Sisley Store Opens in Berlin

The store physically illustrates what chief Paolo Battacchi called “phase one of a clear 360-degree repositioning of the brand."

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BERLIN — The new Sisley store here not only launches a new format for the Italian label but physically illustrates what Sisley chief Paolo Battacchi called “phase one of a clear 360-degree repositioning of the brand in terms of product, distribution, store concept and communication.”

Located in a small, historic house on Neue Schönhauser Strasse and flanked by contemporary players like 14 oz. and The Kooples, the flagship looks more like a residence than a store. The traditional, period multipane windows have no display function, and reveal only a lack of bright lighting in the rooms inside, while the Sisley name subtly appears on the stone facade, and atop a filigree gold bar jutting out from the side in an old-fashioned manner.

Up three stairs and through a similarly old-fashioned door, one enters a narrow and scantly illuminated hall, the floors checked in black and white, with an oversize oval mirror reflecting one’s image, and leafless trees creating a Cocteau-like atmosphere. Within the 1,400-square-foot store, the mood remains dusky and dreamy, the whole a mix of “rich and raw.” There are brick walls, salvaged wood floors, boiserie wood paneling, a graphic lacquer ceiling in dark green and black, cognac-colored chandeliers, jewel-toned vintage chairs and rugs, a selection of oval tables, more oval mirrors, book shelves in red glass and burnished metal, and a metal grille door laced with raw leather. The store’s most important display element: the fully adjustable standing racks, the metal rods embedded in a paving stone set in a metal drawer.

All fixtures are stand-alone, with no display elements affixed to the wall. “Why? Because the store will change layout each season, or even in season to host events,” Battacchi explained. “The store needs to evolve and change.”

Future roll-outs of the concept will be tailored to the stores’ specific sites. While plans have not been finalized, the executive said new store locations will primarily be sought in Sisley’s key markets of Italy, Germany and Japan.

“We wanted to focus on the store experience, and to offer something unique and if possible unforgettable. You can like it or dislike it. It’s not for everybody, but that’s on purpose,”  Battacchi said. “The same holds for fit, which is even more strict and in a niche direction, with very slim and sexy cuts. But we want a clear identity reinforced through the visual impact of the store and service in the store. Even if a consumer doesn’t buy, when they walk out, they will talk about it.”

There’s also less merchandise on hand than is today’s point-of-sale norm, the women’s and men’s fashion and denim offerings served up like a tasting menu of amuse-bouches rather than a packed buffet.

Indeed, enhanced selectivity is the name of Sisley’s strategic new game. “We don’t see Sisley as a mass brand at all,” Battacchi said. “We are improving quality, the level of finishing, and presenting a stronger stylistic identity to position ourselves in the bridge segment. We relied too much on basics in the past, and have now enlarged the top offer.”

Price points remain accessible. Women’s dresses, for example, retail for between 50 and 150 euros or $68 to $205, and denim between 50 and 120 euros or $68 to $164 at current exchange. In men’s, shirts run from 40 to 100 euros or about $55 to $137, tailored jackets from 70 to 180 euros or $96 to $246, and denim also at 50 to 120 euros or $68 to $205.

He added the collection has become much smaller and more targeted, with seven deliveries each in spring and fall, including two each season with a short, eight-week lead time to address unexpected trends. “This means producing in Europe, but for a group [Benetton] that usually has a lead time of seven to eight months, it’s a revolution,” he noted.

The brand is working hard to “give a pure identity to the Sisley brand and so we feel it’s necessary to create our own distribution network,” Battacchi commented. In part, this will mean “drastically reducing” Sisley’s shop-in-shop presence in its parent company’s United Colors of Benetton stores, remaining only in UCB venues where separate Sisley entrances and windows are possible. Besides concentrating on standalone stores, upgrading shops-in-shop with key accounts is part of phase one’s focus. Building the brand’s conventional wholesale business will come into play in phase two.

Regarding communication, the last ingredient in the brand’s selective push, Sisley tapped Stephen Gan, Argentine photographer Sebastian Faena, and models Julia Restoin Roitfeld, Clément Chabernaud, Lindsey Wixson and Reuben Ramacher for its “A Life Under Surveillance” catalogue and campaign. Online since late January, and to appear in selected print media as well as a short cinema trailer, it playfully portrays the overexposed world of the brand’s key target groups: the chicer 30s set (Roitfeld and Chabernaud) and more rock-oriented twentysomethings (Wixson and Ramacher). Barbara Kruger-like statements like “It’s Always About Us” (in the artist’s signature red graphics) add an ironic punch.

With all these activities, and the decision to kick off the new retail concept in Berlin, “the message the brand wants to send to the fashion community is we are different,” Battacchi said. The need for change is today’s market reality, not a reflection of brand weakness, he said. “With more than 1,000 global points of sales we’re not a smaller brand with limited visibility, but we want and we need to focus our efforts,” he said.

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