NEW YORK — Van Laack, the 127-year-old German shirtmaker, wants consumers to know that it's not just another stuffed shirt.
This month, the company opened a 1,000-square-foot store at 340 Madison Avenue at 44th Street.
"We're one of the few high-end shirtmakers doing ladies," said Christian von Daniels, owner and chief executive officer of van Laack. "Others just put the buttons on the other side for women."
Men still want traditional oxford shirts and dress shirts, and van Laack has plenty of them, neatly folded and stacked against one wall. There's also a made-to-measure program for men. The opposite wall, which is devoted to women, is punctuated by color and prints.
"We concentrate on Italian fabrics manufactured in our own factories," said von Daniels, noting that women's accounted for 40 to 45 percent of total worldwide sales of $100 million last year. The Madison Avenue store is expected to generate $2,000 a square foot in sales, von Daniels said.
A stable German economy has enabled van Laack to expand. Since 2002, the company has opened 100 stores and its sales volume almost doubled, von Daniels said. There are 100 company-owned van Laack stores in Europe and 80 more units operated through partnerships. "We eventually want to open 10 to 15 stores on the East Coast" of the U.S., von Daniels said. "We're opening a store in Paris soon, near the Place Vendôme on Rue de la Payes."
Von Daniels chose the Manhattan location in part for its proximity to Paul Stuart, which is one block away. "Some of their customers will come here," he said, noting that the two companies share a similar sensibility. Brooks Brothers is a few doors north on Madison Avenue and Coach and J. Crew are in the neighborhood.
Women's apparel ranges from casual to career to dressy looks. There's also a small jeans collection.
Van Laack is known for its attention to detail. For example, white pants have suspenders fastened to gold buttons, and a gingham shirt has wrist ties and a small bouquet of sequin flowers near the hem. Button-down shirts have handmade pickstitching. Some shirts take more than five hours to sew by hand.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"