Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — Escada landed a prime lot of upper Fifth Avenue real estate on Friday to open a flagship in its new corporate image, while market sources indicated that its former home of the past decade, located around the corner at 7 East 57th Street, will be turned over to the neighboring Burberry store, which is said to have remodeling plans of its own.
In an exclusive interview, Escada chairman and chief executive officer Wolfgang Ley told WWD that the company signed a 15-year lease on Friday at 717 Fifth Avenue, where landlord Yale University is building new retail spaces on what was a recessed public plaza at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. That’s the same corner, formerly home to Revillon and Steuben Glass, where the fellow Germany-based company Hugo Boss signed on in July to open its largest store.
Escada’s new home is planned to open around Sept. 15, 2001, in a 17,400-square-foot space next to Boss and will replace its 57th Street location, Ley said.
While Burberry officials would not comment on the development, real estate sources said the company is interested in acquiring Escada’s current site to widen its retail presence on the block.
The new Escada store will be about 2,600 square feet smaller than its existing store, but spread out over three larger floors rather than the six narrow ones that currently house the collection on 57th Street. The move was necessitated since the company has overhauled its brand image and philosophy over the past two years and was looking for a new retail venue in Manhattan that could communicate the breadth of change within the collection, as well as showcase its new freestanding lines of accessories, fine jewelry, scarves and men’s ties.
“As Escada has grown, we found that the 57th Street store was not the ideal location or configuration for our product,” said Lawrence C. DeParis, co-president of Escada USA. “We were looking for a new situation with more frontage and more space for window display.”
The new site will have 45 feet of frontage, as compared to the existing 28 feet on 57th Street, he said.
It is also expected to have a significantly higher volume. Sales have been extremely strong at the 57th Street location since new merchandise began arriving this fall, Ley said, noting that on Thursday, it experienced its biggest day of sales in its history, topping $233,000. This year, that location is expected to have sales of $15.5 million.
DeParis added that over a three-year period, Escada expects sales at the Fifth Avenue site to blossom to $25 million to $30 million annually. Escada had another 10 years on its lease at 57th Street, he noted, but was able to coordinate the termination of that lease in order to move into the Fifth Avenue space.
“In real estate, you usually say it’s all about location, location, location,” DeParis said. “In our case, it was location, location, configuration.”
Escada redesigned its collection under the direction of Brian Rennie over the past two years to update the line for a more youthful customer. The company incorporated a new logo, fragrance and store concept, early prototypes of which were launched in Paris and Seattle this year. Ley added that another will open in Hong Kong next week in a 5,500-square-foot space in Pacific Place, between Louis Vuitton and Hermes stores there, and that the company is in negotiations to open its first freestanding store in Tokyo. It operates some 110 stores around the world.
Escada, with $800 million in worldwide sales, also introduced its first freestanding accessories collection for spring 2001 and is launching women’s scarves, shawls and men’s ties in November with Italian printer Ratti. Last week, Escada also announced its first fine jewelry collection in a joint venture with De Beers, launching in Paris on Oct. 10.
“The power of the Escada collection is its diversity,” said Caryn A. Lerner, co-president of Escada USA. “We’ve also diversified into a number of categories lately through licensing partnerships and we will be able to present them in their entirety to customers within one or two views in the new store.”
Escada’s accessories had previously been merchandised within like color groupings of ready-to-wear throughout its stores, but in the redesign, the company is setting aside dedicated space for each collection.
As for Burberry, still in the midst of a remake under chief executive Rose Marie Bravo, the company opened the first retail space that goes along with its new image in August in London on New Bond Street, which will serve as a template for all future Burberry stores. Bravo said at the time of the London opening that the company would look at its U.S. retail presence after it opens a 16,000-square-foot space in Tokyo with Mitsui, its partner there, in December.