Monday, May 30, 2011

The Artful Blogger Goes Shopping: Daslu, Saõ Paolo

Do you remember the theme song to Cheers? It’s famed for being the place to go “where everybody knows your name”. The idea is that the bartenders know your drink and you’re in a safe haven. It’s an atmosphere for friends to gather.

At Daslu, they don’t just bring you your drink. If everyone there knows your name, then they also bring you racks of designer clothing, electronics, appetizers and shoes.
Versailles in the jungle? No, it's Daslu's
flagship store.
The famed Daslu is described by many as perhaps the ultimate luxury shopping experience. Located in Saõ Paolo, Brazil, the shop is the brainchild of Brazilian socialite Lúcia Piva de Albuquerque Tranchesi. Seeing a lack of major luxury goods available in her city, the native Paulista brought Brazilian haute couture to the capital city by showcasing the latest high fashion in her home. The very name “Daslu” is a colloquialism that loosely means “Lu’s place”. In the afternoon hours, she would invite her wealthy socialite friends to peruse the collections and allow them to purchase these items. Eventually, the idea and the merchandise stock grew, and a gigantic new shop was opened away from the Tranchesi home.

Today, Daslu’s flagship store is housed in a massive 180,000 square foot complex not too far from its original location. (They also have a smaller retail space in the Morumbi neighbourhood). Intended as an oasis for the mega-wealthy to shop in peace, Daslu has an otherworldly quality, but boasts an intimacy with its customers and availability of luxury merchandise that is nearly unheard of anywhere else in the world. Tranchesi’s philosophy was to cultivate its client base by getting to know her shoppers and their families well, and to foster brand loyalty as their families grow and children become enterprising, fashionable young consumers into adulthood. Tranchesi's daughter Eliana, who took over the business in 1983 after her mother’s passing, has continued that philosophy. The idea is that their clients are their friends. It makes for a far less impersonal connection between customer and merchant.

VIP Shopping Lounge
The Daslu complex requires customers to pass through two security gates before setting foot in the building. Almost nobody arrives on foot, and public transportation doesn’t exactly drop off busloads of tourists at the front door. Upon arrival, each guest’s regular salesgirl – known as Dasluzettes – greets the shopper at the front entrance and, if the customer is a returning client, then the Dasluzete will have already arranged for a private VIP shopping salon containing clothes of the latest finds. These are usually tailored to the customer’s tastes and brand preferences. (It goes without saying that price is not a barrier to a sale.) Valets take care of your vehicle as you alight and step into Daslu. The shop is not so much a building so much as it is, scale-wise, the Brazilian version of Versailles. The motif is Renaissance, but an intimate feel is apparent as the merchandise is well-displayed in long mazes of interconnected drawing-rooms. 

Women's apparel, second floor
While shopping, the apron-clad staff is busy ferrying clothes to the boutiques and picking up garments, and also serving coffee or tea to guests. The level of intimacy is heightened because the Dasluzetes are amongst Saõ Paolo’s young fashionistas, and attend the same functions that their clients do after-hours. This provides Daslu with priceless Intel, as the Dasluzete (and by extension the store) knows what her customer already owns, where those clothes were worn, and allows them to carefully weigh and consider the suggested merchandise for the customer's next fashionable event. In other words, customer service is at a level where the gift of anticipating a client’s needs and wants, combined with powerful hands-on research, helps the Dasluzete make informed choices on what merchandise to present to their clientele. This powerfully impacts the next purchase decision, as the Dasluzetes seem to know just what the customer needs. They even have their own Twitter page

As you can imagine, all of the world’s greatest luxury goods are represented, including Chanel, D&G, Gucci, Prada, Christian Dior, Balmain and the like. They also carry American mid-range mass-produced brands such as Gap and Banana Republic. This is a selection that is not unlike that you would find at Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harvey Nichols or TSUM. But the selection and superlative customer service, like these other luxury shops, don’t end there.

Fashion show in the salon
In addition to the couture, Daslu’s unprecedented customer service is so pervasive that they give new meaning to the term “lifestyle store”. Clients can also purchase computers from the in-house Apple store, fill prescriptions at their pharmacy, get a facial at their spa, get your hair done in their beauty salon, and test-drive vehicles. What? Yes, Daslu has luxury car dealerships, with Ferraris displayed right in the store. They also proudly display their corporate-branded helicopter, which is also available for purchase. (Certainly not an impulse purchase at the register.) Yes, they have a helipad on the roof, in case you want to get to the store without having to brave the legendary Saõ Paolo traffic jam. Daslu also has daycare for employees’ children, a sushi bar, fine dining restaurant, ballroom, and wedding chapel. It is not by accident that the bridal registry is not far off from the chapel, and as this New York Times article attests, Paulista socialites can get married in the department store and hold the reception there as well. The bride and groom fly away happily ever after from the helipad. And if you want to stay and party, Daslu turns into a lounge and nightclub every Tuesday, which gives the fashionable partygoer with no good excuse not to appear in a good outfit or claim that you "have nothing to wear" because, well, you can buy it at the club before you go in.

Men's collection, third floor
And as with other luxury stores, there is no need to carry around designer shopping bags with the name of the store emblazed for all to see, because your purchases are brought down to the car, which is waiting for you at the front entrance at the end of your visit.

Like TSUM in Moscow, Daslu has its own in-house TV channel showcasing designer and luxury goods available for purchase. Their corporate website shows off the dazzling fashion shows done in-house, and showcase not only the most well-known international brands, but also Brazilian fashion designers and hard-to-find labels such as Japan’s Horiyoshi III, which is currently displaying their spring / summer 2011 collection in Daslu.

To give the reader an idea of the space, here is a video with artist’s rendering of the complex, with a “virtual” tour:

Daslu is not without its share of controversy. In particular, the younger Ms. Tranchesi and her brother were sentenced to an astonishing 94.5 years in prison for, amongst other crimes, tax evasion. The beleaguered company has also been criticized for opening its location next to Saõ Paolo’s most prominent Shantytown, Coliseu. Nevertheless, Daslu’s corporate philosophy, founded by the late Mrs. Tranchesi, continues to inform its business activities and the privately-held company performs well despite the global economic downturn.

For a more personal account of a typical visit, read American fashion writer Dana Thomas's detailed visit to Daslu, as related in her excellent history of the modern couture industry entitled Deluxe: or How Luxury Lost Its Luster. Put that on your essential reading for the summer of 2011.

Daslu's flagship store is located at: Av. Chedid Jafet 131, Saõ Paulo, Saõ Paulo 04551 - 065, Brazil. It is open seven days a week from 10 am to 8 pm, with the exception of Tuesdays, when the lounge keeps the flagshop store open until 10 pm. For more information, you can look them up on their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and visit their corporate site.Telephone: +55 11 3841 4000.