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Choo’s Foothold on Madison

NEW YORK — Jimmy Choo is far from Old World, yet that’s exactly where Tamara Mellon drew from for her latest design endeavor — the company’s Madison Avenue flagship.<br><br>“I wanted to create something that was very...

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NEW YORK — Jimmy Choo is far from Old World, yet that’s exactly where Tamara Mellon drew from for her latest design endeavor — the company’s Madison Avenue flagship.

“I wanted to create something that was very feminine, and I was really looking at the Forties,” said Mellon, the company’s president in a phone interview from her vacation home in Ibiza. “I wanted it to have a boudoir feel, something very intimate that has more of a domestic feel than a shop.”

Mellon, along with the help of Italian architect Tiziano Vudafieri and Lena Pessoa, was able to realize this vision. Situated at 716 Madison Avenue, the 1,500 square-foot unit, which houses the company’s sought-after stilettos and a new line of handbags, evokes an elegant dressing room in variegated lavender hues. The jewel box setting is accentuated with pale lilac satin-covered wall panels, Art Deco mirrors, sleek ultra-suede chaises and Lucite tables. The boudoir-like touches are further offset by tiny footstools with fringe, Venetian crystal drop chandeliers and luxe velvet drapes.

“The boutique has been designed from floor to ceiling so that every component, from the mirrored vitrines to the chrome and glass door handles, echo the sensibility of the Jimmy Choo brand,” said Mellon.

The dreamy interior is the perfect backdrop for the fall shoe collection, which was inspired by the Twenties and the Sixties and features patent boots in petrol blue along with moire silk pumps festooned with ornate vintage-inspired brooches.

Despite her desire to create a haven for female shoppers, Mellon was also keen on bucking the trend of minimalism and homogeneity that she’s seen at retail.

“What I wanted was something completely different from anybody else,” she continued. “I find that with stores today you could really just change the name outside and it could be anybody’s store. They really all look very much the same.”

A second store in Manhattan was a natural step for the company.

“When we first opened on 51st Street, we really had no idea what type of business we were going to have in New York,” said Mellon. “So we didn’t know if we’d be able to pay the Madison rents, and since then we’ve built up an extremely loyal client base, and we know we have the business now to support a Madison Avenue store.”

This story first appeared in the August 18, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While the Madison Avenue flagship marks the 10th Jimmy Choo store in the U.S., the company is rolling out several more both in America and abroad over the next year and half. Stores will open in Milan, Dubai and Short Hills, N.J., this September while other openings in Houston, Chicago, Paris, London and Hong Kong are slated for next year.

The company is on track do in excess of $40 million by year’s end, according to Robert Bensoussan, chief executive officer of Jimmy Choo Ltd. He estimates that first-year sales for the Madison Avenue store will exceed $5 million.

Yet the company’s retail expansion is just one part of its three-fold growth plan, said Bensoussan. “There is also the development of wholesale in areas where we are not very present, like continental Europe,” he said. “We are a company which has been more focused historically on the U.K. and the U.S. So the main objective becomes also, in terms of wholesale, continental Europe and Asia.

“The third point of development is the handbags, which have started incredibly well. We’ve restructured our bag collection completely. We launched a new line called the Tulita, which is having incredible success this fall already. We’ve almost sold out in our own stores. And this is a major objective of ours: to become a good name in handbags following the same rules of Jimmy Choo — exclusivity and sexiness,” he said.

Retail prices for shoes range from $400 to $1,500, while handbags start at $700 and cost up to $1,200. The Jimmy Choo label is sold at major U.S. retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and select Nordstrom stores, as well as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges in London. While the business is currently 55 percent wholesale and 45 percent retail, Bensoussan expects to reverse those two figures by the end of next year.

The company rolled out its handbag collection this fall, yet Mellon would like to continue developing the Jimmy Choo accessories brand with other offshoots such as cosmetics, jewelry and sunglasses.

Mellon said, “I’m very interested in looking into all of those areas.”

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