ESCADA FLAGSHIP’S LAID-BACK LUXE APPROACH

Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — Escada has a new palace in town.
The luxury brand has relocated its flagship from East 57th Street to a 17,000-square-foot store at 715 Fifth Avenue, between 55th and 56th Streets.
After 10 years at the old location, which the company described as cramped and difficult to shop in, Escada hired architect Stephen Miller Siegel, who designed the Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store and Wathne stores here and in Los Angeles, to design the new shop. It will become the prototype for all Escada stores worldwide.
The shop opened Saturday.
Relocating to Fifth Avenue, which is enjoying an influx of luxury stores, was a natural choice, according to Caryn Lerner, president and chief marketing officer for Escada.
“The configuration and the location of the space was perfect, right smack in the middle of all of the exciting developments that have been taking place on Fifth Avenue with primarily all of our peers and the brands we compete with,” said Lerner. Among the stores to have recently opened in the area is Hugo Boss, Escada’s next-door neighbor. Cartier just renovated and reopened, and Ferragamo’s expanded flagship is expected to bow in 2003.
An impressive limestone and glass facade gives way to a stark, white three-story interior. The modern design is softened by touches of feminine excess, like white velvet, crescent-shaped couches, bright pink leather tufted chairs and zebra-hide footstools. The high ceilings, curved staircases and two-story atrium make the store seem spacious, while several intimate sitting areas with couches, chairs and ottomans lend a residential feel.
“We wanted our customer to feel like she was walking into a more modern version of her own living room,” said Carl Barbato, vice president of retail stores for Escada.
That’s an open invitation for lounging and leisurely shopping. Touches that customers are unlikely to find in their own homes include ivory shellacked mannequins with matching platinum salon coifs, white ostrich-covered banisters and cavernous fitting rooms that expand according to the size of one’s entourage.
Of the 17,000 square foot total, 10,000 is selling space. The ground floor of the store has selected pieces from Escada’s ready-to-wear collection along with its entire accessories line, which now includes handbags, shoes, sunglasses, scarves, ties and fine jewelry. The top floor houses the rest of the ready-to-wear collection including daywear, sportswear and suits, while the bottom floor rounds out the store with Escada’s evening and couture lines.
The clothes support the Escada ideal of the glamorous, jetsetting woman. Here she has a wide, but very distinct array of colorful leathers, beaded tops, mink trimmed jackets and fluid, beaded evening gowns from which to choose.
Prices range from $1,300 to $2,400 for evening dresses; $500 to $4,600 for trousers and jackets. Couture gowns start at $2,900, while accessories range from $125 to $1,200 (excluding jewelry).
The store design is just the latest step by the $800 million company to change its image. It has spent the last several years redesigning the brand, the collection and launching new product categories like intimate apparel, scarves, ties and jewelry.
“It’s appropriate that we create a new store design that reflects these changes in the brand…and the first place to introduce it should of course be New York and Fifth Avenue,” said Lerner.
The company expects the Manhattan unit to double its business in three years; the previous store was 10,000 square feet. Executives declined to put a volume figure on the store. Escada already has 15 stores in the U.S. and it will continue rolling out new shops that reflect the updated design.
Next up are units in Plano, Tex., Short Hills, N.J. and San Jose, Calif. The expansion and redesign are key, since retail sales account for 50 percent of Escada’s total volume.
The executives’ hope is to have created a store environment that’s modern and glamorous yet welcoming.
“We’re looking for the customer to come in and have a good time,” says Barbato. “We’re open to her wandering around and enjoying a bit of fantasy, and we want to be up and fun and friendly and ready to serve her that way.”

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