May 16, 2012 11:31 am

Exclusive clientele pay thousands to browse high-end merchandise

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Vancouver’s one per cent have a new place to spend their millions.

Starting Wednesday, wealthy members of Colton’s Personal Couture
will pay $25,000 upfront to shop the couture brands by appointment in a
private showroom stocked with their favourite luxury labels. Of the
annual fee, $7,500 goes to membership dues, and the $17,500 balance is
store credit. “Fashion confidantes” will guide them toward clothes and
accessories that look classy and tasteful, and that suit their
lifestyle.

More than 400 people, culled from the client
lists of private bankers and luxury car dealers, have already expressed
interest in the concept.

But at first, the club – Owned by
Howard Colton – will only accept 200 clients, gradually increasing to
400 as they iron out new-business kinks.

It will primarily
cater to the Asian population which, as Colton said, love brands and
love to shop, but can benefit from the guidance of fashion experts.

Even
the super-rich need help navigating trends and putting together a

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personal style, Colton said, adding that he believes $25,000 isn’t a
barrier for the clientele he will serve.

The establishment
of the club – which also provides clients with a personal limousine
service so they can travel to and from the showroom – indicates the
changing retail landscape of the city. Twenty-five years ago, Leone was
the only luxury brand store in Metro Vancouver. But in recent years,
Tiffany, Coach, Hermes and The Room at the Bay have opened to cater to
the high-end consumer.

As the principle partner and luxury Italian supplier of the online retailer BlueFly.com,
Colton has well-established connections to European design houses. But
this is not another BlueFly.com, he said. He wanted to create a new
business that has a more personal touch.

“I wanted to do it in a more bespoke kind of way,” he said, emphasizing that this is not a typical retail shopping experience.

“We
don’t want 5,000 people to come through every day like Holt Renfrew,
Leone or Boboli. We want one-on-one. And that we should become their
fashion confidantes.”

Colton also understands that even the
very rich love a deal. So his mark-up is lower than usual. He’ll make
his money on the membership fees.

The club is in a
Richmond, B.C. penthouse that Colton has transformed into a luxurious
personal fashion showroom. Chandeliers adorn every room and it boasts
over $500,000 in merchandise, including unique Alexander McQueen
clutches and a $50,000 handbag by Hermes.

Wearing his
limited edition $60,000 Frank Muller watch, jeans and patent red shoes,
Colton proudly showed off his space. He pointed out the zebra wood
cabinet in the men’s department in which all the drawers are lined with
suede and Tom Ford and Etro hang on the custom-made hangers. The women’s
area boasts a small shoe section and lots of wonderful bags by Miu Miu,
Prada, Gucci and Balenciaga. The clothing range will expand as they
come to know their clients’ sizes and preferences, he said. When a
client visits, his or her preferred brands will be displayed.

“We dress the showroom according to the preferences of the client but we will try to nudge them a little sideways.”

Yvette
Cartier, a resident of New York and Montreal, heard about the club from
a friend. An investment banker, she describes herself as a “big shopper
who likes select merchandise.”

“I am not a Holt Renfrew
shopper,” she said. “I shop abroad to buy every season, but it can be
difficult because sometimes what I want is sold out.”

She
said she was very impressed with the merchandise she saw at Colton’s.
“It was very edited and very beautiful.” Cartier spent her full store
credit in one visit and said she would do it again. She doesn’t care if
she gets a discount. She just wants the goods.

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