BOSTON — Marc Jacobs turned out in full fencing regalia — replete with mask and foil — Thursday night to celebrate the opening of his Newbury Street store here.
The party theme was the Summer Olympics. As interpreted by the 50 or so staffers shuttled in from New York and San Francisco, that meant micro tennis shorts, Bjorn Borg-style headbands, retro bathing caps — and long cigarette breaks outside the restaurant’s entrance.
Guests, meanwhile, competed in the free-stuff grab as Jacobs’ team members handed out chalk-white Frisbees, T-shirts, tank tops, whistles and flip-flops emblazoned “81 Newbury,” the store’s address.
For Jacobs, his hair wildly curly from fencing-suit humidity, the bash at the Union Bar & Grille in the city’s trendy South End neighborhood was not quite consolation for being unable to fete his upcoming Los Angeles stores with a Halloween blowout.
Due to construction delays, the company is staggering the openings of its four Melrose Avenue properties in L.A., starting with the accessories store in October, the Marc by Marc Jacobs and VIP studio spaces in late November and the collection door in January.
Backed by parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the $300 million Marc Jacobs International is on a retail tear, expanding its 40-store global operation with openings slated in Shanghai — its first store in China — on Sept. 22; Bal Harbour, Fla., in March, and Chicago sometime in 2005. The company is also on the cusp of signing a Paris lease, though brand president Robert Duffy remained mum on the unit’s exact location.
The store here, a refurbished two-story town house, gives a nod to the city’s quintessential brick residences. The colorful, merchandise-jammed Marc by Marc Jacobs is at street level, while the upper story, with its original double-parlor outlines evident, features Grecian-white fireplaces and Doric columns as a serene setting for the collection.
Sources estimate the 3,750-square-foot store could produce sales of $4 million annually.
For brand aficionados, there are treasures in the form of product debuts (silver picture frames, the Czech crystal in a new, jade hue) and city exclusives, such as the one-off, $9,200 ruby-red crocodile handbag featured on Vogue’s August “Last Look” page.In the collection space, accessories dominate the front half of the floor, which has a black lacquered floor and white leather Christian Liagre furniture. Fragile cashmere sweaters and velvet bow belts are scattered amid shoes and handbags. Women’s and men’s ready-to-wear share the back parlor. Lettuce-edged lingerie in pastel shades hangs in dressing rooms.
One level below and a world away, the Marc by Marc Jacobs floor is a cluttered, attention-deficit-disorder universe of blue walls, video screen, vending machines and a table for impromptu Fimo-clay sculpting. It pleased Duffy immensely that someone had already cobbled together a lopsided swan, a Boston symbol for the swan-shaped boats that glide through the Public Garden’s lagoon.
“I like this packed with merchandise. Maximal,” Duffy said of the Marc by Marc floor, leading a tour past $50 silver lamé sleeping bags and $80 satin-trimmed blankets created for the town’s college students. “I want this to be the store they spend two hours in, figuring everything out.”
While Duffy summers on Cape Cod, it was Jacobs’ first night in Boston in years. He spent it at the Four Seasons, admiring his view of the “beautiful, calm, European” city and being anxious about how this new store will fare.
“I’m always nervous and curious to see how we do. We’ve operated on instinct on where to open, when to open and what to open with,” Jacobs said at the party Thursday night. “Robert loves this town. I just go along for the ride — and show up in a costume.”
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