Balenciaga's Madison Avenue flagship

Balenciaga ‘s new 4,000-square-foot flagship at 620 Madison Avenue at the southwest corner of 59th Street in Manhattan represents creative director Demna Gvasalia‘s urban retail concept, which has an industrial spirit with touches of metal, concrete and shades of gray.

The flagship replaces a 1,800-square-foot temporary store at 840 Madison Avenue, which closed on Friday.

The architecture of the flagship reflects Gvasalia’s interest in the concept of a public domain. The mostly glass storefront leads the eye outside, while observers on the street are attracted to the store’s diverse interiors. From either side, the mix of elements from metropolitan exterior design and original artwork is apparent.

Near the entrance, wraparound screens play videos of different types of skies. The store boasts the largest display of eyewear of any Balenciaga store, and a strong jewelry offering. An on-site graffiti artist, through Sunday, will customize  the new Hourglass top handle bag, $1,250 to $1,990 and B.bag, $1,090, among other items, tagging them with names, initials or birthdates. The customization program, at several other stores in the world, works with different graffiti artists to execute Gvsalia’s aesthetic.

Hero products from the runway are displayed for maximum impact. There’s a long pink satin puffer coat, $3,300; kimono knit sweater coat, $2,550, and pink pleated ring dress, $3,100. The house has moved to using only fake fur and stamped leather rather than croc for handbags. Across one wall, the men’s and women’s shoe area runs the gamut from Gvasalia’s BB logo treatment flats and mules, to Triple S trainers. An exclusive product designed for the flagship, a limited-edition New York version of the Balenciaga shopping tote in slate gray, retails for $950.

The Balenciaga logo, which was redesigned by Gvasalia, is embossed across the gray carpeting. Throughout the unit, seating is upholstered with public transportation patterns, and benches resemble those in subway stations or parks.

A piece by artist Tobias Spichtig, which is part of a series commissioned for 22 Balenciaga stores worldwide, is displayed at the flagship. Spichtig made the sculptures by dipping archival Balenciaga garments in resin and pulling them into expressive positions.

Balenciaga’s hyper-realistic mannequins are based on real people and made from 3-D scans of  the house’s runway models.

With its business growing in North America, Balenciaga has been on an expansion tear. The brand in November opened a shop-in-shop at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver. In June, Balenciaga unveiled a 6,000-square-foot flagship at 338 North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Expansions are on tap at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., Bal Habour Shops in Bal Harbour, Fla., and the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Balenciaga in November will open a store at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.

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