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:: Spotlight :: Playboy Concept Boutique opens in Melbourne

By: Carmine Pascuzzi / photos by Matt Deller

Playboy Enterprises Inc. announced the opening of its first freestanding Playboy Concept Boutique in Australia. The retail location, spanning 300 square metres, is situated at 447 Chapel Street, South Yarra in Melbourne, Australia’s fashion capital and popular tourist area.

The Playboy Concept Boutique is the third of its kind in the world, following the successful 2002 opening in Tokyo’s trendy Aoyama district and the first U.S. retail location, launched in May 2005 at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas. Offering a collection of Playboy apparel, jewellery, accessories, swimwear, and lingerie, the Melbourne location also features the new “Playboy Icon” evening wear, exclusively designed by Christopher Chronis.

“I am very excited about designing evening wear for the Playboy brand,” says Christopher Chronis. “It gives me the unique opportunity to create a range of cutting-edge fashion and accessories which reflects my interpretation of the Playboy brand - the freedom to be whom you want to be."

The Playboy Concept Boutique, which was developed by the award-winning U.S. architecture and design firm, WalkerGroup, has been enhanced further to bring an Australian flavour to the iconic brand. It offers a unique shopping experience to style-conscious men and women, as well as Playboy enthusiasts. Unlike traditional retailers, the Playboy Concept Boutique emphasises a design-driven look, inspired by the spirit of Playboy and representing concepts inherent to the iconic brand. Its fixturing was purpose-developed for Playboy, making the architectural elements “concepts” unto themselves, with furniture and fixtures inspired by Playboy iconography, enhancing the shopping experience.

Other design details that enable shoppers to immerse themselves in the Playboy lifestyle include a plasma-screen video wall featuring archival and contemporary footage. Evoking the sexiness of the Playboy brand, a stand-alone lingerie area offers Playboy's playful “Pink Label” and will house Playboy's sophisticated “White Label” lingerie collection, showcased on the mirrored tile walls and complemented with suede, quilted upper walls, mixing glam with softness. The elevated back of the store will feature Christopher Chronis’ exclusive “Playboy Icon” label. The exciting format and design of the store undoubtedly will be a destination point for shoppers throughout Australia.

**HERE ARE BEHIND-THE-SCENES PICTURES OF THE STORE**

We'll have an interview with the man behind the new store, Christopher Chronis, very soon.

**INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHER CHRONIS**

What does Playboy mean to Melbourne?

I think it will breathe some freshness as far as retail is concerned. Many people have been able to experience some of the Playboy merchandise through some surf stores, department stores and specialty stores, but this is going to be a very new offer. There will be a range of Playboy brand merchandise in one environment that basically personifies Playboy and the feel of Playboy.

How did the idea eventuate for a Playboy Concept Boutique?

We were fortunate enough to meet the Playboy people when there was a fashion exhibition here about eighteen months ago. Some of the entourage walked into my fashion store across the road from the new Playboy store in Chapel Street. Then Playmate of the Month, Sandra Hubby, was interested in purchasing a couple of dresses and I met them. She looked magnificent in my clothes and her entourage was interested in pursuing conversations about doing something with them in America. We put forward the idea of being able to be their retail licensee in Australia and to potentially design a range of evening wear under the Playboy brand. It started from there. Negotiations continued for about a year and now we are here. The store is in a fantastic location – in the hub of fashion in Melbourne. Chapel Street lends itself to the brand and the brand also gives a point of difference to Chapel Street as well.

What does this mean to you?

It was a positive breakthrough for our business. It’s the first time we’ve ever done a licensing gig, so it’s a new experience from that perspective. It’s allowed us to expand our horizons with the type of merchandise we can design. Playboy lends itself to bringing on products in very different categories apart from fashion. We’re designing under the icon brand, but we can also design shoes and accessories under that brand and be more creative with what we’re doing with our own products.

What type of accessories have you been licensed to make?

We’re actually bringing out a jewellery range, with diamonds and precious metals, like gold and silver. We’re releasing a small collection of Playboy pendants. We’ll also release a small shoe range. It’s a start, and then we plan to expand as we move along. It’s very exciting.

You might be able to expand into other States…

Well, this is a new beginning. Providing the store does well, we’ll look at expanding the retail around Australia, given the direction that Playboy Enterprises wish to take. That is our strategy.

Tell us a little about the shop, the team, and the hours of operation?

It will be normal hours for Chapel Street - weekdays 10.00am - 6.00pm, except Friday (10.00am - 9.00pm), Saturdays 10.00am - 6.00pm, and Sundays 11.30am - 5.30pm. We have a buyer for the brand, a design assistant working with me, and a retail team of ten. It’s been good for the employment factor too. It’s a fresh challenge to create a unique product range - different to what’s on offer elsewhere in the marketplace. The shop is a great site - approximately 250 square metres - a really good size, and it’s convenient that our offices are right above it. The thing to note is the appeal of being in Chapel Street. It is a unique place in Melbourne. Apart from the tourists that come here, you get the fashion conscious that always buy here. It tends to be cocooned from other areas. There is a good mix of retailers.

It would be great if you can attract special guests from the Playboy stable from time to time…

Yes, the great thing about Playboy Enterprises is that they bring forward to the table the assets that they have and we were able to have Tiffany Fallon here for our launch. Tiffany is the Playboy Playmate of the Year for 2005. She is a great ambassador for Playboy. Obviously, Playboy has a big association with American celebrities that endorse their product. They do offer that assistance when we need it.

Will you target a particular group of customers?

It’s a broad demographic. Currently, it’s working towards the 19 years-of-age group. We are pitching it towards a slightly higher end as we are bringing in some beautiful products from Italy and Britain. The eveningwear that we’re doing appeals to a maturer younger woman – more of a demographic of 18-30 years-of-age.

What are you offering for male customers?

With a lot of the fashion brands, it leans predominantly towards female, but we are offering a beautiful and wide range for men. It comprises tops, jeans, shirts, shoes, belts, and jewellery.

How are your own Christopher Chronis designs looking for this season?

We’re looking forward to the Spring Racing Carnival. It’s a very big part of the business. We have a few designs ready for the ladies at the big upcoming events and we prepared a few for the Brownlow Medal AFL Awards night. The Spring collection is in the store and the clothes are selling very well.

**PICTURES FROM THE STORE LAUNCH - by Matthew Deller**

The new Playboy Concept Boutique Christopher Chronis and wife Christine
Playboy Playmate of the Year 2005 - Tiffany Fallon
Tiffany Fallon Tiffany with Christopher and Christine Chronis
Tiffany with Johnny Knoxville
Johnny Knoxville with Christopher and Christine Chronis Tiffany and the girls
Tiffany with two of the store workers Store manager Lacey Wilson Brownlie
Christine Chronis and event MC Tottie Goldsmith Samantha, Stephen and Natalia
cocktail waitresses Melissa LeGear (second from left) and the PR girls
Andi Lew and Tiffany Fallon Tiffany with Jesse and Ella Hooper of Killing Heidi
Tiffany Fallon and Tottie Goldsmith the Playboy name was everywhere
the girl in the glass
party guests

Now, it's down to business. Make sure you visit the store at 447 Chapel Street, South Yarra. It's only the third of its kind in the world, after Tokyo and Las Vegas. There is a full collection of Playboy apparel, accessories and mens and women's lifestyle products. The exclusive Christopher Chronis eveningwear collection is available.