Observer News Service

Moscow:

Once a capital city of grim department stores and long food queues, Moscow is hitting the retail big time as it prepares for the arrival of a curvy starlet with a penchant for expensive designer clothes, pink diamonds and fiances. The allure of Moscow’s new money has persuaded Jennifer Lopez to open her first boutique store in the city. The J Lo by Jennifer Lopez store will open in an exclusive ‘millionaires’ mall on May 31 when the singer flies in to publicise the latest extension of her global brand, aimed at the capital’s richest 12- to 25-year-old girls. The Moscow shop is the first of her new ‘boutique’ stores to open, and will try to create an ‘interactive’ shopping experience, using plasma screen TVs constantly displaying Lopez’s image, huge sofas, and music booths playing her records.

It has been seen as a bid to cash in on the desires of ‘Novi Ruskis’ — the derogatory term for the handful of Russians grown extraordinarily wealthy from playing the nascent free market — in a city where a hundred thousand people are homeless. A press release for the fashion show that will officially open the store reads: ‘Moscow for Jennifer represents the ultimate in beauty, luxury and culture.’ There were, however, fears that Lopez might cancel her visit over security concerns. Her handlers were reportedly put off by the high number of suicide bombings, blamed on Chechen extremists, that have recently blighted the Russian capital. Tatyana Stoliarskaya, spokeswoman for Crocus City Mall, where the store will open, said it was not yet certain if Lopez would make it to Moscow. She added that the 300 square metre store will contain a range of J Lo by Jennifer Lopez products, from clothes, to jeans, belts, jewellery and sunglasses. “We are launching a new lingerie line that is extremely beautiful,” she said. “There will be a swing chair and girls are expected to come with their friends to have a good time.”

The Crocus City Mall, a huge complex on a highway outside of central Moscow, is already home to Calvin Klein and Ungaro shops. It will be closed to the public if Lopez attends the opening. The J Lo brand is expected to sell about $375 million this year and the Moscow store promises to sell clothes that Moscow’s burgeoning middle class can also afford, starting at $50 for a pair of jeans. Yet Lopez’s personal tastes for Gucci, Dolce and Gabana will be greatly at home in Moscow, where a few smart streets are littered with select boutiques. Burberry opened a store in Moscow last month and Gucci, Fendi, Chanel, Hermes and YSL all have stores in the city. A recent survey by Forbes magazine showed that Moscow has more billionaires in it than any other city in the world, 33 living in the Russian capital. Only 31 billionaires live in New York.