NEW YORK — From the moment a bridal or eveningwear shopper enters the gated vestibule leading into Reem Acra’s new 60th Street boutique here, she is enveloped by richness.

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Perhaps what makes the richness different from other high-end retailers in the area — Calvin Klein and Barneys New York across the street and Nicole Farhi next door — is the contrast between modern architecture and traditional accents. This same contrast is evident on Acra’s gowns, which offer clean, modern silhouettes and intricate hand-embroidered trims using the line’s signature gold metallic thread.

In the entry of the store, the designer’s first, the contrast is immediately encountered in the Acra-designed cocktail rings inspired by vintage jewelry that sit in a glass case in front of a large flat-screen TV encased in an expansive wall trimmed with recessed lighting.

After checking in with the receptionist, customers may take a seat on one of several vintage chairs and browse through Acra’s albums referred to by the designer as her “gold pages,” a play on the less-edited yellow pages. The books contain contact information for top-notch caterers, florists and other resources for brides-to-be, as well as international wedding traditions highlighting nuptial do’s and don’ts — don’t, for example, give pearls as a gift at a Philippine wedding, it’s bad luck. There is also a press book and a list of Acra’s favorite places to smooch in Manhattan.

A 5-by-10-foot white embroidered lace tapestry put together in sections by the designer sits inside an even larger thick glass door that slides open at the push of a button revealing the rest of the store. It’s set up like a runway with four cozy dressing rooms on the left and a long metal rod lining the right wall on which the bridal gowns hang.

In the center of the limestone floor is a section of gold cement to be used as the catwalk for Acra’s bridal presentations — it will be inaugurated on Monday with the 2004 collection during bridal market next week. The exoticism is subtly carried into the dressing rooms with the gold metallic thread embroidered on chair backs and atop colorfully upholstered ottomans.

According to Acra, the retail space is just over 3,000 square feet and the renovation cost several million dollars. There is also a sewing room for alterations, some office space and a kitchen for the staff. The store is expected to generate $3 to $4 million in sales during its first year, Acra said.

At the back of the store in a circular area with its own dressing room is the collection of eveningwear and cocktail dresses, as well as a growing group of evening separates, such as cashmere beaded twinsets and long bias-cut skirts in silk charmeuse.

Acra’s eveningwear represents about 30 percent of her seven-year-old, $15 million business and is expected to eventually outperform the bridal gowns. Acra’s goal for the eveningwear is to reach at least $10 million in annual volume in five years.

The store will carry bridal and eveningwear in silhouettes and fabrics exclusive to the store, in addition to much of the designer’s wholesale collection, which is carried at stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

“Between the merchandise and the fixtures, everything is customized and made to perfection,” said the designer, noting that the store’s custom-made tissue paper features a gold pattern resembling embroidery. “I wanted to create a relaxing atmosphere in a different kind of world that wasn’t about selling, but about servicing. I wanted my customers to experience a magical world, but one in a very modern context.”

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