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Zadig & Voltaire Boutique: Bonjour, New York

Retail residents of New York's Meatpacking District have a new French neighbor, Zadig & Voltaire.

Minimalist displays inside Zadig & Voltaire.

Retail residents of New York’s Meatpacking District have a new French neighbor. Zadig & Voltaire, the Parisian purveyor of casual contemporary fare with a boho-rock flair, moved into 831 Washington Street last month and will officially open with a launch party on Monday.

This story first appeared in the April 2, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Founded in 1997, Zadig & Voltaire is already well established in Europe — it has 11 stand-alone stores in Paris, more than 100 doors globally and is wholesaled in department stores such as Le Bon Marché, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette in France and Dubai. Signature styles include plush pastel cashmeres, T-shirts and studded leather bags, which range in price from $80 to $1,000, and are designed by the label’s creator and chief executive officer, Thierry Gillier, and its artistic directors, Cecilia Bonstrom and Carol Gerland. The company also recently launched its first fragrance, Tome 1 La Pureté, which was developed by Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi of Le Labo.

Zadig & Voltaire’s New York outpost comes nearly four years after the company’s entry into the American market. Its first Stateside store opened in Los Angeles’ Sunset Plaza in 2005, at which point its U.S. expansion plan included six to 10 new stores within two years, according to the retailer’s then-ceo Al Cadosch. Things have obviously progressed more slowly than originally anticipated, at least in the U.S. In the meantime, Zadig & Voltaire, which reported $135 million in annual sales, has focused its push in Europe and Asia.

“[We are] undergoing a very strong expansion, opening over 20 store locations every year,” said Gillier, noting new spaces are planned abroad in London, Madrid, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Japan. In the U.S., stores are planned for Aspen, Colo.; Miami; Chicago; San Francisco, and a second one in Los Angeles.

Such expansion might seem optimistic in this unsteady retail climate, but Gillier is willing to test the waters despite having signed the New York lease in July “in the old economy,” as he put it. When asked if he had any hesitation about opening in the new economy, Gillier said, “No, because it’s only one shop, and the shop is really a window into the States.”

And indeed, the New York store’s floor-to-ceiling windows peer into 2,200 square feet designed by France’s So-An and New York’s A+I architecture firms to a minimalist, gallery effect, with mirrored ceilings and a lacquered display table in the center of the floor. Gillier, who projected $2 million in first-year sales, prefers the Meatpacking District to SoHo’s cramped retail landscape. “It’s a small place, so you can see who’s there compared to SoHo, where there are so many shops,” he said. “When you are in the Meatpacking everybody knows you are in the Meatpacking.”