By  on October 19, 2007

NEW YORK — Rather than get lost in the melee of fashion weeks in New York, Milan, London or Paris, Hugo Boss preferred to wait until the fashion crowd had taken a breather and pulled together an event for 1,000 Wednesday night at the Cunard building here — including the likes of Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kristin Davis.

After a runway show for the Boss Black label, waitresses in French maid uniforms wheeled across the runway silver carts loaded with glasses of Champagne as guests shuffled into an adjoining room for pickled beets and other eclectic hors d'oeuvres. More surprising was the toe-tapping performance by Woody Allen — who did just that in his grandfatherly brown button-down shirt and khakis — and his New Orleans band.

Moore's critique of Boss Black's New Moderns collection was rooted in personal preference: "Actually, I like purple a lot. It was very clean and very nice. I liked the cropped jacket and the blue patent leather bag."

Dressed in a white blouse and poufy black skirt, Davis said that, as of now, Hugo Boss pieces have not been shot for the "Sex and the City" movie. Costume designer Patricia Field still has the final say, but input is welcome from the cast, Davis said. "We'll see. We're not done shooting some scenes. I know she would love some of those shoes, the blue patent leather ones. And that white suit with a big white belt looked like something Samantha [Kim Cattrall] would wear."

Hugo Boss executives weren't about to put a price tag on the extravaganza, explaining the investment demonstrates how the brand is pushing its women's business in the U.S., its second-largest market. This year global sales for the women's collections — Boss Black, Hugo and Boss Orange — are expected to exceed $285 million, according to André Maeder, a board member who is also responsible for retail, licenses and the Hugo brand. Overall, the company's wholesale volume hovers near $2.1 billion and a 10 to 12 percent gain is planned for this year, he said.

Instead of being beholden to any one city's fashion calendar, the German-based company randomly selects dates and destinations for its shows. The last Boss Black show was held in New York in 2002.Bolstering its retail presence in Manhattan is a key component of the U.S. growth plan for its women's business. Having relinquished its Fifth Avenue space, Hugo Boss plans to introduce in April a new retail concept in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Meatpacking District. Also that month, an 8,000-square-foot store will bow downtown on Broadway near Prada. In 2009, the brand aims to open a Madison Avenue store, as well as one near Wall Street. Once those are in place, the brand will have six New York stores, including the existing ones in the Time Warner Center and on Greene Street in SoHo. The belief is that Manhattan's varied neighborhoods call for different product assortments.

"Here, you can find the whole Boss world in one city. That underlines the style of New York. It's important not only to America but also to the whole world, because everyone travels to New York," Maeder said.

Matteo Thun, the architect behind the brand's office in Coldrerio, Switzerland, is designing the Meatpacking District store, which will showcase an assortment of Hugo Boss products instead of one specific collection, said Bruno Sälzer, chairman of the managing board. Hugo Boss operates about 285 freestanding stores and concept shops worldwide, including 90 freestanding units. There also are more than 1,000 franchised freestanding stores and concept shops. Worldwide, the company invests about $47 million in its retail efforts.

Next year, Boss will introduce a jewelry collection it is developing with Swarovski, which will be sold in department stores, specialty jewelry stores and the brand's freestanding stores. Handbags and shoes, the bread and butter for most designer labels, are handled in-house and will continue to be done so. Advertising these and other products, including licensed fragrances, watches and glasses, will continue to be done through individual campaigns for Boss' three labels. The company is also committed to sports- and arts-related sponsorships like Formula One racing and the Hugo Boss Prize, with 7 to 8 percent of net sales supporting these types of efforts and advertising.

Creative director Ingo Wilts said he built the collection from an architectural point of view and was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in particular. In recent months, there has also been a move to have a more compatible look between the women's and men's collections. Wilts said he always starts designing a collection with women in mind and then envisions what the man next to her should be wearing. This season he has stepped up Hugo Boss' eveningwear offerings, due partially to the fact dressier styles outsell casual ones with American women."Boss Black is for the sophisticated businesswoman who also has a sporty attitude," said Wilts. "She's young and sexy. She loves to travel and she loves to buy clothes."

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