UNGARO’S ROSE-COLORED VIEW

Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — If there’s ever been any doubt about Emanuel Ungaro’s favorite color, here is the definitive statement from the designer himself: “Pink is the institutional color for Ungaro.”
And the point is made abundantly clear in two new Ungaro stores that opened this month, one in London and one here. No watered-down tones of beige and white for this Paris-based, Italian-owned designer; instead, the stores are done in shades of pink, starting at powder and moving up to fluorescent, peaking with dramatic hot-pink glass staircases that are the anchor for both stores.
Ungaro and his parent firm, Salvatore Ferragamo, are on an aggressive global expansion plan, which includes opening stores and heating up its accessories business. There are currently only six wholly-owned Ungaro collection boutiques in the world, but the long-term goal is to pink-ify those through renovation or expansion, while opening new stores to ultimately bring the total to 35.
On April 19, the 3,700-square-foot London store opened on New Bond Street. It reestablished the designer’s retail presence in that city, three years after a jointly-owned Ungaro boutique on Sloane Street closed.
The company is also renovating its store here at 792 Madison on the corner of 67th Street. It took over a second floor and basement and increased selling space by 1,700 square feet to 3,200 square feet. The flurry of activity is all toward the greater goal of doubling retail sales, as reported, to hit $275 million inside the next four years.
“Over the past year we have been working hard to redefine the Emanuel Ungaro image,” said the designer. Wholesale volume tripled for the fall 2001 collection, he said, and the new focus on the British and American markets is gaining momentum with the store openings as well as star endorsements.
“The clothes are now being worn by celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Dido, Faith Hill and Sarah Jessica Parker,” Ungaro said. “The London and New York flagships are both located on prime pieces of real estate and are a statement of the new confidence. The New York store is an important step for us in that it will enable Emanuel Ungaro to increase communication in the American market, through the birth of the Emanuel Ungaro lifestyle concept.
“We are in the process of building up a direct American branch, which will enable us to coordinate both the retail and wholesale markets in the U.S. We are also planning on opening an Emanuel Ungaro showroom in New York. The exact location has yet to be confirmed, but it will be a prime uptown property. This will enable us to optimize both press and wholesale relations.”
Both the New York and London store spaces are anchored by the eye-catching staircases, include greatly expanded accessories and footwear areas and are furnished with Nepalese rugs and Chinese ceramics and furniture.
“The beauty of both stores stems from the fact that we have managed to create a subtle balance between totally contrasting elements,” said Ungaro. Comfortably domestic items like plush cushions, rugs and cushy armchairs contrast with the glass staircase and the high-tech, fiber-optic flat TV showing runway footage.
All the new locations, including a new accessories and footwear store set to open in Paris this fall in the St. Germain des Pres neighborhood, are being done by Italian architect Antonio Citterio and modeled after on what is essentially ground zero for Ungaro: its Avenue Montaigne store in Paris.
The boutiques in Milan, Bal Harbor and Palm Beach are being renovated or expanded, and stores are set to open in Rome, Hong Kong and possibly Cannes. In the U.S., the company would like to open a store in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco. “We are researching the possibility of opening a Los Angeles store,” said Ungaro. “In view of the increase in celebrity dressing, this could be a really important and lucrative move for us. The Oscars have taken on worldwide importance in recent years, and I feel our presence in Los Angeles is now necessary.”
In another development, Francesco Lampronti has been named vice president of sales and marketing for Ungaro, based at the company’s Paris headquarters. He had been vice president for sales and licensing at Calvin Klein Europe. In the new post, he’ll be responsible for expanding the designer’s wholesale business internationally.