NEW YORK — Vosges Haut-Chocolat has a new Purple House, as the company calls its stores, a 525-square-foot jewel box at 1100 Madison Avenue, near 83rd Street.
Vosges' founder Katrina Markoff has been pushing the lifestyle envelope well beyond chocolate with a collection of blouses and jackets by Sistahs of Harlem, Skin lingerie, trenchcoats, dresses, tops and T-shirts, all in Vosges' signature lavender and purple. In the past, Markoff has sold handbags with the Vosges logo and leather jackets by Dr. Romanelli, who has been a frequent collaborator.
The new Madison Avenue unit is a study in white, decorated with architectural artifacts retrieved from Paris markets. The store exudes an air of Forties glamour with a dark parquet floors, a marble table, chandeliers that look like they were dipped in marshmallow and massive white étagères that are lit from within. The store features cafe service and an ice cream bar. "We're going to launch sweet and savory pairings," said Markoff. "Paninis with cheese and chocolate."
Markoff, who seems to be more free spirit than grounded businesswoman, follows her whims, which are usually exotic. Her explorations of various parts of the world have led to the Red Fire Bar made with Mexican ancho chili powder, Ceylon cinnamon and dark chocolate, the Black Pearl Bar with wasabi, ginger, black sesame seeds and dark chocolate and the ill-advised Mo's Bacon Bar.
Markoff met Sistahs of Harlem, the design team of Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber, through a mentoring program; Vosges is sponsoring Sistahs. Marshall and Webber, who are known for reworking garments in creative ways, designed for Vosges blouses with cuffs for sleeves ($125) and short-sleeve pinstripe jackets ($250). The designers, who are former models, have dressed Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu.
Susan Beischel, the creator of Skin, a sophisticated lingerie collection made with luxurious fabrics, designed a lavender cotton dress with a tiered hem for Vosges. "The clothing is the essence of the brand," Markoff said.
Markoff is active on the environmental front. "This is a sustainable lifestyle business," she said. "All of our shirts are organic. Everything in our factory is powered by renewable energy."Vosges is building a green manufacturing facility in Chicago, which will be operational in 2009. "It will have an organic rooftop garden," Markoff said. "There will be exhibition space for artists and a theater. We're going to have an artist-in-residence program."
Markoff said the new Vosges store is a "jumping-off point for doing more store concepts in New York." There's an existing Vosges unit on Spring Street in SoHo, and the chocolate is sold at Bergdorf Goodman.
Markoff, who is ruled by a need for exploration, developed a chocolate sensory collection with 24 bars and small vials of spices and flavors. The set, which comes with a blindfold and can be turned into a parlor game, costs $350.
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