Fifth Avenue is getting a touch of luxe, in a surprise switch from the recent influx of mass appeal brands.

This story first appeared in the July 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to real estate sources, Italian designer brand Dolce & Gabbana has just signed a lease to open at 715 Fifth Avenue, between 55th and 56th Streets, where Escada is currently housed. However, officials from Dolce & Gabbana could not be reached Thursday to confirm or deny the report.

“It will be a major flagship,” said one real estate source who requested anonymity. “The frontage will be built out to make a major brand statement.”

It couldn’t be determined if Dolce & Gabbana would sell the secondary D&G collection on Fifth Avenue. There’s currently a D&G store operating at 434 West Broadway, between Prince and Spring Streets, and a Dolce & Gabbana store on Madison Avenue and 69th Street.

The site is just south of the Giorgio Armani store and has 17,500 square feet — enough to create a flagship with impact.

The source also said Escada is expected to relocate nearby but did not specify where. Asked if Escada would stay on Fifth Avenue, the spokeswoman replied, “I can’t confirm or deny that.” Escada has been at the Fifth Avenue site for 10 years.

Dolce & Gabbana will pay a rent “in line with what’s been happening on that section of Fifth Avenue,” where rents can be in the $2,500 a foot range, the source said.

Other recent entries onto Fifth Avenue include Hollister, H&M and Zara, as well as Uniqlo, which is opening this fall on north end of 666 Fifth Ave. at 53rd Street where Brooks Brothers once stood. The growing fast-fashion, younger, and cheaper retail orientation of Fifth Avenue makes it harder for the remaining luxury businesses, such as Cartier, Bottega Veneta, Fendi and Ferragamo, to attract the affluent crowd who might be more inclined to shop posher Madison Avenue or 57th Street.

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