Haute retailers hit P-town


Americans love the finer things in life, and Portlanders are no exception. Downtown secretaries scrimp to swing a Kate Spade handbag and a Tiffany charm bracelet, while loft-dwelling guys stock their bathroom shelves with pampering and pricey products. Flat-lining economy be damned. We know what we like, and we're willing to pay for it.

Taking notice of our maturing taste level, better national retailers are moving into the Rose City. Whether their wares are blatant status symbols or tried-and-true quality goods, their contributions are good news for a city that's growing up in a stylish fashion.

Quelle score for fans of the trs chic LV logo: Louis Vuitton, the French luxury leather goods company, will open its Pioneer Place doors sometime in late August. Vuitton's vice president of marketing, Heather Vandenberghe, promises Portlanders a wide selection of leather goods and shoes to indulge the champagne appetite.

Bags shown in Marc Jacobs' fall show will be available to luxe junkies, as will the red-haute Murakami bag. The bag, created by the Japanese artist of the same name, was a hit in white with a multicolored logo and now will be offered in black. Vandenberghe says that the 'papillon' style (a cylindrical shape) is the big seller in New York. Start saving now.

The French sportswear line Faonnable has gone platinum. Its new high-end women's line Platine (French for 'platinum') now is offered exclusively at Nordstrom.

When your mama told you that you get what you pay for, this is what she was talking about. For fall, a pair of high-waisted cashmere trousers look right at home with a long, pinstriped wrap coat and a sheer silk blouse. Listen, the coat may be $1,600, but you will hand it down to your daughter someday if she's lucky.

Nice, France-based designer Karl Flotat is the man behind the Faonnable line, available exclusively at 15 Nordstrom stores nationwide. Find it in Collectors, where it's right at home with designers including Missoni, Armani and Donna Karan.

Gobs of free samples and a money-back guarantee on its stellar products? It can only be Kiehl's Since 1851. The New York-based retailer, whose skin and hair products are renowned and coveted worldwide, will open July 18 at 712 N.W. 23rd Avenue, just a couple of doors north of Rich's Cigar Store. This is only the seventh Kiehl's store nationwide. Kiehl's spokeswoman Gracia Walker says Portland is a prime market for the company, which got its start as an East Village apothecary.

'We look for areas that are a good match for Kiehl's alternative, health-conscious and community-minded attitude,' she says. 'Portland is a good fit for us.'

Best known for items like its purse-essential Lip Balm #1 and the beloved hair styling aid Creme with Silk Groom, Kiehl's is also changing its products with the times. The company was one of the first to introduce a facial moisturizer with the powerful antioxidant known as lypocene and is addressing the booming baby and sun-protection markets.

Hold on it gets better: Kiehl's prices are remarkably fair for products that do what they say they're going to do. A beefy, 8-ounce bottle of its Ultra Facial Moisturizer is $32; its famous lip balm is $7.

Meanwhile, some national retailers with Portland stores are refining their approach, now taking the high road instead of the middle of it.

After years of trying unsuccessfully to woo the tight-abbed Abercrombie & Fitch consumer, J. Crew is going back to its roots. The company's relaunch occurs on July 20.

Expect to find the Italian-made suits, barn jackets and signature roll-neck sweaters that made J. Crew the retailer to watch when it started in 1983. 'It's all about upgrading quality, first and foremost,' says J. Crew public-relations flack Corinna Sokolovskaya.

Mickey Drexler, ex-president of the Gap, took the helm in January, replacing Emily Woods, daughter of company founder Arthur Cinader. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is: Drexler's first act as president was to pour $10 million of his own money into the company.

The least that Portlanders can do is give a little of it back to him.

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