NEW YORK — Mackintosh is in the midst of a makeover and its new Madison Avenue boutique here is intended to drive that message home to American consumers.
Today the venerable Scottish brand, which was founded in 1823 and is known for its trademarked waterproof rubberized fabric trenchcoats, will open its first U.S. store at 833 Madison Avenue.
The boutique, between 69th and 70th Streets, has 760 square feet of selling space and sports a contemporary black-and-white design with accents of marble and polished chrome.
Calling it a “minimalistic box,” Andrea Austoni, the company’s global commercial director, said: “We used timeless materials to complement the timeless product.”
Since 2007, Mackintosh has been owned by Yagi Tsusho Limited, which also owns or has distribution agreements with Barbour, Woolrich, John Rich & Bros, Moncler and others.
Austoni said that with Mackintosh, the Japanese company employs a hands-off approach and allows the brand to operate independently. But behind the scenes, it is “investing quite heavily in our re-branding,” he said. Since 2015, he said the line has been moving toward “more contemporary luxury.”
While classic heritage product continues to represent the bulk of the business, Mackintosh has been upping its cool quotient by creating designer-skewed capsule collections and collaborating with buzzy fashion brands.
Last year, it tapped London-based designer Kiko Kostadinov as creative director for a new collection called Mackintosh 0001. The first iteration was a minimalistic, all-black unisex collection that relied heavily on the rubberized materials that define the brand, but with details and silhouettes that are more contemporary.
For spring, Kostandinov’s Mackintosh 0002 lightened things up by mixing workwear with tailored clothing in an elegant and sparse offering.
These collections have been picked up by Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony and about 28 other retailers around the world. “We’re targeting the more-contemporary fashion market and the younger generation with this,” Austoni said.
Ditto with Mackintosh’s recent collaborations with brands and designers ranging from Vetements and Maison Margiela Man to Le Kilt and Alyx Studio, an American luxury streetwear label.
“We’re calling it Mackintosh 2.0,” Austoni said. “We’re moving very fast.”
He explained that the strategy is to retain the classic British heritage of the main line but collaborate “carefully” with more-edgy labels. All of the company’s offerings will be sold at the new Madison Avenue store.
The New York store is the company’s fourth: there are two in Toyko — Aoyama and Ginza — and one in London that recently relocated to Conduit Street — and Austoni is confident the new unit will be a success. “We believe Madison Avenue is going to work very well for us,” he said. “Our clients prefer the customer service they get at a boutique.” The flagship also gives the staff a chance to explain the history of the label and its signature rubberized fabric that Charles Macintosh, a Scottish chemist, developed nearly 200 years ago.
The store will also carry the brand’s full ready-to-wear and accessories offering. “Coats will always be our main feature, but we need other categories to drive sales,” he said.
At the end of August, the brand launched an e-commerce platform on Farfetch that Austoni said will eventually become an “important project in our re-branding.” In addition to selling its product globally, the site allows Mackintosh to tell its story directly to consumers and within the next month, more content will be added so it becomes “a proper brand web site,” he said.
Looking ahead, Austoni said Mackintosh wants to open stores in Paris and Milan. “We’re not looking to open a lot more stores,” he said. “In U.S., this will be our only one. But we want to be in key locations around the world.”
Wholesale still represents the bulk of sales, with Japan accounting for 40 percent of the business. Mackintosh is sold in retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges, Matchesfashion.com, Tsum, Holt Renfrew and Browns. Its presence in the U.S. is limited to Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony and some specialty stores, although by next fall the company will redouble its efforts to regain a foothold at larger stores in the U.S.
In addition, Austoni revealed that the brand, which is about 65 percent men’s internationally, is seeking to hire a designer for its main line. The collection is currently created by a design team, but Mackintosh is hoping to secure a “bigger name” that can help retain the brand’s history while injecting a modern touch — and helping boost its women’s business.
“We want to offer something more fun,” he said, noting that he believes prints and patterns could help complement the current offering.
Austoni, who joined Mackintosh 18 months ago from Vivienne Westwood, sees a bright future for the brand. “When you have a brand with this kind of history, you’re very lucky.”