Fashion TV Opening a Club in St. Petersburg

Fashion TV, the only 24-hour cable television channel dedicated to fashion, will open its first bar in Russia as citizens in the world's seventh-most-populous country become richer.

Fashion Bar, a 350-square-meter bar and lounge run under a franchise agreement, will open this weekend in St. Petersburg, the country's second-largest city, FTV Managing Director Fran?ois Thiellet said by telephone from Paris. Patrons will mostly be people who watch the channel, more than 40 percent of whom are "high income" earners, FTV said on its web site.

Luxury companies such as LVMH Mo--t Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Bentley Motors, which offers cars starting at $250,000, are expanding in Russia, as six years of economic growth boost incomes and create more billionaires. The country has 17 billionaires, behind only the United States, Germany and Japan.

"Russia has a booming economy and it's getting better every month," Thiellet said. "There is clearly a market for upscale places."

Fashion TV, created in 1997, reaches more than 300 million households worldwide and has 12 bars, including one in Kiev.

Russian salaries grew by more than a quarter in dollar terms last year, when the economy grew more than 7 percent.

Fashion TV may seek to open a bar in Moscow, where the industry is more competitive, if the St. Petersburg venture is successful, Thiellet said. Fashion TV designs and delivers furniture and fittings, including built-in television screens, for the franchised bars. The outlets may host fashion shows and concerts that are later shown on Fashion TV.

Jimmy Choo, the London-based maker of fashion shoes founded by Tamara Mellon in 1996, opened its first boutique in Moscow last year, joining companies such as Gucci Group in the capital. The Choo boutique is on Stoleshnikov Pereulok, known in Moscow as "boutique lane" and home to Louis Vuitton and Herm?s International stores.

"We would be interested in opening a club in Moscow, and we are already in touch with a potential partner," FTV's Thiellet said.

Fashion TV has a growing audience in Russia as the country's fashion industry grows, Thiellet said.

"There is a fashion scene in Russia and it's not just beautiful girls," he said. "There are more and more talented Russian designers and that just wasn't the case four or five years ago."

Russian-born models who have experienced success abroad include Natalia Vodianova, who has advertised Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Gucci products, and Natalia Semanova, who in 1999 advertised Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume and was on the cover of the French edition of Vogue.

Bentley, a unit of Volkswagen AG, last year opened a showroom less than a mile from the Kremlin in the city's most exclusive shopping district, where Muscovites can buy $10,000 evening gowns from Giorgio Armani and $1,000 Gucci handbags.