Paris-based luxury jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels has opened its first freestanding Canadian boutique in Toronto, with a second location to open in several months in Vancouver. The company’s focus on Canada will also include the opening of a new partner boutique at Birks in Toronto, next year.
The 1,560 square foot Toronto Van Cleef & Arpels boutique boasts a corner location in the ‘luxury wing’ at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The exterior features a dramatic gold-tone painted glass installation above the dark wood exterior, as well as a series of display windows carrying some six-figure-priced jewellery pieces. The store’s interior includes custom gold leaf hand painted wall coverings, sheer and velvet draperies, and crystal chandeliers, as well as a collection of black lacquered wood display vitrines, accented with metal and glass. The boutique features a private viewing salon at the back of the store for customers seeking privacy.
Alain Bernard, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels Americas, explained that the company chose its Yorkdale space because of its prominent corner location, as well as its proximity to other luxury brands in the mall. Rather than choose a larger space elsewhere in the centre, the Yorkdale Van Cleef & Arpels was created by taking over two smaller retail spaces — until a few months ago, the corner formerly housed an 860 square foot Swarovski boutique, and Crabtree & Evelyn had a 700 square foot shop next door.
Van Cleef & Arpels is owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont Group, which is also opening four luxury watch/jewellery boutiques across the hall. This summer, in retail space formerly occupied by Williams Sonoma, Richemont will open boutiques for Piaget, IWC Schaffhausen, Officine Panerai, and Vacheron Constantin.
Vancouver will be the next Canadian city to see a freestanding Van Cleef & Arpels, and the flagship is currently under construction. Mr. Bernard said that the 1069 Alberni Street store is expected to open towards the end of the year, depending on when construction is finished. The Vancouver flagship will be a special location for Van Cleef & Arpels — it’s the first time that the brand has built its own building from the ground up, with Van Cleef & Arpels spanning more than 4,000 square feet over two levels. A glass facade will provide ample natural light, and Mr. Bernard explained that the store’s interior will be different than the new Yorkdale unit. Vancouver luxury retail is seeing exceptional growth, and international retailers are addressing the city’s high-spending demographic with VIP-oriented flagships with private viewing rooms and other luxury amenities.
Mr. Bernard explained that Canada will likely only house two freestanding Van Cleef & Arpels boutiques (Yorkdale in Toronto and on Alberni Street in Vancouver) so as to not oversaturate the Canadian market. Toronto will see a new ‘partner’ Van Cleef & Arpels boutique on Bloor Street West next year, however, when renovations to Maison Birks at the Manulife Centre are completed in 2018. The new Birks-housed Van Cleef & Arpels will feature its own exterior entrance facing onto Bloor Street West, with approximately 1,500 square feet of retail space. The current Maison Birks will be closing temporarily (for about a year) and will move into part of Manulife Centre’s former William Ashley space, while the existing Birks space is rebuilt into a state-of-the-art one-level retail space.
Van Cleef & Arpels has had a partnership with Birks for over 10 years, with licensed boutiques operating in the Toronto and Vancouver flagships. The Vancouver Van Cleef & Arpels shop-in-store expanded to 1,435 square feet in early 2016, and it also features a street-front entrance (onto Granville Street) as well as access from within Birks.
Founded in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef and his brothers-in-law Charles and Julien Arpels on the Place Vendome in Paris, Van Cleef & Arpels is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious jewellery brands. Van Cleef & Arpels currently operates 13 freestanding locations in the United States. Cities include New York City, Bal Harbour FL, Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa CA, Chicago, Las Vegas (x2), Manhasset NY, Houston, Miami, Naples FL, Palm Beach FL, and Short Hills NJ. Noticeably absent are large cities with plenty of luxury brands such as San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, and Dallas. All of the latter four metro regions, with the exception of Boston, feature Van Cleef & Arpels shop-in-stores at Neiman Marcus.