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NEW YORK — Welcome to the garden of the strange and sublime. It’s the new 3,500-square-foot Alexander McQueen flagship at 747 Madison Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets, a combination of fantasy, fashion and dark fascinations.
This story first appeared in the September 23, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The store design is a collaboration between McQueen creative director Sarah Burton and David Collins Studio.
The drama starts from the moment shoppers grab hold of the large bronze door handles, which look like branches with reptilian tails wound around them.
Inside, plaster panels on every wall suggest flora and fauna, real and imagined, from the twisted perspective of Francis Bacon’s paintings of popes, the surrealist artist HR Giger, the architecture of Antonio Gaudí, the 18th-century salon and Rorschach inkblots. The store design also has hints of primitivism, human skeletons and the female form.
Upon closer inspection, the 3-D panels are decorated with flowers, branches, skulls, gargoyles, shells and the shape of the Armadillo shoe from the spring 2010 collection. “A lot of the inspiration was gills and the undersides of mushrooms,” said Simon Rawlings, creative director of David Collins Studio. “They are organic shapes. Forms and textures will be used as inspiration for the brand moving forward.”
Crown moldings and cornices are made from plaster and embellished with sea creatures, while columns are covered with overlapping plaster feathers — “elements taken straight from the world of McQueen,” Rawlings said. The plaster reliefs were left unfinished and have a chalky look.
Dove gray, nude, lilac, soft gold and shades of white are the main colors used in the store. “We wanted to capture the delicateness of Sarah’s creations,” Rawlings said. Solid marble chairs are upholstered in leather — “the juxtaposition between hard and soft,” Rawlings said — and look as comfortable as a stone bench. Display furniture, like McQueen iconography, features solid bronze animal feet and monster claws.
The Madison Avenue flagship is the marked opposite of the original McQueen store in New York, the 14th Street location in the Meatpacking District. That store had curvy lines, a barrel-vaulted ceiling and an overall futuristic look. Clothes hung in circular formation, gowns dropped from the ceiling, and shelves and cubbies were lit from within.
The Meatpacking store closed on Friday evening.
“After 12 years in the Meatpacking area, we needed to move to a space that would allow us to showcase our collections in more depth, and Madison Avenue also gives us a stronger luxury positioning,” said Jonathan Akeroyd, president and chief executive officer of Alexander McQueen. Other luxury brands have also decamped from the Meatpacking District for more polished environs. Stella McCartney, McQueen’s former neighbor on 14th Street, relocated her store to SoHo in January 2012.
The new McQueen unit is broken into two spaces. The first features scarves, shoes, handbags and small leather accessories. The products, with names such as Heroine and Skull, fit easily into the slightly askew surroundings. The medium Heroine handbag with studs is $3,695; a gold-studded black knucklebox clutch sells for $2,295, and a mink skull box clutch is $3,280. Some women’s ready-to-wear will be displayed in the first room, but the bulk will be in the second room near the men’s area. “We’ll have commercial rtw as well as show pieces,” a spokesman said, referring to the runway. “Because fall was so embellished, we’re translating [runway] into commercial pieces that will be nearly identical.”
A long white hammered silk gown with gold embroidery from the runway is $13,430; a black leather coat with leather cape, $8,655, and a bullet sleeve mini pencil dress, $2,385.