NEW YORK — First came the chief executive officer. Now, New York.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Valextra continues its two-month streak of major changes with its first U.S. boutique, opening this week at 833 Madison Avenue. The move comes on the heels of the ceo appointment of Alessandra Bettari, and just over a month since the departure of design director Alvaro Gonzalez. Following Gonzalez’s exit, it was announced that the luxury leather goods brand’s in-house team will design the collections — and its New York store might be a sign of innovation to come.
Bettari tapped architect Marco Costanzi to design the 1,291-square-foot space, which sits next to Akris, Chloé and fellow Italian import Prada. The store marks the beginning of a new retail concept for the brand — less minimal, more Italian opulence. “The store concept includes materials that are typical of the Milanese architecture,” explained Bettari. “We use brass, which is very prevalent in the Milanese architecture of the 1920s, as well as our own leather. This design has some regality, as well as warmth.” In addition to brass and leather, the interior will feature floors made of Ceppo di Gre, a stone typically used in building facades.
The store marks Bettari’s first major international expansion move since taking the ceo helm. “The U.S. customer is very sophisticated and understanding of quality,” she said. “It’s a loyal customer who comes back.” The company declined to provide specific sales projections, but noted that the store saw profits from its official open date on Monday. Valextra has previously been available to the U.S. consumer through an exclusive distribution with Barneys New York. The department store carries a large array of products, ranging from a $240 credit-card holder to an $11,700 alligator envelope clutch. “Barneys has helped develop the awareness of the brand within the market,” said Bettari. “That raises our confidence in making this big investment….We’re a brand that doesn’t speak loud. People think that Valextra is a very exclusive brand. I think we’re inclusive, in the sense that we include the personality of the individual who buys, desires and owns a Valextra bag.”
Capitalizing on the desire for personalization, full bespoke services will be offered on the store’s second floor. “I really believe that each single item that Valextra sells should have your name,” she said. “You are the logo. This is your bag.”
The bespoke aspect will also incorporate Valextra’s new technology push, offering an app that allows users to see and play with different customization offerings. “We like old things, but doing them in a completely new way,” Bettari said of the app. Valextra will also be launching e-commerce in January. The concept will begin to roll out worldwide with a boutique in Hong Kong opening in December. Looking to 2015, Bettari noted that London was next on the list. “It’s important to meet the customer where they are looking for us,” she said.