesques buildings pour un désert aux couleurs beige. Puis apparaissent quelques immeubles, des rues à peine remplies de personnes en habit traditionnel. Le bus déambule dans la cité en dévoilant une ville aux allures faussement occidentales : certes les immenses skyscrapers rappellent aisément New York mais quelques emblèmes comme des mosquées et surtout des sculptures de l’art musulman nuancent cette image de ville américaine. Abu Dhabi a plus à offrir à que cela.

Notre arrêt s’effectuera à l’incontournable Grande Mosquée Cheikh Zayed. Cet édifice dont la beauté est à couper le souffle a été construit en trois ans à peine, marque une prouesse technique qui ne surprend qu’à moitié quand on visite les émirats. Recouverte de blanc pur, on ne peut y entrer que convenablement vêtu. Cette mosquée détient d’autres trésors que sa propre architecture. Ainsi, le tapis de la salle de prière tissé d’une seule pièce se trouve être le plus long et le plus grand au monde. S’ajoute à cela, le plus grand lustre BACCARAT au monde (15m de diamètre sur 12 m de hauteur pour 12 tonnes). Admirer de tels chefs d’œuvres aussi bien au-dessus de votre tête qu’à vos pieds est un moment unique à apprécier. On perd facilement des heures à observer les détails des gravures, des peintures et du mobilier.

La Mosquée constitue l’une des preuves majeures du goût et du niveau de sophistication de cette civilisation qui fait de ses valeurs et de ses édifices un luxe. En accord avec ce monument qui demeure une bâtisse religieuse, Abu Dhabi se montre plus conservatrice que sa voisine.

                  Mosquée Cheikh Zayed à Abu Dhabi mosquée 2

Cela dit, Abu Dhabi sait également divertir ses habitants. Encore une fois, j’ai choisi l’exemple le plus marquant, celui de Ferrari World. On passe d’un extrême à l’autre sans quitter une seule seconde l’univers du luxe. Plus dynamique, plus moderne et surtout universel, Ferrari World est né du concept démesuré de créer un parc à thème dédié à la griffe de luxe, Ferrari. Jumelé au parc, se situent le Yas Mall et non loin, un parc aquatique. Tout est minutieusement organisé pour plaire à une famille, un couple, un habitant ou un groupe de touristes et plus encore pour nous impressionner par l’extravagance outrancière de l’endroit.

C’est sur le chemin de retour que nous avons vu le soleil se coucher achevant cette visite ponctuelle à Abu Dhabi, marquant d’une pierre blanche ce passage intense.

Abu Dhabi sait faire rêver est se révèle être une machine bien huilée mais sa capacité à converser son identité, sans se dénaturer et son caractère plus familial sont intéressants à analyser et à comprendre…
Ferrari World

Level shoe district, la pointure de Dubaï

Mardi 2 mars 2016, il fait presque 30 degrés dans les rues de Dubaï. Il est à peine 9h30 et les gens se pressent déjà aux portes du Dubaï Mall, étonnante et gigantesque construction de 800 000 mètres carrés. Parmi les nombreuses enseignes du centre commercial, niché au milieu des gratte-ciels, Level shoe district est le concept store qui fera pâlir de jalousie les vendeurs de souliers du monde entier.

600, c’est le nombre à peine imaginable de paires de chaussures que Level shoe district vend par jour à sa clientèle locale et internationale. Depuis son ouverture en 2012 par le géant du luxe Groupe Chalhoub, le concept store est devenu plus qu’une référence, il est une expression, une habitude. Impressionnante, c’est l’enseigne spécialisée dans la vente de souliers la plus grande du monde avec presque 9 000 mètres carrés de corners et boutiques et une liste quasi infinie de créateurs connus et reconnus et de nouvelles maisons prometteuses.

LevelShoeDistrict map

D’après Francesco Russo, Level shoe district est un « temple pour le luxe à Dubaï ». Le concept store s’organise autour de 2 grands pôles.

Chez la femme, ce ne sont pas moins de 80 grandes maisons qui sont représentées, chausseurs comme Giuseppe Zanotti Design, Manolo Blahnik, Gianvito Rossi ou Christian Louboutin mais aussi maisons de couture telles que Chloé, Céline, Oscar de la Renta ou encore Maison Martin Margiela. Plus simplement, ils y sont tous sans exception. Réparties entre corners et boutiques on retrouve certaines maisons dans deux alcôves autour du thème contemporain et trendy où décoration et ambiance musicale jouent le jeu.

Et parce que les hommes ne consomment pas comme les femmes, Level shoe district a offert à la gente masculine une expérience simplifiée. Environ 40 marques sont présentes et regroupées par thème. J.M Weston chez les classiques, Valentino chez les modernes et Nike chez les sneakers. L’homme qui entre dans le concept store sait déjà ce qu’il portera en en sortant, Level shoe district le sait bien.

On l’aura compris, Level shoe district est à l’image de ce qu’est Dubaï, démesuré dans le merveilleux et grandiose dans l’éclat. Que l’on soit banquier d’affaire en quête d’une paire de richelieu, fashionista à la poursuite de stiletto, ou encore ado accro aux Stan Smith, on trouve forcément chaussure à son pied.

Cultural and touristic aspects of Dubai

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When we started visiting Dubai, my first reaction was a mix of wonder and astonishment. The city looked like an occidental capital. From the airport to the buildings, from the underground to the cars, everything here is huge. The biggest airport in the world, the tallest/highest skyscraper in the world, this city clearly gives a message of power. Then you cannot miss the modernity: in the districts, the DIFC (Dubai international financial district), the Times Square, Downtown Dubai, the seven star hotel Burj Al Arab shaped as the sail of a boat, the architecture of all this part of the city is extremely new. Most of those constructions have been built in the last fifteen years which is quite impressive. More than half of the touristic attractions at the end of the nineties didn’t exist.

So, even if I found this characteristic interesting, I suddenly began to looking deeper in order to discover the traditional and cultural aspects of Dubai, the ones that clearly show you are in the capital of the second largest emirate of the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Our tour included a special visit of the Golden Souk, one of the most typical Dubai’s souks. Souk is the Arabic world for market and the Golden Souk is a traditional market located in the center of the commercial district in Deira, the old city, where you can find more than three hundred shops that sell gold. When you walk down those alleys, you are approached by local sellers every five minutes. They obviously talk to you in English but they are Arabs. Besides, you can see that you are in the old city because all the buildings around you are old houses with a few flats. To get to Deira from the harbor, you can take the abras, small boats that ferry passengers across the Dubai Creek and this experience is pleasant and instructive because you have a panoramic view of the new city with all the skyscrapers and, at the same time, the old one with its souks and its mosques.

One of the main attractions of Dubai is shopping, that’s why this city is nicknamed “the shopping capital of the Middle East”. In addition to the souks, you can find a lot of modern malls such as the Mall of the Emirates and above all the Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world. From the entry to the aquarium, every detail here contributes to create the “wow effect”. All of the French and Italian luxury brands are accurately displayed on perfect windows of beautiful shops, for every woman’s dream all the most famous shoes designers are put forward in Level, the biggest shoes department in the world, all the restaurants are located in a beautiful area and, to enhance the whole experience, outside the food courtyard you can see the amazing show of the Dubai Fountains with water games accompanied by different kinds of music from the classic to the contemporary Arabic and world music. And you can admire the view of the Dubai skyline with the standing out Burj Khalifa, lighted up in many beautiful colors. That is one of the main examples of luxury made in Dubai, which is huge, modern, golden and bling-bling in harmony with the Emir’s taste.

 

 

St Regis Dubai Hotel

Lobby St Regis

Dubai is the kingdom of fancy hotels.

The St Regis Dubai hotel is one of the most prestigious one and opened a few weeks ago. As there are numerous luxurious hotels downtown, St Regis has to have something more. That’s why the architecture is quite different from other skyscrapers hotels such as the Armani one.

So here starts our guided tour…

When we first enter the majestic lobby, we can do nothing but take a look a the gorgeous stairs that lead to the Champagne bar and the French brasserie.

As the hotel was preparing the Harper’s Bazaar « 2016 Best Dressed », we had the chance to meet some of the best dressed Dubai women, it felt like Fashion Week!

Once we recovered for all the emotions, we couldn’t wait for visiting the suites. The St Regis has 7 kinds of suites and we had the pleasure to visit 3 of them. They all are very classy and chic. That atmosphere is quiet, peaceful and the suites are equipped with numerous rooms which can be transformed as bedrooms if needed. You can even call a private chef who will work in your own kitchen in order to let you organize a private dinner. Most of the time, those suites are rented to organize huge dinner parties.

Furthermore, The St Regis Dubai has impressive facilities..

First of all, regarding the dining, it has 8 different bars and restaurants, including the French restaurant Quartier and the J&G Steakhouse, two new signature restaurants. Indeed, located on level one, J&G Steakhouse, offers a collection of steakhouse classics and dishes inspired by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. On the same level, all the French cuisine lovers would enjoy the classic French favorites served with a contemporary twist at the modern Brasserie Quartier, as well as some handmade chocolates and fresh pastries from Café Fleuri, pure reminiscence of  a 1930s Parisian café. For those who would like to admire the hotel’s beautifully landscaped garden while enjoying exclusive tea blends, the Sidra, open 24 hours a day, is perfect. Fancy a moment of relaxation? Then go to the XXth floor where you will enter into the Iridium Spa, open daily from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm. Those two elements, represented by the Iris flower and the silver-white color are widely present in the interior decoration of the six treatment suites of the spa. In addition to the facilities including, amongst others, the sauna, the steam room, the whirlpool and the experience shower, Iridium Spa can also accommodate a variety of special requests such as waxing, or teen’s services. Besides, there is a large selection of treatments from the massage to the iridium rituals provided by the St. Regis’ Spa in order to benefit fully from your visit.

St Regis suite                            SP St Regis                           St Regis Spa

In addition to this amazing spa, there are a fitness center and outdoor rooftop pools dedicated to tranquility and absolute discretion with a special area for children. Indeed, the impressive facilities take into account the fact that guests may come with their children and hence offer childcare service and a kids club in order to take care of this specific target.

You definitely need to add the St Regis Dubai hotel to your « to do list in Dubai »!

Amélie Margulies & Marion Blanquefort

Hyppolite vs Pistache

Think “Palaces”, “5 star hotels”, and you may not right away think about child-proof or even child-friendly places… In Paris, Le Bristol or Le Meurice stood up to the challenge to prove you wrong.

 

“Les Amis d’Hypolyte”, a dedicated club for children at Le Bristol

Hyppolyte Jammet was the name of the founder of Le Bristol Paris’… but Hyppolyte is also now the Bristol’s famous gardening rabbit, a special emissary greeting the younger guests of the parisian Palace. In addition to the 2 cats of the hotel, this animal may be only a plushmate, but is certainly the other star for the youngest guest of the hotel. Children receive their own Hyppolyte upon their arrival so that he can remain their companion throughout their stay and accompany them while visiting Paris with their special booklet, or while indulging in a scavenger hunt throughout the hotel, or also enjoying a decadent tea time. Adjacent to Le Spa, mothers too can enjoy a nice break while children spend some fun time relaxing in their own club, a welcoming play room filled with books, toys and games… More than just a plush, “Les Amis d’Hypolyte” is a family value, a welcoming friend for family friends.

 

Pistache connects families with le Meurice

At first sight on the internet website, I thought Le Meurice was less welcoming to families with children, but digging helps you find treasures! The hotel also has its own mascot, Pistache, the plush dog. A passport has also been created for the children with a trail of the city’s most magical sights, and inside the hotel, a treasure hunt is organized as well. You can continue the adventure in the jardin des tuilleries where children can play with custom-made toy wooden boats to sail in the boat pond. Granted they are more than 6 years old, in Le Meurice, Mother and children can relax together at the spa. In addition there is an on-line game for the most connected children to learn about the little secrets of le Meurice with a playfull quizz.

 

I can’t really designate which contender is the cutest, but I can definitely say those 2 palaces won me over with their wonderful programs. I can’t wait to try them out !

Quand le Plaza Athénée épouse Dior à travers la gastronomie

Plaza Athénée & Dior

Crédits : Dior

Inspirés par la semaine de la haute-couture à Paris, Alain Ducasse et Philippe Marc ont imaginé un menu en honneur à Christian Dior, grand habitué du palace en son temps.
Alors que les petites mains de la haute couture s’affairent à coudre les dernières broderies des robes, l’équipe du restaurant Alain Ducasse, fraîchement récompensée de sa troisième étoile au guide Michelin 2016, s’est attelée à la confection d’un menu innovant et chic, le menu Dior.

En effet, la carte en dédicace à l’une des plus grandes maisons françaises propose des plats extraits d’un livre de recettes méconnu du public, la Cuisine Cousu-main, l’ouvrage favori du créateur du New Look.

Nous saluons ce mariage inattendu de saveurs entre mode et gastronomie. Pourtant, cet hommage particulier à la maison de couture n’a rien d’étonnant tant les liens entre Dior  et le Plaza Athénée sont nombreux comme la veste de tailleur Bar par égard pour celui de son palace fétiche.

C’est ainsi que, la semaine dernière, les gourmets et les addicts de mode ont pu se régaler des plats aussi originaux qu’esthétiques. Si malheureusement, ce menu n’est à ce jour plus disponible, il vous faudra patienter le 1er mars afin de déguster les plats de cette carte spéciale. En référence à la fashion week parisienne du 1er au 9 mars prochain, le Plaza Athénée se métamorphosera afin de devenir le lieu incontournable de cette semaine qui fait tant rêver à l’instar du Palace parisien.

Puisque de la gastronomie à l’hôtellerie, il n’y a qu’un pas, on ne peut s’empêcher d’attendre de voir naître la suite Dior avenue Montaigne. Après l’avènement du Dior Institut, la suite logique ne serait-elle pas une suite qui marierait couture et hospitalité ?

Le luxe vu de l’intérieur

Guerlain x JonOne devanture« Travailler dans le luxe, c’est appréhender les exigences des clients pour pouvoir y répondre et les surpasser. » Telle est la vision de Sophie, assistante manager chez Guerlain. Le flagship de la célèbre marque de parfum situé sur les Champs-Elysées, attire de nombreux touristes et aficionados souhaitant découvrir les dernières nouveautés de la Maison ou tout simplement s’immerger dans l’univers Guerlain. Faut dire que l’emplacement est idéal : situé en plein cœur de Paris, le 68, Champs-Elysées s’entend sur plus de 1000 m2, répartis sur quatre niveaux pour offrir une expérience multi-sensorielle unique. Ici tout est fait pour répondre aux attentes des clients, même les plus exigeants. En quête constante de transparence, des ateliers sont organisés pour permettre aux visiteurs de découvrir les matières premières qui viennent composer les fragrances les plus emblématiques de la Maison, de même pour le maquillage… « Le but est ici de faire connaître et expliquer le savoir-faire et l’héritage de Guerlain », nous confie Sophie. Le spa et le salon VIP sont d’autres services destinés à satisfaire les attentes des clients de prestige.
Mais ce n’est pas tout, le plus de cet espace réside aussi dans les expositions présentes en boutique comme celle de JonOne, que l’on peut encore admirer jusqu’au 28 février prochain.

Chanel make-upUne autre boutique, qu’on a plus le loisir d’admirer et que l’on regrette déjà, c’est celle du 382 rue Saint-Honoré. La boutique Chanel, exclusivement réservée aux collections beauté de la marque, avait su conquérir le cœur d’habitués, fidèles à la Maison depuis des années et souhaitant retrouver leur produit favori. « Certains clients rentraient par hasard dans notre boutique, à la recherche d’une expérience unique », raconte Charlotte, conseillère beauté Chanel. « En rentrant dans cet espace, ils entraient dans l’univers beauté de Chanel. » Et on ne peut être que séduit. L’accueil est chaleureux, presque intime. L’équipe porte une attention toute particulière aux détails pour satisfaire les besoins des clientes tout en générant de la surprise. Car « il est important de surprendre, de faire rêver. C’est ce qui définit le luxe, en plus de la beauté, de l’unique et de la qualité ». Et c’est au 40 rue des Francs Bourgeois, que se poursuit l’expérience Chanel, dans cette boutique permanente du Marais, en attendant que l’adresse rue Saint-Honoré nous dévoile sa nouvelle identité.

annick_goutal-boutiqueNon loin de là, au 14 rue de Castiglione, Francesca nous accueille dans la boutique tout en raffinement d’Annick Goutal. De nombreux touristes profitent d’un séjour à Paris pour découvrir ou redécouvrir les collections délicates de la Maison. Un univers extrêmement féminin, marqué par un fort storytelling autour de la fondatrice de la maison de parfums. C’est ainsi que l’on apprend que Petite-Chérie, l’un des best-sellers de la marque, fait référence à la fille d’Annick Goutal, lorsqu’elle quitta le domicile familial. C’est comme si en un instant, on était plongé dans l’univers Goutal, un univers de féminité paisible qui vous donne envie de rester des heures à admirer et sentir les doux mélanges de senteurs.

A useful retail experience..

We often forget that luxury companies, to be able to earn money and fame, have to have very strong salesperson teams. Those persons are very key and they need to be completely aware of the clientele trends and behaviors. Interviewing those people is quite revealing and it helps a lot to understand how the luxury galaxy works.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been able to make some interviews in the fashion industry. They do all agree on some points, they all want to make us dreaming. Here is a quote: « I think that luxury is a world that is made to make people dream and that’s it », it represents a lot what salespersons have in mind while working.

Furthermore, they all are very involved in their work, they do believe in their brand(s) identity and potential. They truly embody brands’ values while they are working and sometimes even when they are not working.

They consider luxury clientele as « dreamers, they want to escape by buying some luxury goods and services». But they are also very aware of the fact that anyone can buy luxury. «A Luxury client can be anyone. I think that everybody can have high expectations. Every person that is able to enjoy the simplest thing is a Luxury client».

Again, it’s all about dreaming and believing, «They act, they talk, they think, they spend in many different ways. The only thing they have in common is that they do really love to live or own something that they’ve been dreaming of ». Salespersons are trained to be open-minded, smiling, respectful, good convincers, honest and representative of the brand they are working for.

When they have to face major problems, they have to be very reactive, dynamic without forgetting that every customer can be a client. For those who faced problems with VVIP’s, they had to breath a lot ( I was told that it helps a lot..) and think rapidly in order to solve problems before VVIP’s noticed there was one. Sometimes, situations are quite complicated and they are not allowed to ruin relationships. That’s why they are trained for, embellish people’s needs and desires doing anything to protect them from «backstage» full of problems.

We can totally make a parallel between salespersons and psychologists in a way. They both work to make people’s life more comfortable.

 

Retail experience

 

How can I write about my seven-year retail experience in luxury field and not be boring? That’s my challenge for this article. I hope I will do it successfully.

I remember my first day of work when I walked down rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré and I saw all those beautiful windows of so many beautiful brands such as Gucci, Prada, Lanvin, Hermès, and then Cartier, Roger Vivier, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, my head started to spin and I suddenly realized I was entering the luxury world. Then I entered Tod’s flagship store and I began to know this world from inside.

Words like ambassador of the brands, additional sales, customer service, visual merchandising, team spirit, started to have a meaning for me… and in six months I became the first salesperson of my team, without any previous experience in retail. I was so proud of myself. My first store manager used to tell me that the most important thing in this sector was the approach to the customers and the relationship you create with them…and it turned out I was quite good at it. I learned a lot, we had regular training, we used to work with our press officer, we did several parties in our store to celebrate the launch of specific collections with a lot of VIP guests, it was an amazing experience.

Four years later, I thought it was time to change, so I moved to Moncler, another Italian brand specialised in ready-to-wear, above all in goose down jackets. Everything was different: the location, the department store Printemps Haussmann instead of a flagship store, the team, half of my colleagues were Chinese, and the customers, 80 % of them coming from China. At the beginning, it was quite a shock for me but luckily my store manager and her assistant helped me adapt to this situation and I began to get used to it. Working in a department store had its benefits: I could see at the same time the collections and the inspirations of the other luxury brands and follow the fashion trends and sometimes also discover new brands such as, for instance, Victoria Beckham and the launch of her first corner in Europe in Printemps Haussmann. The discovery of Chinese customers was quite interesting as well, even though they weren’t my first clients.

Last but not least, I joined one of the most famous Italian brands which belongs to LVMH group, Fendi. The story of this label is strictly related to Karl Lagerfeld. It’s a story of fifty years’ collaboration, which has been celebrated last summer with the first Haute Fourrure fashion show, because fur is part of Fendi D.N.A. and that’s how the company started, a small fur workshop in Rome in 1925. Thanks to the huge creativity of Lagerfeld, Fendi is now a high luxury brand with a wide range of products: from the fur coats to the ready-to-wear, from the beautiful handmade bags to the small leather goods, from the original shoes to the watches, every single piece is the result of an excellent work of the finest Italian craftsmanship.  Being part of this universe was such a privilege to me and probably the best way to end my retail experience.