By  on December 29, 2004

NEW YORK — For designers around the globe, building a presence in the U.S. has long been a critical element of their success.

Last year proved to be a time for making such marks for many companies, particularly with image-oriented retail ventures in New York, resulting in a major makeover of Madison Avenue and the 57th Street corridor to Fifth Avenue. Further downtown, the Meatpacking District had its own influx of posh hotels, restaurants and designer shops, growing so quickly that some fear the imminent demise of the neighborhood’s hip factor.

With such steps in place, however, designers are looking to 2005 to build on their momentum. In some cases, they plan to continue that expansion with new ventures in Europe and further afield.Catherine Malandrino

The delays were frustrating, but when Catherine Malandrino finally unveiled her retail space in the Meatpacking District in November, it marked the completion of a corporate transformation 18 months in the making. The kaleidoscopic space at 652 Hudson Street is filled with reflecting mirrors, exposed brick walls encased in glass and hanging metallic crystals that show the full expanse of her product line.

Construction delays throughout the year were Malandrino’s biggest disappointment of 2004, but in the end, the effort paid off.

“It was a great way for me to finish off the year,” said Malandrino, before packing for a Christmas vacation in France. “I really feel comfortable in this new home.”

Next year promises to have further adventures in store for the designer, whose goals, both personal and professional, happen to intersect. As part of a newfound wanderlust, Malandrino said she plans to explore some potential markets for her designs.

“I’m going to discover countries that I have been very curious to find out about, especially Russia, Kuwait and China,” she said. “I’m doing a big trip in March and April, and I think it’s really going to open new horizons for me, too. I feel that those countries have been pretty unknown for me. Oscar de la Renta

He launched a moderate-priced collection with Kellwood Co. He dressed the First Lady and her competition in his signature collection for the presidential debates. He even opened a Madison Avenue flagship. Yet when asked his biggest accomplishment of 2004, Oscar de la Renta replied without hesitation that it was the fact that he had named Alex Bolen, his son-in-law, as chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta Ltd.

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