AKRIS BOUTIQUES BOW IN BOSTON, BERGDORF’S

Byline: Arthur Friedman, New York / Mary Hurley, Boston

NEW YORK — The Akris collection christened two new homes last week, with boutiques on Boston’s Newbury Street and at Bergdorf Goodman here.
Last Tuesday, Bergdorf’s unveiled a 750-square-foot in-store shop on its fourth floor, and the following night, the first Akris freestanding store in the U.S. opened at 16 Newbury Street, where Charles Sumner closed its doors last year.
Akris also has freestanding shops in Zurich, Paris, Munich, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, Japan.
Albert Kriemler, designer and president of the St. Gallen, Switzerland ready-to-wear firm, said he has sold Bergdorf’s for eight years, with business accelerating over the last six months.
“Akris has built a sophisticated base of customers who are attracted by its fine quality dresses and suits, which are well designed using outstanding fabrics,” said Stephen Elkin, chairman and chief executive officer of Bergdorf’s. “Akris has a high incidence of return customers, which is the proof of its success and is why we felt the line deserved its own shop.”
Elkin said the in-store shop “will do in excess of $2 million” in its first year.
The shop is decorated with sycamore wood panels and trim, and dark wood armchairs. It has two distinct areas. Located next to a Rena Lange shop-in-shop, which opened in September, the front section of the Akris boutique opens to a main aisle facing an area housing a variety of European labels.
In contrast, the back of the shop, with windows overlooking 58th Street, is set off from the main section, offering boudoir-like intimacy with silk curtains, leather armchairs and access to a dressing room.
In Boston, at Wednesday’s gala to celebrate the official opening of Akris on a tony stretch of Newbury Street, partygoers repeatedly asked Kriemler the same question.
“I was asked at least 12 times: ‘Why Boston?’ ” Kriemler told the assembled guests. Eleven years ago, he said, “in these halls,” when the store was Charles Sumner and he was 26, Kriemler staged his first trunk show and introduced Akris to the U.S.
The familiarity with Newbury Street isn’t the only reason Kriemler decided to open a boutique there.
“Boston fits in with the philosophy of Akris,” he said. “It’s a very European city, understated and sophisticated.”
Akris acquired the 2,300-square-foot store last September and has been running a soft opening since Feb. 10. The company projects first-year sales of $2 million.
The boutique has an interior similar to the Bergdorf shop’s, with cream plaster walls and quartered sycamore wood accented with chrome fixtures. The shop was decorated by Paris-based Sofa As, in collaboration with Bergmeyer Associates of Boston.
For Bostonians, the addition of Akris is another sign that the eastern stretch of Newbury Street is becoming more upscale, comparable to New York’s Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
“The golden triangle — that’s what this block is,” said Marianne B. Abrams, executive director of the Back Bay Association, a nonprofit group that represents local businesses. “There’s the Ritz-Carlton at one end and the Four Seasons at the other, and pleasure in between.”
Also on the same block, between Arlington and Berkeley, are Burberrys, Armani, Versace, Vidal Sasson and Louis, Boston. Chanel plans to open a boutique this summer.
“To have people in Europe think Boston is worthy of this, I think is great,” said Fran Goldberg, who owns Mercury Gallery at 8 Newbury Street. “The European attention to service is something we dearly need in this country, especially in this city.”
Joining Kriemler at the openings were his brother, Peter, who handles production and administration, and their mother, Ute, who advises her sons.
“We are extremely proud that you are with us in Boston,” said Ernest Jost, Boston’s Honorary Consul for Switzerland. “Switzerland is known for its chocolate, for ‘Heidi,’ for watches and beautiful mountains. Few people know Switzerland has other industries.”

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