By  on May 8, 2006

NEW YORK — The Fifth Avenue flagship of Blanc de Chine, a Hong Kong fashion company, is dramatic.

The store features a two-floor, 30-foot-wide glass facade with a wide view to the inside and a white sculptural spiral staircase connecting women's wear, on the first floor, with men's and home furnishings on the second.

Both the architecture and the Blanc de Chine collection are a study in contrasts, blending traditional Chinese elements with contemporary ones. It's Blanc de Chine's second store. The first is in Hong Kong.

Women's ready-to-wear ranges in price from $400 pants to $2,500 dresses; men's wear includes jackets at $600 to $1,200. The collection emphasizes Mandarin-collar jackets, the "Qi Pao" little black dress, Italian fabrics, coats with meticulously styled linings, as well as cashmeres, blouses, pajamas, accessories and a special "leather silk," which is naturally treated to make it look like leather.

The company is privately owned by real estate developer Kin Yeung. He also owns the building housing the store at 673 Fifth Avenue. The unit opened in December.

Store designer S. Russell Groves explained the philosophy and inspiration for the space in this Q&A.

WWD: How does the store blend traditional Chinese elements with modernity?

Russell Groves: In fusing the traditional with modern Chinese elements, we chose a suggestive, rather than literal, approach. Instead of the obvious red lacquer and gold imagery associated with Chinese design, the focus is instead on a modern interpretation of the ancient Chinese reverence for nature. This approach is reflected in our use of deep brown variegated wood flooring, walnut plinths with a graceful natural edge and ebonized rift oak cabinetry. It is also apparent in the vacuum-formed acrylic screens, which play off the traditional Chinese element of bamboo.

WWD: How does it fit with your philosophy on store design?

R.G.: Our design philosophy is to combine a fresh, modern aesthetic with sophisticated materials and luxurious finishes.

WWD: The facade is beautiful with its tall windows, stonework and great view of the staircase, but does it overshadow the merchandise?R.G.: Our intention with this project was to provide an iconic, assertive visual presence along Fifth Avenue for the brand's first foray into the U.S. market, so the facade had to be dramatic and compelling. Inside, Blanc de Chine, with its strong brand presence and distinctive elegant product, is fully supported by the architecture and never overshadowed by it.

WWD: What is the mood of the store?

R.G.: The mood is chic and inviting, urging patrons to explore, enjoy and discover the beauty of a distinctive sensibility.

WWD: What materials were used for the exterior?

R.G.: The glass is laminated water-white starfire glass, which is the cleanest, purest color available on the market. The frames of the windows are mirror-polished stainless steel. The stone cladding of the exterior is a pale, buff-colored Indiana limestone, smooth at the piers between the windows and dramatically rusticated at the base and lintels above the windows. Indiana limestone is a material traditionally used on monumental buildings throughout New York City and the U.S.

WWD: Would you say the logo is inspired by calligraphy?

R.G.: The logo was designed in-house at the Blanc de Chine Hong Kong office. The Chinese character chosen means "the source [or mouth] of the river."

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