By  on December 13, 2005

NEW YORK — Even though Karl Lagerfeld's own choice of desk and chairs have yet to arrive in his West 26th Street office, the designer seems to have had no problems settling into his new Manhattan environs.

The sleek, 20,000-square-foot space has polished concrete floors and white walls and comes replete with a photo studio, where Lagerfeld already has been hard at work. The offices are also bustling with ubercool Lagerfeld staffers, like stylist Melanie Ward, who is the creative director of the contemporary Karl Lagerfeld collection.

"There's energy in New York," Lagerfeld said, sitting in his studio. "The other day, we did photos inspired by James Dean. It wouldn't have been the same in Europe, even if it was done in a room with a white wall. A white wall in New York is not a white wall in Paris because there's not the same energy."

Gotham is taking on a special meaning for the designer, and the city is informing his work, from the new Karl Lagerfeld venture, which is owned by Tommy Hilfiger Corp., to Chanel's Paris-New York collection that he presented here last week.

"I discovered something very strange: I have nearly more friends in New York than in Paris. I love Paris, but it's a little bit provincial," he added. "It's nice to go to a little province town. It's charming, but I think there is something in the air in New York."

Since the formation of the Karl Lagerfeld venture, executives have been working on rebranding Lagerfeld Gallery, which he has presented in Paris to date, and creating a brand language for Karl Lagerfeld, the contemporary line that will officially bow during New York Fashion Week in February for fall selling.

Customers will get a glimpse of the new Karl Lagerfeld collection in March, when a limited-edition capsule group is being launched exclusively at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

"We were talking about the launch being in fall, and Karl was thinking it doesn't have to take that long," said Ann Acierno, president of Karl Lagerfeld. "I got the sketches in 48 hours from him. We presented it to Neiman's and Bergdorf's, and they took it right on the spot."

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