NEW YORK — Flou can make customers sleepy, but that’s no problem for this store.
Ensconced in a refurbished 5,000-square-foot setting in Manhattan’s SoHo district, Flou is dedicated to all of the comfort issues associated with the bedroom, from beds, duvet covers and handknit wool throws to unisex pajamas, loungers and slippers.
It’s serene, contemporary ambience is accented with blond-wood floors and white-painted brick walls. The overall image reflects the Flou name, which means hazy or dreamy in French.
But the first-year sales projection is crystal clear, according to Rick Garosalo, president of Flou New York, who estimated total sales in 2003 will be $2.5 million to $3 million.
Unlike the ornate trappings of a Bernardo Bertolucci movie set or the dizzying chintz-on-chintz statement of home stores like Pierre Deux, Flou is an eclectic mix of sleek, modern furnishings and lifestyle apparel that combine the formality of the Milan-based parent’s architectural philosophy with a wide range of casual apparel that can be worn to sleep, lounge, entertain or as a beach coverup.
Introduced in Italy in 2001, the unisex Vestire collection is available in natural hues including white, off-gray and taupe in 100 percent linen, cotton or hemp. Suggested retail starts at $151 for linen and cotton nightshirts and tunics, $173 for linen and cotton caftans and $206 and $251 for linen and hemp pajamas, respectively. Hemp slippers are $87.
Flou New York opened at 38 Greene Street in late November.
"It’s a little peculiar when people walk into the Flou store," Garosalo said. "They often ask, ‘What do you sell here?’ And I say, ‘Don’t you see 15 beds and an entire collection of pajamas?’"
But once customers realize what the product offerings are, Garosalo said, "many have had phenomenal interest in the sleepwear. It’s still a work in progress, though, because the collection needs more items." Flou Italy will launch an expanded collection in April at the Milan Furniture Fair.
Garosalo, who has owned an up-market home furnishings specialty store called Repertoire in Boston for 17 years and a second unit in SoHo since 2001, has been the U.S. representative for 25-year-old Flou S.p.A. for 12 years. Two more Flou units are planned for Los Angeles and Miami over the next couple of years, and a second unit in New York is being considered for the Upper East Side, he said.Garosalo said he believes there will be an increased demand for specialty lifestyle stores like Flou, especially in New York and other major cities.
"I feel there’s a growing focus on an attractive, harmonious bedroom," he said. "I’ve noticed it’s a very important statement for New Yorkers, maybe because it’s such a stressful environment right now."
Store manager Pavlos Schtakleff said the majority of customers "love" the idea of buying a bed and sleepwear at the same time. But the price tag is not for the tame of heart. Suggested retail for the specialty beds, which feature a lift-up storage system underneath a slated-mattress and removable upholstery that can be matched up with the sleepwear, average around $2,900 to $4,000 and go as high as $5,788. A choice of 300 bed linen sets are $250 to $900.
"It’s worth the price," Schtakleff added. "Flou wants people to enjoy their bedrooms."
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