When was the last time you heard a guy described as a discerning gentleman? There's an Old World charm to the expression, which is just what the British luxury brand Dunhill is trying to capture in its latest retail outposts in Tokyo, Shanghai and London.
Alfred Dunhill was not born a gentleman. He was born in 1872 into the humble harness and saddlery business. Taking over from his father at the age of 21, he became obsessed with the craze for motor cars and was determined to offer the smart man-about-town motoring accessories: luggage, clocks and watches to time one's speed, even pipes to smoke while driving. According to the company's director of image, Yann Debelle de Montby, today's Homes of Alfred Dunhill, as the brand's new retail establishments have been named, offer something more than just shopping. "Whenever you receive people at your home, you are sharing your secrets and baring your soul. This is our aim," he says. So in Tokyo, a city that fascinated Dunhill, there are not only clothes, gadgets and gizmos for sale but also the services a man appreciates: a skilled barber, a specialist in leather-cleaning and, to relax, the only bar that overlooks the Ginza strip. In the historic French Concession area of Shanghai, there is a Travel and Discovery Room complete with a library as well as an art gallery. In London, much of the attraction will be the unique location, in Bourdon House (above), built in 1720 and previously the home of the Duke of Westminster. Restored beyond its former glory, the house also includes a private club called Alfred's. Members can browse, shop, have supper in a private dining room, sample the wine cellars and even stay overnight in what was the duke's suite.