You might as well call Houston "Bling City."
Even with oil prices hovering around $40 a barrel, international jewelers are flocking to the new River Oaks District luxury mixed-use shopping center.
Amid a whirlwind of construction throughout the 15-acre complex, Cartier opened a lavish new 6,000-square foot boutique on Thursday. Workers cleared a street from a nearby parking garage to the store for customers while the rest of the center looked like a large construction zone with bulldozers, orange cones and a sea of hard hats. (A sizable portion of the retail complex is slated to open October 1.)
Even amid the controlled chaos, a valet parking attendant stood guard near the store for those drivers who didn't want to use the garage. Valet and self-parking are available at the Kettering Drive entrance into the complex off of Westheimer, inside the 610 Loop.
A little construction dust wasn't going to bother loyal customers, who found their way to the store and were eagerly scoping out the merchandise, including one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and items from the Paris Nouvelle Vague jewelry collection never previously shown in Texas. One necklace in the window is inspired by the famous "lock bridge" in Paris. Shoppers included a young couple looking for an engagement ring and a well-heeled older couple looking at a panther ring and necklace.
The new store, designed by Bruno Moinard and executed by Gensler, is bathed in brown, gold, bronze and beige tones, with a large teardrop crystal chandelier at the entrance, highlighting cases filled with unique items from the French jeweler, including the Amulette de Cartier, Panthére de Cartier, Juste un Clou and orchid collections. Separate salons feature a large collection of watches, engagement and wedding rings, accessories and private viewing rooms.
Just down the boulevard, past the new Hermés store scheduled to open in mid-October, a gigantic Harry Winston jewelry store is under construction. A large two-story building is encased in fabric announcing the store's arrival sometime in the future. Sources say the building will be made over into a new space that rivals the Harry Winston store on New York's Fifth Avenue. Construction will take at least five months, with a planned February opening at River Oaks District.
Other top jewelers headed to the center are the French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, the Swiss jeweler Chopard, and Dallas-based jeweler de Boulle, which will carry their private line of jewelry, The de Boulle Collection, and world-renowned Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe.