Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — Leave it to Donna Karan to bring New York to London, complete with bagels and lox and pastrami on rye.
The designer opened her largest freestanding DKNY store in the world here last week with a typical burst of energy.
“I wanted to create a feeling of New York in London,” Karan said as she gave a tour of the store. “So we’ve brought over things like New York street signs and a traffic light. I want people to live in London but to come here to New York. I want this place to be pumping.”
And that it was during its opening. Sales during the first two days topped $189,600 (120,000 pounds), which was well above expectations, a spokeswoman said. Bestsellers included most of the knitwear and T-shirts in both women’s and men’s as well as a single-breasted, four-button classic jacket, straight pleated pants and short wrap skirts.
The four-floor, 12,000-square-foot flagship on Old Bond Street carries the complete range of DKNY women’s and men’s wear, including tailored clothing, knitwear, shirts, outerwear, activewear, shoes and accessories.
The store is owned by Christina Ong, who also has opened DKNY and Donna Karan boutiques in Singapore. Other freestanding DKNY stores are in Switzerland, Istanbul, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, where there are three.
Prices start at $553 (350 pounds) for jackets; $61.62 (39 pounds) for T-shirts; $79 (50 pounds) for jeans, and knitwear up to $395 (250 pounds).
“This was supposed to be a soft opening,” Karan said, as she watched customers snatch up her items. “This is the hardest opening I’ve ever seen.”
Stephen Ruzow, president of Donna Karan, said the store’s early performance is encouraging since the company wasn’t sure whether Bond Street was the right location for DKNY. The store is close to Tiffany, Chanel, Gucci and Versace.
“It was a risk to go to Bond Street, but the reception has been truly exciting,” Ruzow said.
The front of the shop, which was designed by Peter Marino, is all-glass with large DKNY letters in the windows. Immediately to the right of the large entrance is a coffee bar selling such New York delicacies as lox and cream cheese on a bagel, Hershey bars and pastrami on rye, in addition to the DKNY club sandwich and DKNY mineral water. Near the bar are shelves selling typical New York publications: the New York Times (three days late), New York magazine, The New Yorker, Paper and Interview.
Karan’s hope is that the coffee bar will become the street’s social center point. The plan is to turn it into a mini-representation of New York, complete with a flower vendor, stock-market quotations and the latest news in fashion, sports or current events shown on a large video wall.
Directly across from the bar is an area selling T-shirts, sweatshirts and baseball caps. The back of the first floor is reserved for DKNY’s women’s activewear. “This is the stuff you don’t have to go into a dressing room to try on — socks, hosiery, outerwear,” Karan said. “The whole idea is that it’s an instant buy. Grab it and go.”
The rest of the floors are reached via an up-only escalator. Men’s is on the first floor while the top two floors are devoted to women’s wear. Casualwear will be on the third floor, while daywear and eveningwear will be on the top floor. The fourth floor also will include a department of all-black DKNY for both day and evening, the designer said.
Across one of the walls on each floor is a ballet bar that’s used to hang each style in the collection face-forward. Shirts and blouses also are displayed lying flat. Customers then go around the back of the wall to the store’s immediate front, where the clothes are hung traditionally.
“I wanted people to see the entire garment,” Karan said. “Usually, all they see is a sleeve. This way the clothes look clean and fresh. I wanted the whole store to look like a photographer’s studio — white and brightly lit.”
The fourth floor is not completed, nor is the store’s back staircase, which customers will use to walk down. The back of the store will be opaque glass, which will be lit from behind so it glows. More video screens will be inserted into that wall as well. The store should be completed by early December, the spokeswoman said.
In typical Karan fashion, the designer sees the London flagship as simply a precursor to further expansion. Ong — who has been named distributor for both DKNY and the Donna Karan collection lines in London — plans to add a freestanding Donna Karan collection store in London next fall (there already is a leased department in Harvey Nichols as well as leased DKNY departments in Harrods and Selfridges).
Ruzow and other company executives are off to Paris next week to begin the search for partners to open a DKNY store there and Karan said she would love to open one in New York.
She also wants to reintroduce children’s wear to the DKNY line and perhaps add home furnishings.
“This shop will initiate a whole new energy about DKNY,” the designer said. “No one has ever seen DKNY like this before, which always annoyed me. It really is about lifestyle dressing. DKNY is an entire concept and this proves it.”