By  on February 21, 2006

BERLIN — Hugo Boss opened its first Orange concept store on Friday in the trendy area of Hackescher Markt in Mitte here.

The new concept store comes just seven months after Boss opened a 3,800-square-foot Hugo unit around the corner.

"We could have opened the first Orange concept store in L.A., London, Tokyo or New York, but it just made sense to us [to do it] in Berlin," said Boss' chief executive officer, Bruno Sälzer. "The city is very innovative, somehow unfinished and not so mature. There are lots of designers, artists and young people, and that's especially the case in this area."

More high-end parts of the city, such as Friedrichstrasse or Kurfürstendamm, where a lot of major brands have stores, wouldn't have fit the concept, he said.

It is the rough and ready nature of this area of Berlin, where unrenovated buildings still show shrapnel scars from World War II, that suits the rock-chick look of the Orange collection. Hems are frayed, fabrics crumpled and colors faded, but the designs are kept feminine with pretty silk-patterned linings. "It's all very raw," said Sälzer, "which really matches eastern Berlin."

Launched in July at the Berlin fairs, Boss Orange Woman is the female companion to the Orange men's wear collection that made its debut in 1999. "A high-quality, modern approach to leisurewear with a fashion statement," is how Sälzer defines Orange. Although the core target group is 25- to 35-year-olds — with denim retailing up to $350, and dresses up to $500, the range is probably unaffordable for most under 25 — Sälzer is quick to point out that it's more a lifestyle issue than one of age. "A 60-year-old might still have the body to look great in one of the dresses, and a 20-year-old might not," Sälzer said. "If you live in Berlin, you go out to bars and cafes, and you look after yourself; you are, by definition, young."

The store itself, which has raw exposed brickwork and an industrial feel, reflects the collection. "We hardly changed anything and kept as much original as we could," said Andrea Cannelloni, creative director of Boss Orange, who designed the store together with the Stuttgart-based architect Liganova.Spread over almost 5,400 square feet, all the clothes hang from movable cubes attached to a grid on the ceiling. "This gives us real flexibility as within 24 hours we can change the whole setup," said Cannelloni. He sees this flexibility as a reflection of both modern life and of the collection, which allows pieces to be mixed and matched.

Other touches include themed dressing rooms with antique furniture, each representing a room of a house. The "bathroom" is equipped with a functioning sink, the "living room" has original Sixties lounge furniture and the "library" has one wall covered in the quote of a 19th-century German philosopher — but it's only readable in the mirror opposite. Appropriate sound effects are piped into each room, such as the sound of a turning page in the library and someone saying, "Shh."

The main collection is located on the ground floor, along with a bar that serves drinks and snacks, while on an underground level, an exhibition space is reserved for art installations. Also underground is an area where the designer Pamela Becker redesigns Orange items into individual pieces. The label "Remade in Berlin" is attached and customers can order the redesigned items in particular sizes.

Boss plans to open its next Orange concept store in a 2,150-square-foot space in London's Carnaby Street in July, and a New York store is planned in the future. "We have to find the right location first," the ceo said. "Orange is nothing for Madison Avenue, or even SoHo. I think, personally, it will be the Meatpacking District."

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