Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — With the opening of its San Francisco flagship set for Aug. 1, and Tony Bennett booked for the launch party, Salvatore Ferragamo is looking to step out with renewed vigor.
The Italian fashion house is positioning itself to tap deeper into America’s luxury boom, taking its classic, cautious approach to a more modern level. Ferragamo, best known for shoes and accessories, recently recruited top creative talent to enrich design, with a rounder, coordinated approach that better links the ready-to-wear with the accessories and shoes, and other products. The company is reinventing its look to project a younger, colorful fashion message that even extends to the advertising.
Anticipating growth, the family-run Ferragamo, based in Florence, is devising a new retail expansion strategy that seems aggressive compared with the gingerly approach of the Eighties and Nineties.
“It’s a good moment for the luxury business, and certainly seems to be an accessories time, which is what we do most strongly,” said Linda Abdoo, senior vice president and retail director, during an interview last week. “We have the organization to support rolling out stores, and think we learned a lot over the past five years. This is the right time to apply what we’ve learned.
“Over the next few years, probably starting in 2001, there is potential for eight to 10 more stores in the U.S. We’re working on plans to determine how fast to go and where we want to go. Of course, we’re never going to have 900 stores. Probably, we’ll have another 10” over the next three or four years.
“It’s premature to talk about where they will be. We are studying different markets.”
The company is also expanding shop-in-shops in certain locations, and Abdoo disclosed that Ferragamo might start selling on the Internet. “We are studying what our strategy on the Internet should be. We certainly believe there is potential.”
The San Francisco store has a prime, 9,000-square-foot location. It’s right on Union Square, on the site of the former I. Magnin store. It’s expected to post more than $10 million in annual sales, ranking it third or fourth in volume among Ferragamo’s 12 other U.S. stores. The Fifth Avenue women’s flagship, the company’s largest store with 13,000 square feet, and a couple of other locations, post higher volumes. The Beverly Hills store ranks second in size with about 11,000 square feet. In North America, Ferragamo also has stores in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif.; a men’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York, and units in Bal Harbour and Palm Beach, Fla.; Chicago; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Maui, and Vancouver.
“Our favorite word is synergy,” Abdoo said. “When we go into a market, we look at how our business is balanced with stores we already do business with. We have a valued and established presence with the Saks, Neimans and Nordstroms of the world. The idea is to go into a market where there is going to be a lot of plus business to help everybody. In some markets, it doesn’t makes sense to also open our own retail store. But in San Francisco, there is a lot of business to be done there, and we want to show the whole range of Ferragamo.”
On Union Square, Ferragamo already sells at Neiman’s and Saks. “They concentrate heavily on shoes and Ferragamo is a lot more than shoes,” Abdoo said, explaining that the San Francisco unit will present a broader assortment. Shoes will represent roughly 50 percent of the business; apparel, 20 percent, and accessories, about 30 percent. Fragrance and sunglasses will also be sold.
“San Francisco is a very international city,” she added. “In addition to the local market, which is large, there is also a large tourist component. Many tourists are more comfortable in specialty stores than department stores.” According to Abdoo, in high-income locales such as Beverly Hills, a higher percentage of visitors from Asia spend more time shopping designer boutiques than department stores.
“We waited a long time until we could get a great space,” Abdoo said. “We also looked on Post Street and Grant Street, but here we have wonderful co-tenants,” including Louis Vuitton. The building, owned by Federated Department Stores, which operated the former I. Magnin, has an atrium entrance, and Vuitton and Ferragamo are the two tenants on the ground floor. The Ferragamo windows face Geery Street on Union Square.
DFS, which along with Vuitton is owned by LVMH, has the sublease for several floors, which will go to Duty Free and Galleria stores, both operated by DFS.
The Ferragamo store, considered a West Coast flagship, was designed by architect Roberto Monsini of Italy, who creates Ferragamo stores worldwide. On this project, he worked with Kenne Shepherd, a New York interior designer, to help adapt Monsini’s concept to the U.S. Richter & Ratner, based in New York, is doing the contracting and cabinetry work.
The San Francisco flagship will be a dramatic departure from the typical Ferragamo store look, reflecting Ferragamo’s efforts to broaden its business and appeal.
There will be special Ferragamo products in the flagship that in San Francisco can only be found there. Women’s shoes range in price from $190 for an unlined simple pump with a leather sole to $280 for a more elaborately constructed higher-heeled shoe with an ornament and more intricate design. Men’s shoes range from $280 for a simple casual pair to $400 for a completely sewn Tramecca sole stitched with extra pieces that mold to the foot.
Prices of women’s jackets range from $850 for a wool blazer to $1,500 for a cashmere jacket with detailed stitching.
Ferragamo has a new women’s design studio head, Marc Audibet, who reports to Giovanna Ferragamo. Nicole Fischelis, senior vice president of fashion worldwide, was recruited last year from Saks. She has been working to unify the different Ferragamo design studios to take common directions, and produce more colorful looks than in past seasons, but, as always, in lasting, not trendy styles.
“The West Coast flagship is extremely important,” said interior designer Shepherd. “It’s radically different in terms of design. It’s a more minimal store, quieter, with all of the elegance and Italian sophistication one would associate with Ferragamo. The signature Ferragamo look, marked by black lacquer on wall fixtures to frame the merchandise, is gone.”
The new look integrates natural woods and maple wood shelves against light beige paneled walls. Freestanding display fixtures are in darker mahogany, and display elements, like hang rods, are stainless steel. The floor is a dark gray custom ceramic tile. The leather furniture is dark gray and sleek, pared-down fixtures sharpen the focus on merchandising.
Lighting will be more theatrical and “very much geared on the product,” Abdoo said. Among the most striking features, a double-height, 22-foot ceiling, in the first third of the store, has a large grid of coved lighting.
The launch party, scheduled for Sept. 18, will feature Bennett in concert to benefit the New de Young Museum, and a huge tent covering Union Square. Proceeds from the benefit, which will be underwritten by Ferragamo, are expected to be about $100,000.