You Sexy Thing

Victoria's Secret opens its biggest and baddest in the Forum Shops at Caesars
Posted July 27, 2006

Victoria's Secret and Las Vegas would seem to be the perfect match.

When the racy lingerie/lifestyle retailer finally opened in the Forum Shops at Caesars, then, little wonder that Victoria's Secret called it the biggest and baddest in the chain. The overriding theme is to titillate shoppers with glimpses from the catwalk and from "behind the scenes" of its notorious (pay-per-view available) fashion show.

To re-create the runway vibe, the entrance is dramatically dark, with theatrical lighting and neon. In the center, wearing the actual costume wings, a mannequin stands astride the end of a catwalk-like platform (reproducing the custom-Swarovski crystal trays), as if assuming the obligatory pose for the photographer's pit. Flat-screen monitors on either side of the entrance project the live show.

Stars of the show, no surprise, are the four supermodels featured in the catalogue and on the catwalk. As Jon Johnson, Victoria's Secret's vp, visual merchandising and store design, says, "We wanted to bring the supermodels to life."

Many of the mannequins are sculpted to resemble the living, breathing supermodels and, in fact, bear their names (Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum and Adriana Lima).

Flanking the entrances on the left and right are four windows featuring the fiberglass versions of the fabulous four. Their signatures are in neon and the silver-mirrored paillette curtains also feature their likenesses.

The store is composed of several different shops, catering to a variety of tastes, body types and price categories.

Immediately behind the winged mannequin at the entrance is a vaulted, 2000-square-foot makeup area. Pink neon races around the room. If this were a Renaissance ceiling, there would be goddesses and putti flying around. Instead, there are black-and-white "backstage" pictures of the Victoria's Secret goddesses, primping.

On many of the glass doors and mirrors are printed stories about the fab four and their adventures on the job for Victoria's Secret. It wasn't a casual decision to feature the familiar supermodels. According to Johnson, every store with these touches has shown a decided volume increase.

The pink neon and backstage images have become what Johnson calls "brand DNA." More faux-candid shots also line the changing room area. In a playful nod to the local floor-show biz, there's a neon sign above each changing room mirror commanding shoppers to "strip."

If, from the Forum Shops floor, a shopper chooses door No. 1 on the left, she enters the 400-square-foot "Sexy Little Things" chamber, which houses Victoria's Secret's more upscale line. Along one wall is a tic-tac-toe board of nine transparent tush mannequins flashing a variety of thongs. Here, as throughout the store, square footage was surrendered to create mood-establishing mannequin tableaus, to enforce what Johnson calls "the emotionality" and "story" of each room.

A mannequin reclines on a sleek, black leather daybed over a shag area carpet, surrounded by pink plush, shimmering black pillows and a low-hanging black glass chandelier – her canopy. Off to the side, another mannequin provocatively poses behind a semi-transparent scrim, wearing nothing but her glittering pasties, panties, thigh-highs and heels.

A big difference between the Vegas store and others in the 1000-unit chain is the amount of third-party merchandise, considerably more expensive than the in-house lines. Designer wear by Dolce & Gabbana, Pleasure State, Roberto Cavalli, Betsey Johnson and intimissimi elevate the trend urgency.

It's not just the mainstream fashion names from New York and Milan, either. A flamboyantly curtained-off area, announcing "For Adults Only" in sequins, has been styled after Amsterdam's sex shops, selling such "fantasy" props as eye masks, feather ticklers, wristcuffs and fetish-y designs from Yoba, Fishbelly, Spoylt and Luxe St. James.

Another separate shop is dedicated to the flirty frippery of French designer Chantal Thomass, her first "atelier" in the U.S. Riffing off the furniture and decor of her Parisian store, the effect is one of coquettishness. Here, the chandeliers are clear crystal, with ruched pink fabric chain covers. The furniture includes tufted pink satin cubes and an oval lounge chair. The tabletop fixtures are all pink Lucite, the curvy leg silhouettes caricatures of French antiques.

The mannequins crouch and flaunt their complicated bustiers – and derrières. An elevated alcove has a tufted upholstered backwall and mirrored side walls, housing a top-hatted mannequin in a go-go girl hip-thrust.

Tailored to the teenyboppers, there's Pink, the popular sportswear/casualwear line. For the opening, the mannequins wore punky dyed wigs with asymmetrical cuts and leaned against Pink-customized surfboards (which were later sold). On the walls is the Paris Hilton-esque koan: "Life is Pink is Life."

With the irreverence of rebels without a cause, the mannequins also hang out on the illuminated countertops, surrounded by ice cream-parlor stools upholstered in pink polka dotted fabric. As in other departments, Pink has its own theme pillows; these look like sleeping bag stuff-sacks, ready to go on a Eurailing summer vacation.

As if shoppers needed reason to venture deep into the store, the cashwrap is at the back. Panels of custom lace corset the wall.

The parting message? "I love Vegas," punctuated by a plump neon lipsmack.

Client: Limited Brands, Columbus, Ohio
Mark Nitkey, vp, store design and construction
Shirley Schmitter, director of design
Ed Hofmann, director prototype design
Ed Kunzelman, director of construction
Brian Ma, designer
David Heck, project manager
Sherri Schwieterman, purchasing manager
Van Shuff, senior purchasing agent
Becky Rousseau, purchasing brand manager
Christian Tobar, purchasing agent
Liz Elert, senior vp, visual merchandising
Jon Johnson, vp, visual merchandising
Anthony Battaglia, vp, project director visual merchandising
Kevin Houlihan, art director
James Jones, visual project manager
Traci Bentine, visual merchandise manager

Architect: McCall Design Group, San Francisco

General Contractor: Shrader Martinez Construction, Sedona, Ariz.

Outside Design Consultants: Grenald Waldron Associates, Narberth, Pa. (lighting)

Fixtures and Metalwork: SAJO, Montreal
Pinehurst Store Fixtures Inc., Mississauga, Ont.
L. T. Custom Furnishings, Vaughan, Ont.
WAM Industries, Toronto

Flooring: Innovative Marble & Tile Inc., Happauge, N.Y.

Furniture/Drapery: Retail Solution Center, Freeport, N.Y.
Martin Albert Interior, New York

Lighting: Capitol Lighting, Hartford, Conn.

Mannequins/Forms: Patina-V, City of Industry, Calif.
Adel Rootstein USA Inc., New York
Manniques Sempere, Castalla, Spain

Props, Decorations & Graphics: Photobition/Color Edge, New York
Martin Albert, New York

Signage: Ruggles Sign Company, Versailles, Ky.

Audio System: DMX Inc., Seattle

Wallcoverings & Materials: Maya Romanoff Corp., Chicago
Circle Fabrics, New York

Photography: Esto Photographics Inc., Mamaroneck, N.Y.