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The Globe and Mail

Luxury retail locations make Shan's bikini brand stand out

With a factory store in Quebec and exclusive store locations elsewhere, Shan showcases its quality swimsuits and accessories

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To promote brand awareness, swimwear maker Shan has built a factory, showroom and boutique on a prominent highway location at its home base in Laval, Que. The sleek grey-and-glass building, designed by acclaimed Montreal architect Renée Daoust, cements Chantal Lévesque’s position as an award-winning international fashion manufacturer and retailer.


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The Shan factory store is not your average roadside shopping experience. Flooded with natural light, the 2,700-square-foot boutique is meant to show off Shan’s signature form-fitting bathing suits and matching cover-ups made from the finest printed silks and embellished with metal hardware imported from Italy.


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Not meant for daily laps in the pool, the fashion-forward swimwear is designed to be noticed at poolside, or on the deck of a yacht. Ms. Lévesque received a designer of the year award at the Mode City Show in Paris in 2011. Equivalent to an industry Oscar, this was validation for her 25-year-old Canadian brand, which beat out 600 other swimwear and lingerie companies from around the world.


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Ms. Lévesque credits her factory on the highway, which employs about 100, for enabling Shan to make a splash wherever it is sold. “When you build a factory with air conditioning, when you invest in your employees, you build your brand.”


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Sold through 500 retail locations worldwide, including luxury department stores such as Harrods, the Quebec firm has also started several stand-alone retail locations like this one on Montreal’s Crescent Street, famous for its designer boutiques. Shan acknowledges it’s not cheap to lease prestigious space. But managing the real estate is part of creating greater visibility for the Shan brand.


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Interior of the Montreal store. Tops and bottoms sell separately, starting at about $225 a piece, all made according to the highest standards of haute couture. There is also a line for men. Accessories such as wide-brimmed hats, flowing tunics and ultra-suede totes easily push a Shan swimsuit purchase into four figures.


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The stand-alone Shan store in Miami. More than 70 per cent of Shan’s swimwear business is overseas. “More Shan product is now being sold in Russia than in the U.S.,” Shan vice-president Jean-François Sigouin notes.


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At 2,000 square feet, Shan’s recent choice of a Yorkville location, at the base of a luxury condominium building in Toronto, is large by luxury retail standards.“It is a lot of space for such a small item of clothing as a bathing suit,” Mr. Sigouin says. “But we felt we had to be here to make ourselves better known as a luxury brand. For us, it is a destination store, a jewel in the crown.”


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