November 21, 2014

Elegance of the Bay

As a mixed-use development, Bayfront, near downtown Naples, certainly has all the elements for success. Charming multi-hued Mediterranean condominiums perch atop glamorous retail establishments and restaurants, giving their owners lovely views of Naples Bay and the Gordon River, along with easy pedestrian access to luxury shops and a clutch of restaurants, both chic and casual.

The homeowners (60 percent are year-round residents) tend to be DINKS (double income, no kids) in the age range of 45-60-ish and are either working or semi-retired. These folk are well traveled and accustomed to the finer things in life. They've already paid anywhere from $250,000 to nearly a million for their elegant sky- box homes. Now they need to furnish the places and entertain graciously. So they crave up-market shops, the kind one can browse in Los Angeles along Rodeo Drive or in South Beach, Miami, or, of course, in Paris or Barcelona. Bayfront offers 70,000 square feet of luxury retail space and not a bit of it is wasted, if gorgeous expensive stuff is what you covet.

The Bayfront ownership, Stoneburner Companies, has read the market and responded with something innovative for Naples, a Valentino boutique and a Cerruti one, too, as well as Jennings (the crystal giftware, chandeliers and Versace china are to die for), Blue Diamond Jewelers, Clockworks, JIKI Monte Carlo Collections, Robert of Philadelphia and more. The whole complex is somewhat modeled on Mizner Park in Boca Raton, although the housing there is rental only, while here it's condominium ownership.

Cerruti City

Getting this boutique ready was no small undertaking. The legendary Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti dictated how the boutique must look, how the display cases had to be crafted and arranged, how the clothes must be displayed. The boutique is sleek and modern, just like Cerruti's clothes for men and women. Stone floor, tall sand-blasted glass doors on the dressing rooms. There's high- tech lighting and black, built-in display cases that make the rooms seem like a museum of modern art. Negative space is the major element. Clothes on racks or in cases have lots of room to breathe and to impress. Even the shopping bags were produced in Italy and sent to the Naples store.

Cerruti price tags are tastefully hidden deep within all the garments and, honestly, if you have to pull one out to check it, you're probably in the wrong store. Men's shirts are about $140, neckties about $120. A tropical-weight cashmere man's blazer costs about $900 and once you touch it, you'll believe it's worth every Euro or American dollar. The stitching is perfection and the fabric is the finest.

Women's clothes start at about $400 and include a nice array of silk and cotton trousers, kid leather jackets, chiffon and silk skirts, featherweight sheer blouses and lovely gala gowns that run into the thousands of dollars. People who buy here understand the quality that comes with a Cerruti garment , and they want nothing less. While most of the fabrics are natural, Cerruti is a fan of the new microfibers and he uses a bit of Lyrca and other synthetics to give extra shape and cling to certain designs.

No detail is overlooked by the Italian designer, whose dynasty started in 1881 when Nino Cerruti's grandfather established a textile mill. Today, the fashion part of the company is a $500 million business headquartered in Paris. Cerruti is synonymous with world-class tailoring and attention to minuscule detail (the three buttons on the cuff of a tuxedo jacket have working button holes). The Cerruti boutique at Bayfront showcases two lines. The 1881 is sophisticated, classic tailored and modern. Prices start about $350 for women and a somewhat less for men. The Arte collection is priced higher and is a more detailed couture look. Very high fashion.

Valentino Has Our Fashion Hearts

The 2,800-square-foot Valentino boutique, which enjoys a commanding corner location at Bayfront, sets a standard for all other stores in the area. It's one of only fivesuch Valentino stores in the United States. The others are in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Florida. The Naples store is breathtakingly beautiful in its refined simplicity, from the hand-rubbed Venetian glazed plaster walls to the lavish dressing rooms, which feature original Swedish-designed soft wool carpets, gentle lighting, textured silk walls, art, robes and a plush modern sofa- you could be tempted to forget trying on the dress and just lie down for a nap.

From its black cabinetry to the sand blasted back-lit glass niches, the boutique was designed to Valentino's specifications by Studio de Architecture in Milan. Various kinds of leather seating-benches, ottomans, chairs-are arranged for client convenience, and fine art throughout the gallery is intermingled with delicate, bejeweled high-heeled sandals, leather and beaded handbags and diaphanous gowns that are themselves works of art. Susan Pfeil Coleman is the proprietress of the boutique.

The great Italian designer Valentino Garavani literally put Italian fashion on the world map. Born in Voghera in Northern Italy, he apprenticed under Guy Laroche in Paris in 1950 but bravely returned to Italy nine years later to establish his own atelier in Rome, a city then considered a crude outpost of the fashion world.

Fate came gliding into town in the person of film goddess Elizabeth Taylor who was in Rome filming Cleopatra. She noticed the clothes of the young designer, ordered some for herself and then introduced Valentino to all of Hollywood. The rest has been history for that movie town and for many other cities in America. Currrent stars who clamor for Valentino gowns include Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Elizabeth Hurley and Anjelica Huston. Valentino did Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress when she married Aristotle Onassis in 1968.

Although his reputation is primarily in women's feminine clothing (clear, bright red is his signature color), Valentino has a thriving menswear business that attracts Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt and lots of discriminating men in Naples, Florida, too.

Besides the sleek and extravagant men's and women's clothing, do check out the sets of luggage. These suitcases are so beautiful you'd never dream of abandoning them to airline personnel.

Bacchus of Naples

Located on the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street (how chi-chi can you possibly get!) Bacchus of Naples is a retail wine store and gift gallery, not to be confused with Bacchus & Co. Bistro in Fort Myers. It is so lovely and so innovative in its calming modern interior that it earned a top award from the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for the store's architects, Architectural Network. That makes Bacchus owners David Contreras and Susan Essen proud indeed, since they helped design their little contemporary palace of spirits and pretty things. There's even a waterfall cascading over wavy glass that is tucked into the display cabinetry for a pleasant surprise.

Actually, everything about Bacchus is a pleasant surprise. Chief among those surprises is the line of Italian sterling silver from Pampaloni, a company that has been hand crafting silver since 1905, most of it based on the designs of Roman artist Giovanni Maggi, a painter, glass and crystal artist who worked in the early 1600s. Objects range from $200 for an urn to about $15,000 for a coffee set. You could acquire a nice little caviar bowl for $1,500 or a set of six ice cream bowls (with spoons) for $1,050. The store got the collection because Essen is herself a collector and went to Florence to acquire an agreement to carry the line in Florida.

This Italian sterling is identifiable by its heavy weight, a figural base on many of the pedestal objects and the wonderful textural surface treatments of repose or hammering. A lot of people collect this particular kind of Italian silver and are thrilled to find it at Bacchus. If you've never seen any, it's worth a trip to the store to experience it. The Pampaloni sterling is dramatically displayed behind glass with special lighting.

The silver has made Bacchus a destination for wedding gifts, but if you're in the market for other kinds of gifts or luxury items for your own home, do stop to admire Wendy Reed's hinged enamel jewel boxes that range in price from $250 to $500. The store also carries Faberge sterling and glassware, Murano glass stemware ($80 each) and wine decanters and fine leather goods from the artist George Lappas, who works in Argentina. The Moser crystal glasses in the Splendid pattern of 1910 cost about $225 each, but you must remember these gold-banded goblets are also in the china cabinet of Queen Elizabeth II and the kings of both Spain and Norway.

And, of course, at Bacchus of Naples you know you will find vintage and new wines, some of the bottles personally autographed by winemakers such as Clarke Swanson, Stefan Daniels and Bob Long. And you might want to acquire rare spirits, such as a $5,500 bottle of brandy from the Emperor Napoleon's private stash. The precious liquid rests in a genuine Rene Lalique bottle. Is anybody really ever going to open such as bottle?

Bacchus stocks 1,100 labels of wine and 400 other spirits including 50 different single malt scotches and an $800 bottle of 1934 port as well as Zaya 12-year-old rum from Guatamala, quite reasonably tagged at $40.

There are other bargains, too, and one of them is the nation's trendiest new bottled water- Voss, from Norway. The water is bottled in a slim modern clear cylinder so simple and lovely that once you've chugged the aqua, you'll definitely want to save the container to use as a vase. Now, that's a good deal.

Fancy Nancy Knows Her Naples Shopper

Another good deal in Naples is the $60 French microfiber bra called Nuage that clever Nancy Abbass can hardly keep in her Third Street boutique in Naples called Fancy Nancy's. You wear this bra under a light filmy see-through blouse or a loose weave sweater when you want to appear that you're not wearing lingerie at all but want the support and the contouring of an underwire bra. I'm telling you, this thing works. The look of just skin, the protection of a high-performance bra.

If you think you wouldn't pay $60 for a bra that doesn't weigh more than a feather, try this one on first and you'll decide to whip out your credit card. Abbass also sells a similar bra that is filled with water and has clean plastic straps. It's for under-endowed femmes who want a little more, shall we say, confidence with their simply skin look.

That Abbass really knows her Naples shopper. In business for 10 years, this former school teacher in Colombia, South America, has always had her heart in the fashion world. Even when she was getting her master's degree in business, worked at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus just for fun. Finally, she decided to follow her passion and when she and her airline pilot husband settled in Naples (where Abbass' parents had retired) as a wonderful place to raise two children, Abbass combined her business expertise with her fashion knowledge and contacts. Because Abbass lived and traveled to Central and South America so often (this Georgia girl is fluent in Spanish) she looks for unusual lines from those places and from Spain. Of course, she does the shows in Paris and New York, too. A new Spanish line from Isabel De Pedro is a winner. Shirts and tops range from $300 to about $500 and they are very fashion-forward and sexy. And a pair of capri pants from Australia that features different doors (yes, doors like your front door) in blues and golds is a hot seller. Go figure.

Abbass says the typical Naples shopper is traditional and sometimes needs a gentle push to move away from conservative styles and safe colors. "My Naples lady has a closet full of elegant black gala clothes and neutral daytime clothes, but last year I sensed a change," she says. "Women decided they wanted to break out of the sea of black and they began asking for color. I was there with plenty of it."

Abbass says the favorite color in Naples is unquestionably lime-green. "Light lime, bold lime, screaming lime, Naples loves lime," she declares. "And that's good. Lime is perfect in this intense sun and actually looks good on most people. It's a good, happy color." Other shades on the horizon for spring and summer? "Soft periwinkle, lots of pink, bright bold prints galore and metallics," says the fashion expert. "We'll be seeing a lot of colored bead jewelry at varying lengths and capri pants are here to stay for a while." OK, so now you know. It's time to go shopping.