NEW YORK — Ruehl, the new Abercrombie & Fitch brand intended for 22- to 35-year-olds, encompasses a range of merchandise, including men’s and women’s casual sportswear, jeans, outerwear, fragrance and accessories sold in stores that usually average 8,000 square feet.

That kind of retail space is virtually unheard of in Manhattan’s West Village, where Ruehl set its sights on opening a store. But the architecture of the neighborhood dovetails well with Ruehl’s concept, involving a town house with a brick facade and wrought-iron fence.

The first Ruehl handbag-only store is scheduled to open in November in a 600-square-foot former antiques shop at 370 Bleecker Street. Handbags in the line sell for $268 to $1,098.

The store will be among neighbors Ralph Lauren, Lulu Guinness, Cynthia Rowley and Marc Jacobs, who made the thoroughfare trendy when he became the first designer with a national profile to open a store there in the mid-Nineties.

A Ruehl spokeswoman said other handbag-only stores are planned but declined to discuss specific locations. Ruehl stores have bowed in International Plaza, Tampa, Fla.; Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill; Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.; 12 Oaks in Detroit, and Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. Other units are planned for the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y. and Tyson’s Corner in McLean, Va.

Meanwhile, Abercrombie & Fitch is moving ahead with its Fifth Avenue flagship.

The A&F magazine makes it seem as if the world is populated by impossibly beautiful, athletic creatures, all under the age of 25. Chaise Mooty, a face in the Summer 2005, Issue 4 magazine, upholds that assumption. There’s more Mooty plastered across the facade of 720 Fifth Avenue, the site of the flagship.

The company in November is opening a 23,000-square-foot store in the space, which formerly housed Fendi. The store, designed by Annabelle Selldorf in collaboration with A&F chairman and chief executive officer Mike Jeffries, will sell the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, Ezra Fitch and abercrombie for kids, for ages 10 to 14.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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