DALLAS – Luxury weakness be damned — Forty Five Ten is gunning toward the Nov. 11 debut of its big new downtown store here.
Boasting four times the selling space of the original boutique, the dramatic expansion is a bold risk for the 16-year-old retailer, which is known for an adventurous and playful viewpoint. The original unit three miles away at 4510 McKinney Avenue will morph into a home furnishings store.
Planned for three years, the new store was delayed at least a year by construction issues and record-setting rains.
“It’s been very, very tough related to the timing of the opening as well as a tough retail market,” acknowledged Michael Tregoning, president of Headington Cos., the investor that spearheaded the development. “Notwithstanding that, Headington Cos. is 100 percent behind this store and will continue to support it in every possible way. We’re all in and feel very comfortable and excited.”
At almost exactly the same time – mid-November – the company will debut a 3,300-square-foot branch called Forty-Five Ten at River Oaks in Houston. With 20-foot ceilings and a minimalist decor, the Houston unit will carry the same categories but emphasize forward collections and city exclusives — including 15 niche beauty brands and designers such as Christopher Kane, Junya Watanabe, Monse and Valextra.
In Dallas, the newly constructed building spans 37,000 square feet, comprising 20,000 square feet of selling space on three floors, a ground-level Champagne bar, a rooftop terrace restaurant and a full basement.
The charcoal brick structure will glow with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows rising 18 feet on the first level and 12 feet on the second and third. Detailed with copper, rose gold, bronze and blackened steel metals and Arabescato marble, the interior will also sport fine contemporary art and custom textiles by KnollTextiles and KnollLuxe, some of which were designed by Proenza Schouler, Rodarte and David Adjaye.
A motor court on Elm Street will flash with a 25-foot undulating steel wind sculpture by Anthony Howe, while the Main Street entrance faces the Joule hotel, a Headington sibling, and Neiman Marcus flagship headquarters.
“The biggest change for me was realizing that the hallmark didn’t have to be ready-to-wear, that there was so much out there that was going to make the store interesting,” noted Forty Five Ten cofounder and president Brian Bolke. “Handbags and shoes are major new categories for us. Over 50 percent of the store is non-ready-to-wear, which is a big shift for us. We also really want this store to be known for gifts.”
Offering such brands as Alexander McQueen, Dior and Comme des Garçons, Forty Five Ten has added all the men’s and women’s categories of Prada, whose clothing is not sold elsewhere in the city, and is introducing Gucci for women and men across fashion, shoes and accessories.
“I care the most about adjacencies because I think that’s what stores tend to get wrong; putting the right kinds of brands together the way [the customer] wants to see them is what this is all about,” Bolke said. “The customer wants context, a point of view.”
Women’s will be divided into four zones — established designers including shops for Céline and Azzedine Alaia; advanced designers such as Proenza Schouler, Stella McCartney, Comme des Garçons and a Marc Jacobs boutique; a modernist group featuring a Maison Margiela shop, Rick Owens and others; and an area mirroring the company’s new TTH boutique at Highland Park Village showcasing Beaufille, Harvey Faircloth, Alexander Wang, Faith Connexion, Kule, Rosie Assoulin and Jacquemus.
TTH is about “easy pieces to pick up and go,” said Taylor Tomasi Hill, women’s vice president and creative director.
The men’s assortment will swell by five times, Bolke noted, highlighted by a Berluti boutique and the addition of Alexander McQueen, Pringle of Scotland, ReDone, Sacai, Visvim and Wooster + Lardini.
The boutique will also introduce a number of small beauty lines with plenty of blog buzz such as Dr. Sebagh, Goop and May Lindstrom. An expanded array of fragrances includes Byredo, a Diptyque Flower Shop concept, Frank Los Angeles, Le Labo and Kilian.
The retailer has also developed its first collaborative private-brand goods, including cashmere scarves by Denis Colomb, a Diptyque candle, Fossil x Forty Five Ten watches and artisanal ceramic tableware that will be used in the restaurant and offered for sale.
Forty Five Ten is working with Assouline on an 80-page book of portrait photography by Ruven Afandor. “The Eccentrics” will showcase such industry personalities as Iris Apfel, Donna Karan, Patrick McDonald, Douglas Little, Dita Von Teese, Kelly Wearstler and Erin Wasson.
The store will also display contemporary artworks by such prominent artists as Tracey Emin that were purchased by Headington Cos., which is headed by boutique co-owner Tim Headington. The oilman, Oscar-winning film producer and developer is investing heavily in revitalizing Dallas’ central business district.
Headington owns about 15 acres downtown and has four projects under way. His Joule hotel on Main Street also has a spa and luxury fashion boutiques Traffic Los Angeles and Tenoversix.
“In the beginning, the idea of doing this in downtown Dallas seemed so daunting, and now it’s its hallmark,” Bolke affirmed.
Twenty years of public and private efforts to spark life into the city’s languishing core are paying off. Restaurants, traffic jams and pedestrians percolate on Main Street around the Joule and a $17 million park that opened in 2009. The vaunted Arts District boasts a popular four-year-old park, a $350 million performing arts complex that opened in 2009, three art museums and a symphony hall.
The number of residents in the central business district has risen from 300 in the 1990s to 10,000, according to Downtown Dallas Inc. Another 40,000 live in the surrounding, burgeoning neighborhoods of Uptown, the Design District, Deep Ellum and the Cedars.
Still, shopper traffic in downtown Dallas remains spotty, even at the Neiman’s flagship, and Forty Five Ten must reach far beyond its existing clientele to be a success.
“I love the store — it’s very cool — but I think downtown retail is still a challenge to pull off,” commented Steve Leiberman, cofounder, cochair and chief executive officer of The Retail Connection brokerage and advisory firm. “I’m pro downtown and entrepreneurial moves, but I think that one is still ahead of the curve.”
The Joule will do its part to drive guests into the store, Tregoning noted, and Forty Five Ten plans by June to launch a transactional website after years of selling on Farfetch.com.
“I think this is a place that people will go, like Corso Como,” Tregoning said. “It’s about the merchandise and the provenance of how it was created, and it’s whimsy. Even the door to the washroom has a design scheme in mind.”