On a balmy day in July, Eliana Tranchesi stopped by the Balenciaga showroom in Paris to scrutinize the new season's handbags. With her honeyed mane, steely mien and enduring proclivity for body-skimming Dolce & Gabbana, Tranchesi is a familiar figure among the habitués of Europe's chicest ateliers. The Brazilian bombshell is the president and owner of Daslu, Latin America's most exclusive department store.
Situated in an upscale residential neighborhood in São Paulo, Daslu is a repository of Chanel jackets and Frette linens. What makes the store's unbridled luxury even more pronounced is the yawning chasm between the rich and the poor in Brazil. Daslu has no elaborate window displays à la Barneys the exterior resembles a bunker and the store is encircled by a phalanx of unsmiling security guards.
After a protracted debate over zoning regulations, the locals, tired of the parade of armor-plated Mercedes clogging their streets, have forced the retailer to pack its Louis Vuitton cases. If Tranchesi is bitter, she's far too preoccupied by Daslu's brand-new five-story building in Vila Olimpia, a commercial district, to show it. The new flagship will boast a champagne bar, a Japanese restaurant and even a real estate bureau, where clients can find pieds-à-terre in Miami and Rome. Pampered customers are waited on by the daughters of politicians and plutocrats, known as Dasluzetes, and a cadre of attendants in maid's uniforms folds clothes and serves espresso. Only at Daslu do female clients blithely disrobe in the aisles, since there are no fitting rooms to speak of (men are barred from the women's store).
Daslu devotees are not concerned that the store's intimacy will be lost in the sleek new environs. The biggest conundrum they face is what to wear to the new store's inauguration party.
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