By  on February 5, 2002

BERLIN -- It's been a long time coming, but Friedrichstrasse is finally taking shape as the city's newest high-status, high-fashion shopping street.

In the past few months, Hugo Boss, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche have all opened flagships there. They join Escada, who pioneered the move east to Friedrichstrasse in 1991, as well as the street's luxury anchor, Quartier 206, which opened in 1997. Quartier 206, a tony multistore enclave, houses the Strenesse Gabriele Strehle, Strenesse Blue, Etro, Cerruti, Stephane Kelian and La Perla designer boutiques, as well as the 27,000-square-foot Departmentstore, a specialty shop featuring Azzedine Alaia, Comme des Garcons, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Dries Van Noten, Earl Jeans, Calvin Klein, Martin Margiela, Manolo Blahnik and Yohji Yamamoto, among others.

Gucci, another key tenant in Quartier 206, took a new space twice the size of its original digs in August, conveniently freeing up the first Gucci site for YSL.

Other upscale names on the block include Montblanc and luxe footwear retailer Budapester Schuhe. Galeries Lafayette also has a major presence on Friedrichstrasse.

Located on the former east side of town and now smack in the middle of Mitte -- known as Berlin's old/new center, and a hub of retail, cultural, gastronomical and political activity -- Friedrichstrasse was historically an important shopping mile. Indeed, high-end retailing in Berlin got its start there with the opening of the well-known Kaisergalerie in 1873, but the ravages of World War II and the ensuing GDR years did much to erase the street's charm. For years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this potential retail oasis was far more like a desert. While consumer traffic has picked up, it still can't compare to the city's main shopping boulevard, Tauentzienstrasse-Kurfurstendamm.

"Friedrichstrasse won't ever overtake Ku'damm-Tauentzienstrasse,"a spokesman for the Berlin Retailers Association commented. "For one thing, it doesn't have the space."

Friedrichstrasse has about 475,000 square feet of total retail space, compared to 650,000 square feet alone for KaDeWe, Berlin's main department store on Tauentzienstrasse, he pointed out.

"But Friedrichstrasse has its legitimacy. It addresses a very specialized consumer -- the luxury segment -- and the [retailers] we talk to there are all satisfied. Sales have been growing by about 15 to 20 percent every year," the spokesman added, largely boosted by tourist traffic.

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