NEW YORK — For Fendi, the new Madison Avenue store represents more than just a relocation from Fifth Avenue. The move is considered the culmination of chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari’s vision since joining the Roman brand nearly three years ago. This centered around elevating the brand and its overall perception, touching on everything from store design to the range of accessories — think less logo, more playful and fur.
This story first appeared in the December 2, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The new, Peter Marino-designed flagship, which quietly opened its doors on Saturday afternoon, plays into such notions, which Beccari, on a walkthrough on Monday morning, called “a very unique positioning” of luxury, workmanship and touches of fun, all at once.
“That’s what we want to stand for and we are working to give this image to the public,” he said. “We are elevating the image and the ranges, so being positioned on Madison Avenue and 57th Street brings us at the heart of the type of client that we are trying to address.
“The U.S. market is doing very well,” the executive added. “The American public is very well-educated about fashion. If you make it here, you are on the right track. It has potential and is also a fantastic challenge for us to be successful here.”
The 4,100-square-foot store, located at 598 Madison Avenue at 57th Street, was previously home to Montblanc. The new store concept is smaller than the 6,500-square-foot one on Fifth, resulting in the loss of dedicated space for men’s wear. “Now we have to find a location in New York for men because we have no space here for men’s wear,” Beccari noted, adding that he is considering both Madison Avenue and SoHo, where the brand recently opened a pop-up shop, as potential areas for such a store. That said, a men’s-specific boutique is unlikely to open before 2016.
The store on Fifth Avenue, meanwhile, will remain open through the holiday season and close at the end of the day on Dec. 24.
On Madison Avenue, the decor nods at Italian minimalism and Fendi’s fur roots, from the Indonesian wood used for the floor that reads marble to hand-applied plaster and lacquered walls.
“We tried to express the world of Fendi with materials and materiality,” Marino noted. “If you look at it quickly and photograph it, it looks like fur. That’s how Fendi started out, those are their roots. I wanted to reference them in the materials.”
Columns and arches add to the Roman feel of the space. It was deliberately planned that way by Marino.
“If you just go by and open your eyes, and there is no sign yet, and I said to you, ‘What brand does this remind you of?’ You won’t say it’s Dior, you’re not going to say it’s Chanel and you’re not going to say it’s Vuitton,” Marino said. “You go, ‘It must be something Italian, it must be something Roman, it must be Fendi.’ We worked a long time to get that concept.”
The main floor focuses on women’s accessories, including handbags and shoes, eyewear and small leather goods. There is, for example, a wall installation of Baguette bags, as well as displays of mini versions of it alongside miniature mink coats fit for a toddler.
The second floor is devoted to the brand’s ready-to-wear and innovative furs in an open-plan space that creates a seamless transition between the areas.
“With the open communication between fur and rtw, everything becomes easier to read, and the categories are upgraded in terms of perception,” Beccari noted.
In a nod to the artisanal work of the house’s atelier, a wall by the staircase between the two floors features a display of fur tablets, which the artisans create to test the fur designs.
The facade is unique. Marino conceived an arch-and-column Travertine storefront that nods at the principal architectural feature of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, the house’s new Rome headquarters.
“I am trying to give to the public what I call a beautifully abstracted version of Rome,” Marino said of the facade. “The facade is a very soft Travertine, and like a Gio Ponti structure, there are arcades in Rome everywhere, from the Coliseum up to the 1960s. These arcades have circles on top. I did complex curves and cut them unevenly to give a modern twist to Fendi — there is the Fendi attitude that is always classic but with something cut off.”
“It’s kind of what we want to say about Fendi, the workmanship is superb, the design is always a fun, off-beat version of something classic, and it is a really quintessential Roman brand,” Marino said.
The Roman point is also made in the boxes and bags introduced at the Madison Avenue location. They come in a new textural yellow that reflects the patina of walls commonly found in the Italian capital.
Beccari declined to disclose the percentage of sales the U.S. market represents and the projections for the unit, but noted, “The U.S. market is one of our three top-priority markets right now.”
There are currently 18 freestanding stores in North America. As for growth here, Fendi plans to open a store in Miami’s Design District next year. Miami is an important market with much activity for the brand. For Design Miami, Fendi has teamed with Dimore Studio to create a Roman Lounge, recreating an ideal Fendi apartment in Rome with some of the brand’s most representative details, such as Selleria leather and fine stitching or color-blocking. Fendi also recently entered a partnership with Château Group to develop Fendi Château Residences, a 12-story waterfront condo in Miami slated for completion in June 2016.
Retailwise, the lion’s share of investment is earmarked for renovating and updating existing stores in the brand’s new elevated image. Madison Avenue is a key indicator of it. “It’s an important store not only for New York and the American public but it’s a window to the world,” Beccari noted. “Everybody comes to New York, and this is a window of the range of Fendi that highly speaks to our brand and its positioning.”
As Marino put it, “It’s a whole new concept in the interior and exterior. I am hoping people will leave with a feeling of old-fashion luxury and something Roman with a twist, a Roman holiday.”