NEW YORK — Zadig & Voltaire‘s first 20 years in the U.S. were too quiet for founder Thierry Gillier. There will be no more living under the radar.
With a newly unveiled 5,000-square-foot flagship at 453 Broome Street in SoHo here; 1,200-square-foot luxury concept store — the first of its kind — at 755 Madison Avenue; relaunch of a dedicated U.S. web site; men’s collection launching at wholesale; new sneaker collection, and an ad campaign featuring Bella and Anwar Hadid, Zadig & Voltaire is having a “rebirth in America,” Gillier said.
Stores under construction or recently unveiled in North America include units in Toronto and Montreal; Westfield Century City and Abbot Kinney in L.A., and Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, Calif.
The investment in the U.S. comes after the brand increased sales by more than 100 percent in the last few years. “We’ll do well over $50 million in the U.S. in 2018. That will grow by 50 percent to 60 percent,” said Christopher Tate, the former president of Helmut Lang who joined Zadig & Voltaire as strategic adviser for North America and has been running the day-to-day business since January.
“We believe strongly that the retail experience is not dead, if done the right way,” Tate said. “We’ve focused so far on New York, L.A. and Miami — not just having a store, but deeply penetrating the market. Now we’ll turn our sights to San Francisco.”
On a recent morning, Tate was sitting on a large gray modular sofa in the Broome Street store, which has an industrial vibe with concrete floors, exposed ceiling ducts and metal and wood fixtures. “We’re very happy with how it’s doing,” he said of the flagship. “We expect this to be the largest-volume store in the U.S., and the early signs are that it will be.”
An existing Zadig & Voltaire unit in SoHo on Mercer Street will continue to operate. “We’re changing the merchandising concept,” Tate said. “We’re launching men’s at wholesale for spring 2018. That location will be more focused on men’s wear.”
Sneakers are a new category for the brand. Men’s and women’s styles, made in Italy, are priced from $298 to $398. “It’s a hot product category and has the design aesthetic of Zadig & Voltaire, including a love of novelty and mixed media,” Tate said.
The Broome Street flagship is the only unit to boast the latest store design besides the Paris unit. Like that store, on the corner of Rue Cambon and Rue de Rivoli, there is an emphasis on art. “Intersecting Zadig & Voltaire with art is everything,” Tate said. “We’re bringing something highly physical to the physical retail experience. You can’t appreciate art online.”
An art program and traveling gallery will roll out to key stores in 2018 after being piloted in New York. “There’s a unique installation of Thierry’s art from his personal collection,” Tate said. “It’s a very significant art collection worldwide. The staff has been trained by gallerists. We’ll continue to [mount] mini exhibitions.”
For the opening, Gillier provided “Untitled No.2,” 2015, by Dario Escobar, which is made from beams with carved out areas in which basketballs are suspended; Will Boone’s “Mercy Seat II,” 2014, a bench, and Eva Rothschild’s “Snowman,” 2013, a sculpture made from polyurethane resin and plaster paint.
“This is the first store with a complete eyewear presentation,” Tate said. He was standing near a display of a new Zadig & Voltaire fragrance by Shiseido for men and women, which launched in Europe last season.
Zadig & Voltaire’s luxury concept bowing Sept. 6 on Madison Avenue and 65th Street, won’t replace an existing unit farther north at 992 Madison Avenue. “The new store will be an opportunity to connect with more customers in Midtown,” Tate said. “The new concept will be mostly premium and luxe pieces and new things like handbags and footwear made in Italy. We’re doing a lot of specialty stuff like developing a cashmere collection. The store will also showcase runway pieces.”
The upper Madison Avenue unit will carry similar merchandise as the Broome Street flagship. “Plus, we’ve now evolved localized product for the U.S. with 30 percent of product created for the U.S. marketplace,” Tate said. “We’re in development for Made in the USA product that will be made in Los Angeles. It’s coming.”
For the second season in a row, Zadig & Voltaire — the name comes from the novel “Zadig ou la Destine,” by Voltaire — will be part of the CFDA New York Fashion Week official calendar.
The redesigned web site, launching on Sept. 6, was created exclusively for the U.S. as a standalone site. Online penetration is 15 percent of revenue, a figure that Tate hopes to double in the next few years.
Bella and Anwar Hadid were photographed wearing the fall collection in the Broome Street store when it was still under construction. There’s a lot of military influence in the brand, including an olive coat with silver piping, $648; rock ‘n’ roll black leather moto jacket with patches, $998, and a 100 percent silk black blouse, $228. One of the brand’s hallmarks is mixing hard rock ‘n roll styles with feminine pieces.
The company is building the infrastructure to manage the increasing number of stores and service wholesale accounts. Zadig opened a warehouse in New Jersey and unveiled new showrooms in New York and L.A. for the brand’s rapidly expanding wholesale business, which has grown from 15 specialty stores two years ago to 300 this year. With seven concessions — soon to be 12 — Bloomingdale’s is the primary department store partner.
Seven executive positions were added to bolster the U.S. management team, including vice president of retail; general merchandise manager; vice president of digital marketing; director of store development, vp of finance and operations. New hires joined from Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Theory, Ralph Lauren, Fast Retailing and Marni.