By and and  on February 11, 2008

NEW YORK — Gucci has had a love affair with New York City for more than 50 years, and that undying affection is evident in the company’s new global flagship on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. 

The 46,000-square-foot, three-level store in Trump Tower is 30 percent larger than its former store, a five-level, 33,000-square-foot unit on 54th Street. It is also the company’s largest store in the world. The luxurious, sprawling location is, in large part, the vision of creative director Frida Giannini, who helped to design the unit, which has 168 feet of frontage on Fifth Avenue. 

Men’s wear spans the entire second floor and is covered in the company’s signature diamond-patterned, charcoal and brown carpet. Shoes and sportswear are in the front of the store—the shoe department in particular is bathed in natural light—while suits and a made-to-order section are located in the rear. Men’s was designed with a darker color palette than women’s, Giannini said, and is “more intimate, to create a clubby feeling.” There is also a separate lounge area for VIPs to sit quietly out of sight as they shop. 

The men’s floor also offers accessories and leather goods for a complete shopping experience, according to Jimmy Everett, Gucci’s men’s wear merchandiser. “Everything is really clean and warm,” he said. “It’s really inviting with all the seating, and is a great place for men to lounge and relax.” 

Giannini designed one men’s apparel exclusive for the store, an $8,990 bomber jacket in either blue or gray python with knit collar and cuffs. The company’s trademark leather bomber retails for $3,375. Off-the-rack suits start at $1,300 and go up to around $2,890. Made-to-order clothing starts at $3,000. Made-to-order shoes start at $1,400 and go up to $14,000 depending upon the skins used. 

Other pieces in the store include dress shirts for just under $300, a tuxedo for $2,750, patterned polos for $755, a knit vest for $640, T-shirts for $290 and a blazer for $1,540. 

In a press conference at the site last Tuesday, Mark Lee, president and managing director, said Gucci has been in New York since 1953 and has performed well over the years. “This store was born out of the real need to gain more space in this market,” he said. 

Gucci had to completely gut and rebuild the Fifth Avenue space, which was formerly occupied by Asprey. Giannini said she came to New York three times in the process of designing the store and spent much time with her design team in Florence working on the materials and with the architectural drawings. She said her “second passion in life” is architecture, so working on the store offered her a “great opportunity to explore another area of aesthetics and design.” 

Gucci touches abound, from a subtle double G–patterned carpet in the women’s footwear area to the iconic “web” stripe etched into the frames of the glass fixtures. With white marble floors, the art deco–style sofas, chaise lounges, smoked-glass coffee tables and dark rosewood cabinets, the store has the feel of an expansive Upper East Side townhouse whose owner has a taste for luxury and a penchant for mid-century modernist style. A mix of ribbed-glass windows and clear windows reflecting natural light into the space offers views of Fifth Avenue, a departure from the previous concept, which was darker in its execution. 

A key feature of the store is the three-level, free-floating staircase, delineated by vertical gold and clear Plexiglas rods. 

White marble with a stripe of black marble down the center and charcoal carpets cover the main floor, where Heritage, a new department described as part museum and part limited-edition product, is located. Samples from Gucci’s archives are displayed in glass cases. Newly reissued exclusive products are sold here, such as Leonardo, an accessories collection named after a ’50s print Giannini found, designed for the launch. There are leather briefcases and attachés that start at $25,000 and the top-of-the-line piece is a trunk for $299,000. 

“There will be new product every six months,” Lee said. 

The store, which features separate floors for accessories and women’s wear, also offers Gucci Loves New York products made of shiny, white canvas accented with red and royal blue. The proceeds will be donated to Playground Partners of the Central Park Conservancy, Lee said. 

All told, sources said Gucci hopes to do $100 million in sales in the first year. The company is reported to be paying $16 million in annual rent. Lee declined to discuss the rent or volume projections. 

He did, however, detail the brand’s growth in both the U.S. and internationally. Over the past three years, sales have risen in the double digits each year and Gucci is now nearly a $3.2 billion brand. “That’s far ahead of the goals we set in 2004 to double sales in seven years,” he said. “We’re growing far beyond that.” Profits have also risen substantially, with EBITDA in 2006 hitting $893 million, he said. America currently accounts for 21.5 percent of total sales and volume here rose 24.9 percent in 2005, 20.4 percent in 2006 and 14.7 percent last year. Some 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from its own 233 stores around the world, or $2.2 billion, he added. 

Lee said he’s not concerned with the reported pullback by the luxury shopper, noting: “Of course, we are reading the newspapers and following the situation like everyone else. The local business through the fourth quarter was very solid.” 

To introduce the new store, Gucci co-hosted an event last week with Madonna at the United Nations to benefit UNICEF and Raising Malawi. There were scheduled to be performances by Alicia Keys, Timbaland and Rihanna. Gucci underwrote the cost of the event and the charities were expected to receive in excess of $3.7 million, Lee said.

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