By  on September 24, 2008

LOS ANGELES — Alberta Ferretti is pioneering retail on the western stretch of Melrose Avenue.The designer launched her first U.S. flagship here on Saturday in a 4,500-square-foot space that is the first to showcase the company’s new retail design concept. It carries the Alberta Ferretti collection, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, accessories, footwear and Alberta Ferretti Girl.Melrose Avenue between San Vicente and La Cienega Boulevards is home to just a handful of branded apparel stores, including Balenciaga and Henry Beguelin — with a Kitson also on tap. Most retailers are on Melrose east of La Cienega, including Alexander McQueen, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc by Marc Jacobs, BCBG Max Azria, Theory and Helmut Lang.The Ferretti flagship, located in a former furniture store and designed by London-based Sybarite Architects, is a freestanding, whitewashed brick structure. It features 85 feet of window frontage and is encased in a double band of black steel, a metal that is dominant inside, too.“I am convinced of the necessity to change with the times, especially when change means evolution of a story,” Ferretti said of the store design concept. “In this case, I felt the necessity to modernize the relationship between my fashion and the woman who inspires my collections, a strong and contemporary woman.”She said she chose Sybarite because, “I feel they echo my cultural approach to fashion in their approach to architecture and interior design. The concept is contemporary, elegant and personal. We have created an atmosphere that is simultaneously sensual, ethereal and elegant.”The open floor plan features a unique display system of magnetic, transparent fiberglass hangers and shelves that can be freely placed against Persplex — a clear material like fiberglass — panels inlaid with strips of stainless steel and two round, polished steel elliptical rails. The full-bust hangers allow the clothes to be displayed in their natural form, without rods or racks. LED lighting within the rails further emphasizes the diaphanous clothes.The gray terrazzo floor, inlaid with stainless steel swirls, contains hidden fixtures into which the bases of full body mannequins and accessories display pedestals can be inserted to give the illusion of sprouting effortlessly from the floor.The overall effect is one of transparency and lightness meant to embody the aesthetic of Ferretti’s clothes.A spokeswoman for parent Aeffe said the company decided on the space before Balenciaga, which opened last summer, announced its plans. Aeffe had considered Melrose Place, but wanted a location with more frontage on a highly trafficked street. The Pacific Design Center and popular Urth Café are across the street.“Melrose Avenue is a shopping destination,” Ferretti said. “In fact, it is a magnet for the woman who inspires my designs: A busy, hard-working, modern and dynamic woman who is well educated, well traveled and culturally astute. This woman ascribes to having it all and refuses to settle. When it comes to shopping, she goes to Melrose.”There is valet and self-parking behind the store, and a VIP dressing room with the magnetic clothing displays.Ferretti has a dedicated following in Los Angeles, Hollywood in particular. The brand has long been available at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, and Ferretti’s custom gowns have been worn by Scarlett Johansson at the Oscars, among others.“The women here have inspired me to create collections that will work for their lifestyle, from casual daywear to glamorous evening gowns,” Ferretti said. “My audience has certainly evolved and we are now dressing the entire family.”Ferretti declined to say where she was opening her next boutique, but said that more in California were planned. There are 28 Alberta Ferretti stores worldwide, with the 29th opening in Istanbul in October, and 27 Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti stores.

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