By  on September 17, 2007

NEW YORK — After a four-month hiatus, Gant's global flagship at 645 Fifth Avenue reopens today.

The renovated space added 2,000 square feet, including an additional floor, and a spiral staircase and museum-like area that pays homage to the Guggenheim.

Gant has occupied its Fifth Avenue locale for almost a decade, but it was built as a men's store that "had essentially stuck women's in four years ago," according to Ari Hoffman, president and chief executive officer of Gant USA Corp. The new space still reflects that three-fourths of Gant's business is men's, with the entire main floor dedicated to men's wear, but women's wear now has the top floor (along with a children's section). The women's collections on the top floor include the preppy GNH line and the sophisticated Elliot Gant collection, plus the Rugger contemporary label in the new sublevel concept shop is in both genders.

Designed by Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects, the four-story, 6,600-square-foot store is the first U.S. store to showcase Gant's full offerings. "We needed to create a space that communicated a certain level of sophistication and quality," Selldorf said in a statement. "Our challenge was to figure out how to showcase such an iconic brand in a renewed light, to allow customers to rediscover an American classic."

The store sits between Versace and H.Stern. "Being on Fifth Avenue, we wanted to reflect our quality but still be friendly and inviting," Hoffman said. "From the outside, the challenge was that we are part of the Olympic Towers and people would skip us over, so how could we stand out with the same glass windows?"

Now the windows are filled with blue between the steel lines, like the "preppy New England banker's Oxford blue-striped shirt," said Hoffman. That blue is repeated in spots inside, and the French sandstone floors imitate chino pants, while the ceilings are clothed in Hunter Douglas translucent fabric lit from within. Metal and nonshiny glass are used throughout the store, as well, as in the floor-to-ceiling open shelving system that "feels like a bohemian library," said Hoffman.

But the heart of the design is the "egg" — a four-story, curved, all-white staircase, made of Venetian plaster and white Corian. Inside the "egg," the mezzanine is devoted to a retrospective gallery of the brand, beginning with 1949 when Gant began as a private label shirt manufacturer.Scott Hill, Gant's visual concepts director, built four dioramas on the mezzanine with "tongue-in-cheek museum presentation" featuring mannequins in vintage clothing and montages of Gant period advertising in the background: "Morning in America" for the Fifties, "Endless Summer of Love" for the Sixties, "Boogie Fever" for the Seventies and "Circus of Ambition" for the Eighties. "We have a truly authentic history, and we want to showcase it," Hill said.

Gant is now established in 73 countries and operates more than 300 Gant stores worldwide.

On Thursday evening, Gant will host a "Patterns of Green" environmental guest-lecture series, featuring Laurie David and benefiting, to fete the redesigned flagship.

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