August 30 2014

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Three Pairs of Manolos Instead of Six: Todd Hanshaw’s Vegas Shopping Stories


A month ago, Vegas mogul Steve Wynn opened Encore, his new $2.3 billion hotel and casino. Attached to the Wynn, which set a new standard for Vegas luxury when it opened in 2005, Encore is in many ways an attempt to turn it up yet another notch. Its 11 brand-new boutiques include an ultraluxe Chanel and the world’s first stand-alone Rock & Republic. We know: crazy, right? We asked Wynn Resorts fashion director Todd Hanshaw to explain himself. The former retail director for Genny Group and director of stores for Marc Jacobs did so, happily, and in the process told us about recession-proof Nicholas Kirkwoods (in crocodile, no less) and the spending habits of the rich and richer.

It’s Sunday! You’re working?
I’m in Encore right now. The Wynn has its own magazine and today we’re shooting it. We’re talking about fashion as art and we just finished a shot of the Botero statue in the middle of Botero, the restaurant.

Fashion and art. A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine either in Vegas. How is the fashion scene different now and how does Wynn fit into it?
In our hotels there are people from all over the world. They know what’s going on and they have a very high taste level. I think the biggest problem here for a lot of people is stores talking down to them. There is a lot in the world beyond Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana.

Still, though, you’re not exactly selling clothes you’d find on Madison Avenue.
This is a resort, and this is a vacation. We’re not a place where someone is shopping for the black suit they’re wearing Monday through Friday. We’ve really made our mark in the market for having things that are special. Nobody in Vegas is going to make money selling things people can have anywhere else in the world.

It must be asked: How has the recession hit you?
I think the whole problem came a little later to Las Vegas than to the rest of the world, but it was more of a shock here because everyone was riding so high for so long.

How has it been affecting other upscale retail spots in town?
I have seen a lot of the smaller boutiques not doing so well here. For a long time, you could put a brown bag wrapped up in a bow in the middle of the floor and sell it. People sold clothes, rather than built a business, and that’s where you’re going to see fallout. But honestly, we really don’t have too much competition within Las Vegas. We consider our competition to be stores in New York and Paris and Milan.

People are buying less, obviously. Have you noticed shopping habits changing in subtler ways?
I think all you can really say is they’re buying a little bit less. Instead of buying six pairs of Blahniks, maybe they’re only buying three.

How do you keep people coming in?
We don’t want to alienate them. We’ll look to get the best deal for our customers, but we’re not going to forgo the Wynn image. Since I’ve been here, we’ve sold a runway finale gown from Gianfranco Ferré for $35,000. More recently, we sold a Nina Ricci gown last spring for $27,000. My point is that we still have that. Value is first and price
second. If there’s value in what you’re buying, price is secondary.

Any other standouts?
Nicholas Kirkwood made an amazing crocodile shoe for us at In Step that retails for $7,000, and right off the bat there was a woman who came in and bought both colors. In Ensemble, which we opened on December 22, Thomas Wylde has performed phenomenally. There’s hardly anything left.

Who are some of the other designers, besides Wylde, that you’ve introduced to Las Vegas?
At Outfit [in Wynn] we brought in William Tempest, the young designer from London. He’s had a great reception so far. At Ensemble, we have Vivienne Westwood, which you don’t find in Las Vegas, and Philipp Plein—and denim, like Notify, that no one else has because we buy the European collections. Our business is so strong worldwide that we travel a lot, which has helped because smaller stores can’t travel. It’s not within their means, especially at this time.

The shops in Encore are aimed at a younger, less conservative crowd than Wynn’s; did that require you to go places you hadn’t gone before?
I travel a lot, but I can trace everything I see back to New York, Paris, or Milan. I went through India and I met this woman who was so incredibly chic—everything she had came from Paris. I think it’s more about keeping your eyes open when you’re in those cities. Don’t just go out to dinner, but look at what people are wearing.

Photo: Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas