The men’s business has been a bright spot for Salvatore Ferragamo’s U.S. division, which just unveiled a new men’s space at its Fifth Avenue flagship and is mulling opening more men’s stores.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Men’s represents 44 percent of Ferragamo’s American business.

“We’re known for leather shoes and handbags,” said Vincent Ottomanelli, president of Ferragamo USA. “On the men’s side, we don’t have a big category like handbags, so 44 percent is really strong.”

The men’s category has grown 20 percent in the past five years and even this year, its growth rate is 5 percent.

“That’s very good for 2009,” noted Ottomanelli. “In this difficult period, I like to think we’re making necessary adjustments to perform, but sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Our men’s business is doing well, so we’re investing in it.”

The renovated space at the Manhattan flagship used to be a gallery dedicated to art exhibitions and special events.

The 900-square-foot, second-floor area now showcases men’s wear designed by Massimiliano Giornetti — primarily suits and tailored outerwear, plus neckwear and leather goods. The interior incorporates the same materials as the rest of the store — Turkish walnut paneling, taupe leather and white limestone — in proportions that create a warm, woodsy effect. Leather furniture and secluded fitting rooms are designed to invite men to take their time.

Just outside the room, there is an area dedicated to Tramezza, which is Ferragamo’s most high-end, handmade shoe line, as well as expanded displays for men’s luggage, belts and small leather goods.

“The experience we provide needs to be the best, and that’s not easy to do in a single store because men shop differently from women,” said Ottomanelli. That is why, he said, Ferragamo is keeping a close eye on its only dedicated men’s store in the U.S., at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, and gearing up to roll out more single-gender stores next year.

“Single-gender is more intimate, and more comfortable for men or women. We’re seeing that in the Beverly Center; it’s really winning for us. That store is meeting its plan, which is saying a lot in this environment,” he said.

In addition, Ferragamo in December renovated its store at Bal Harbour Shops, and in January revamped Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center. The company opened a unit at the Waterside Shops in Naples, Fla., in February, and has a new shop in the pipeline at The Bravern in Bellevue, Wash.