NEW YORK — While most rookies on Manhattan’s fiercely competitive retail scene enter with caution, London-based designer Eskandar is starting out with a 4,000-square-foot store.
Over a din of screeching machinery, Eskandar talked about his $20 million business as contractors plowed through last-minute chores only hours before opening-night party guests were to arrive. Undaunted by the scope of the space at 33 East 10th Street, which has 16-foot ceilings and an additional 2,500 square feet of office space downstairs, he explained: “I like big projects — the bigger, the better. I like space. I like light. I like volume — probably like the clothes.”
In addition to his free-flowing outfits, home furnishings he rummaged from Paris flea markets are for sale, as well as Sotis Filippides handmade pottery, William Welsted’s silver spoons dotted with precious stones, antique French sheets and Eskandar’s all-natural bath products. Everything rests on hardwood floors made from salvaged centuries-old barns.
The lifestyle concept is not lost on the designer, who has similarly well appointed stores in London and Paris. Bergdorf Goodman awarded him with his first lifestyle concept shop two years ago and annual sales there are $4 million, he said. Neiman Marcus recently gave him 1,000 square feet in its Los Angeles store and will let him set up camp in its San Francisco store next year.
The designer said he is planning for at least a 15 percent increase in his total sales, with the East Village store kicking in $3 million in first-year revenues.
Aside from the occasional magalogue mention, Eskandar does not advertise his brand. Despite that, his loyal following consists of women such as Lauren Bacall, Candice Bergen, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Oprah Winfrey and Anne Bancroft.
All his clothes are made in the U.K., and knitwear is essential. Eskandar started out knitting sweaters for his friends, and though he doesn’t make the collection’s hand-knit designs, they take three weeks to produce. Cashmere pullovers retailing from $990 to $2,350, pants with elasticized or drawstring waistbands retailing for $400, linen shirts retailing from $350 to $400 and handwoven cashmere scarves at $1,025 should be bestsellers with Eskandar’s New York fans, who like knowing they can find some silhouettes from one season to the next. “I don’t change direction. I use a lot of new fabrics and colors,” he said.
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