By  on March 29, 2007

Rock & Republic's first two New York Fashion Week runway shows were over-the-top introductions to the label's Hollywood glam and rock 'n' roll design aesthetic. Next week, the company will open an equally lavish SoHo showroom to reinforce that image and highlight its efforts to be a lifestyle brand.

Michael Ball, designer and chief executive officer, said the search for an appropriate space in which to present the brand's direction took more than a year. Manhattan's Meatpacking District, with its clubs, restaurants and high-end hotels, initially made for an attractive setting. However, Ball ultimately felt the area wasn't quite right. "I don't know if [the Meatpacking District] will ever realize its potential," he said.

The lack of space and difficulty in getting to the Meatpacking District are negatives, and Ball added that the retail scene is dominated by Jeffrey, the boutique owned by Nordstrom's director of designer merchandising, Jeffrey Kalinsky.

SoHo, however, has a fully developed and varied retail landscape and an upscale feeling that Rock & Republic wanted. The company took the top three floors of a town house on West Broadway between Spring and Broome Streets. David Howell Design, the architectural firm that designed the Badgley Mischka showroom and more than 100 Coach stores around the world, was brought in to give the space a loft-like feel that could function as a work space, showroom and lounge.

"We wanted a contemporary feel, a certain amount of luxe, some Hollywood sheen to it, if you will," Ball said. "We didn't want it to be too austere, not like a Calvin Klein or a Theory. We wanted significant eye candy."

It took almost a year to complete the showroom, which includes features such as dark wood floors, a full kitchen and bathroom, a lounge, a spiral staircase and a roof deck. "The rooftop was a must for us," Ball said. "We wanted that feeling of being on a rooftop in SoHo to get that New York vibe."

The price tag reached into six figures, he said, but image is paramount for all things Rock & Republic.

"We are playing in the city where all the big dogs are and if we don't bring it, they're going to send us packing," Ball explained.New York has become a focus for the Culver City, Calif.-based brand as the key to achieving the next level of growth. Its efforts started last year by abandoning fashion week in Los Angeles in favor of New York. Its first two runway shows have been hybrid rock-fashion spectacles that generated long-waiting lines and mixed reviews.

"If we don't put on a fashion show in New York, we'll do an exhibition," Ball said. "We are committed to New York for the foreseeable future. L.A., unfortunately, doesn't have what we need. For an up-and-coming brand, it's fine, but when you start to elevate to where we are, there's not a chance you'll get the exposure you need."

The showroom was built with significant growth in mind. There are five staffers in the office, and Ball believes it can accommodate a dozen as the brand expands. "We'll be putting more emphasis on the tailored side, called Tailor Made," he said.

Cosmetics also are likely to be a significant area of growth, with Ball looking to expand the category into a $30 million business within three years. Ball is so confident of the company's expansion that he doesn't view the still-unopened showroom with any sense of permanence.

"We'll be comfortable here for three years, and in the next three years, we're going to have to look for additional space because of the other ranges alone," he added.

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