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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bvlgari Turns to Halliwell to Hit Right Note

MTFresh from Los Angeles, British pop singer Geri Halliwell arriving at the grand opening of Italian jeweler Bvlgari's new $60 million superstore on Tretyakovsky Proyezd.
Bill Gates is a client, so is Nicole Kidman, and the king of Spain likes to pop in now and again for a browse.

Bvlgari is a jeweler to the stars, so for the opening of its new $60 million superstore on Tretyakovsky Proyezd, it was never going to make do with a 10 percent discount and a glass of bubbly.

Instead, British pop singer Geri Halliwell was flown in from Los Angeles to open the store and to sing at a private dinner in the Kremlin on Wednesday for 500 of Moscow's wealthiest jewelry lovers.

Wearing a backless black dress, showing off a tattoo on her lower back, Halliwell was the star attraction at the crowded opening of the Italian jeweler's latest store Tuesday night.

Moscow celebrities and would-be Bvlgari customers swarmed for a peek at the former Spice Girl as she toured the store accompanied by a posse of bodyguards and mobbed by cameramen and photographers. Admittedly there had been less enthusiasm or crowds on the street as she was driven in her chauffeured car at full speed onto the pavement outside the store: Only one lone voice shouted, "We love you Geri. You're the best."

As well as a celebrity guest list including MTV presenters Shelest and Tutta Larssen and pop group Ivanushki International, the store opening was attended by hordes of nouveau riche and prominent businessmen like Umar Dzhabrailov, making it seem at times like a bodyguards' convention. One was left holding a frilly white handbag as his sylph-like charge swanned around among the champagne and vol au vents in a special marquee set up for the occasion.

Halliwell herself was not on a shopping spree Tuesday but she did receive a gold necklace as a present before she left the store.

Bvlgari, which is pronounced Bulgari but spelled with a v, joins other elite jewelers like Tiffany that have already opened major stores in Moscow. It is one of the last of the most famous jewelry stores to open on designer-crazy Tretyakovsky Proyezd.

"Bvlgari is one of the six most famous jewelers in the world," said Natalya Korovina, editor of Jewelry World, a bimonthly industry magazine, who was present at the store opening. "Its reputation as a jeweler is extremely high."

"This is a flagship store," said Francesco Trapani, the general director of Bvlgari and great-grandson of the 19th-century founder of the store, adding that it compared in size with the company's New York and Rome stores.

"This is a country where a certain number of people have had success," he said, one of Bvlgari's latest watches flashing on his wrist. "They want to enjoy life."

Enjoying life can cost a million dollars or more. Prices aren't marked in the store, so ask before you take any item to the counter.

"There's poverty [in Moscow], and there's also very rich people," Korovina said. "Now they don't need to go to London or Paris or somewhere to get jewelry. They can come here."

Luxury goods retailer Mercury, which is operating the store as a franchise, refused to say how much Halliwell was receiving for her appearance -- even when asked if it could just say how many zeros were in her fee. And neither Mercury not Bvlgari would comment on how much the store cost to open.

At a news conference in the Baltchug hotel, some expressed their surprise at the choice of Halliwell to open the store. One reporter asked about an impertinent Russian television interviewer who had apparently asked Halliwell if she was out to snare a rich husband at the Kremlin do. Halliwell, 30, who is hardly in need of financial support, was said to have been embarrassed at the question. Was Bvlgari embarrassed at bringing her over, the reporter asked.

"We're an international people, we like to mix various peoples and styles. We're glad that an English star will open the shop," replied an unfazed Trapani.

Perhaps an answer for the choice of Halliwell could be found later. As Halliwell left the store Tuesday, an assistant handed over two cassette covers from her latest albums with autographs scrawled on them to Trapani.

"She's a nice girl," Trapani said.