Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — After two years of looking at locations, Francois Girbaud is ready to open his own store in Manhattan.
That puts him in what he described as the unfamiliar position of being a follower, rather than a member of the avant-garde.
“I’m following Renzo,” he said, referring to Renzo Rosso, the owner of Diesel, who is in the midst of an aggressive global retail expansion. “For the first time in my life, I’m following somebody.”
The Paris-based designer, who produces Marithe & Francois Girbaud with his wife, plans to open a 3,150-square-foot store showing his full sportswear line at 41 Wooster Street in SoHo next fall. He’ll be in good company — a slew of apparel brands, including Diesel, have opened up SoHo locations over the past two years.
In an interview at the East Side town house where he stays while in New York, the designer complained that department store buyers have become too cautious about fashion and argued that opening his own shop is the best way to show the American public his full range.
“The department stores don’t show enough of the line,” he explained, sitting on a rug wearing a band-cotton denim shirt and a pair of sneakers, sipping champagne. “I don’t want to ask somebody, ‘Please, believe in this.’ I believe in it. I will do it.”
The store will be the first owned by the designer in the U.S. There are two Girbaud stores already in place, in Chicago and Los Angeles, but they are independently operated. Girbaud said he wants to show American shoppers that he makes more than jeans and T-shirts.
The SoHo unit will be one of two new retail locations Girbaud set for next year. The designer also plans to open his second Paris store, at Rue du Cherche-Midi, in February.
The New York store will be designed by French architect Kristian Gavoille and the New York firm 1,100 Architects. It will initially carry the designers’ high-end European sportswear lines and may also stock the U.S. jeans collection, which is produced under license by I.C. Isaacs & Co.
While his core American customer base is in the Midwest, Girbaud said he’d also like to have locations in Miami and possibly Dallas.

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