Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Salvatore Ferragamo has quietly opened in SoHo, unveiling an animated, modern interior that sets a standard for the luxury firm’s stores of the future yet retains the neighborhood character, with its restored redbrick facade and tall windows.
The modern, airier store environment has a smoother flow from accessories to ready-to-wear to men’s wear and reflects Ferragamo’s effort to recast its classic design approach with hipper and younger items. The 5,000-square-foot store, which opened Sept. 28 at 124 Spring Street, is well situated on the southeast corner of Spring and Greene Streets, providing maximum visibility to pedestrian traffic.
“We are very, very careful about locations,” said Massimo Ferragamo, president and vice chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo USA. “This is a great corner. We’ve got great windows, and it’s a wonderful space, with a large, beautiful staircase that invites you down to the men’s floor. It’s like opening a new home. It’s a great feeling. But we have to remember there are worldwide problems. It’s too early for people to get back to a normal life. The mood isn’t there yet. Business is going to be tough. It was tough already around the country. I just don’t see it recovering anytime soon.”
Having said that, Ferragamo proceeded to give a tour of the store, singling out its most dramatic architectural element — the staircase to the men’s space on the lower level. It’s constructed with 300-pound limestone steps with steel cores, yet just seems to float in the air. There are recessed suspended Corian shelves and nickel chain-mail hangings that create a lightness or transparency to the space as well, drawing one closer to the merchandise and deeper into the store. Amid the modernity, a neutral palette and warmth pervades, enhanced by the limestone floors, pearlized leather sofas, Italian walnut bases and supple porcelain display platforms.
Still, the mood is more vibrant than muted, with the shop’s flexible merchandising fixturing system, light-reflective double-paneled glass doors to dressing rooms and neon lighting with gels that can simulate daylight or moonlight.
“There’s a refined, casual elegance to the environment — more like a living space than overtly commercial,” said Michael Gabellini, the architect of the store. “There’s always air and light moving through. Unlike most SoHo shops, this doesn’t fall into the boutique category. We treated it as a theater.”
The store was constructed by Richter + Ratner Contracting.
Future Ferragamo stores will reflect the look. The Florence, Italy-based company plans openings in Manhasset, N.Y., and Atlanta next year; Bologna, Italy, at the end of this year, and Cannes, France, early next year. Locations in Dallas and Houston are being sought. The company is creating its world’s largest store in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue, by expanding at 663 Fifth into 655 Fifth, on the northeast corner of 52nd Street. The 30,000-square-foot flagship is expected to open in spring 2003.
Currently, Ferragamo operates 15 stores in North America: in San Francisco on Union Square; Beverly Hills and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Bal Harbour and Palm Beach, Fla.; Chicago; Las Vegas; Honolulu (two stores) and Maui. There is also a unit in Vancouver, and a 2,500-square-foot men’s unit in the Trump Tower, which might be converted into an accessories-only Ferragamo shop. Ferragamo’s new store design is already seen in units operating in Venice and Portofino, Italy.
With this year’s economic slowdown, particularly since Sept. 11, Ferragamo acknowledged “significant” volume declines last month.
“You feel it all over the country, mainly in places deeply dependent on tourism, like Las Vegas and Hawaii. Travel is really down,” he said.
Nevertheless, there was no second-guessing the decision to open in SoHo. “It’s very important to have a presence here for a company that wants to be more forward,” Ferragamo explained. “It’s where the action is and where the trends are. It’s a very particular kind of customer. But when you open a store in an area like this, it’s wrong to expect business to happen full speed in the first month. It’s an investment in the brand, and it’s about sending a message to the consumer.”
He said Ferragamo aims for about $4 million in sales for the first year at the new site. It has 2,400 square feet for selling on the ground level and 1,000 on the men’s floor.
Ferragamo women’s shoes range in price from $200 for an unlined pump with a leather sole up to $800 for a crocodile shoe, with an average price around $270. Men’s shoes range from $280 for a casual pair to $450 for a pair with handmade welted construction. Women’s jackets range from $850 for a wool blazer to $1,500 for a tailored wool jacket. Some of the more forward items include short leather jackets for men and women, priced at $1,300, and short shearling jackets for women, at $1,410.