NEW YORK — Hugo Boss is throwing conventional wisdom to the wind with the first store selling products from all of its labels.
This story first appeared in the October 23, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Most fashion houses separate their collections, high from lower-priced and often men’s wear from women’s wear. Boss’ 4,000-square-foot store at 401 West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District is an experiment. The company’s hypothesis is that consumers will shop across many lines.
Hugo Boss has high expectations for the store. The first-year sales projection is a minimum of $5 million, said Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, chairman and chief executive officer.
“It’s a very targeted selection,” he said. “We decided it might be interesting to bring the sharpest and most unique items from each line together. Mixing interesting pieces from each brand could be very surprising. It’s a special moment in the history of Hugo Boss.”
Lahrs cited the opportunity to “show that we’re not only clothing men. We can talk about product like we’ve never talked about product before. The [sales] team will have to have an understanding of how different Hugo Boss brands can play together. We are going to be more alert and take lessons learned here to other stores. This is a playing ground and a laboratory. If this is successful we would definitely work on more stores like it.”
The unit, which opens to the public today, offers the Boss Black, Boss Orange, and Hugo labels for women and men, and Boss Selection and Boss Green for men.
Designs from the various labels make an eclectic presentation with a Boss Orange red calf hair miniskirt with patches of distressed leather, $850, displayed near an elegant Boss Black navy organza dress, $850. A quirky Boss Black skirt made from peacock feathers, $4,000, presents a different mood than a Hugo classic black strapless dress, $850.
There’s also a Boss Black double-faced calf skin trenchcoat, $3,495, a black cropped rabbit fur jacket from Hugo, $995, and a Boss Black lambskin coat with fur collar, $2,895. “You could pair a pair of cool jeans from the Orange collection with a great jacket from Hugo,” Lahrs said. “We haven’t played that way before.”
The design of the space is visually arresting, with a diamond-shaped wood canopy that creates a cocoon over the store. Architect Matteo Thun described it as a “supergrid.”
Although the furnishings — tufted black leather chairs, mirrored tables and red velvet curtains — are sumptuous, the architect took care to retain the space’s raw quality. The floor is concrete, brick walls are partly painted and exposed, columns are covered with layers of peeling paint and plaster. “We tried to save the soul of the Meatpacking District,” Thun said.
Light designer A.J. Weissbard created an elaborate illumination system that reacts to the time of day and the weather. It can also be preprogrammed to change colors every five minutes, giving a different look to the merchandise.
Lahrs said the Meatpacking District customer will be different than those at Hugo Boss’ other Manhattan stores at the Shops at Columbus Circle and Greene Street in SoHo. “This consumer has been shopping with Jeffrey New York,” Lahrs said, referring to the multibrand retailer on West 14th Street. “The consumer is very informed.”
While some luxury brands seem close to saturating the country with stores, Hugo Boss is still in a growth mode in the U.S. “The U.S. accounts for close to 20 percent of sales worldwide,” Lahrs said. “We’re going to grow the base.
“There’s still a white spot on upper Madison Avenue,” he said, noting that the company will look for a location on Madison next year. “Let’s see how the very new shopping destination of Wall Street [progresses]. We want to be careful, but we think there’s something to be done there. We think we have more room for stores in New York City. The FlatIron District is also interesting.”
Hugo Boss “won’t cannibalize [ourselves] in New York City,” Lahrs said. “There’s certainly a limit, but we haven’t touched the limit yet. We only have 35 stores in the U.S. If I look at our competitors, there’s room for growth, especially in cities where mall operators have developed a strong position.”
The Columbus Circle store will be renovated, he said.
Lahrs, who lived in Manhattan on 9/11, said, “This economy will take a bit longer, but it shows that the U.S. economy is the key to the world’s [economic well-being]. We are very highly interconnected. We need to find opportunities to develop this market. It doesn’t make sense to say we will stop now.”