By  on October 16, 2007

NEW YORK — Max Azria has never been a man of small ambitions.

Azria's global retail empire includes 386 stores and his ready-to-wear collections continue to grow in diversity. So when he stood outside the entrance on Monday of a new 12,000-square-foot BCBG Max Azria flagship at 461 Fifth Avenue here — his biggest store in the world — it was with no small measure of satisfaction.

"I'm extremely happy," he said. "I've been looking to open a large store in Manhattan in a good location for some time. Between the [New York Public Library], Fifth Avenue and all the offices, there were many reasons" for choosing this spot, which is on the corner of 40th Street.

"The BCBG Max Azria product is much more visible and the store is comfortable to shop," he said. "I think it's a paradise for a woman."

The designer said he expects sales of $1,500 per square foot. The company's annual worldwide volume is $1.5 billion.

The Fifth Avenue store is 1,000 square feet larger than a unit on Boulevard de la Madeleine in Paris, which also has an eatery, Cafe Max.

"In two or three weeks I'll make a decision on 10 more stores this size in the U.S.," Azria said, noting that he is reviewing the real estate. With 161 stores in the U.S., Azria believes there's room for another 150.

"Chicago deserves another two or three stores," he said. "Washington deserves two or three more stores. There are a lot more cities" that could use additional units. Manhattan, which has six BCBG shops and one MaxAzria store, is ripe for another three to four locations, the designer said. "We have to be close to our customers. It's part of our service."

The Fifth Avenue store is light and airy with limestone floors and acacia wood floors on the main level, laser-cut garlands made from brass-plated steel that creep up walls and cover ceilings, concrete and glass stairs and custom-made furniture, which includes a brown Ultraseude pouf and lime green couch. A mural by Carmichael and Edwards of Ironwood consisting of circular pieces of powder-coated steel hangs on the main level. Colorful birds dangle from mobiles in the oversize windows.

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