NEW YORK — Calvin Klein Collection has finally found its new show space — and its right in its back yard.
Construction is under way at Calvin Klein Inc.’s 205 West 39th Street headquarters to create an 8,600-square-foot show space on the ground floor that can seat up to 600 people. The space will be inaugurated with the fall 2006 Collection runway presentation on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. during Olympus Fashion Week.
The new runway space is clearly a departure for Calvin Klein, which had presented its Collection lines at Milk Studios on West 15th Street for the past eight years. That space had always been deemed by editors and buyers as problematic because it required taking elevators. The issue came to a boiling point last September when the air-conditioning broke down and the paparazzi went into a frenzy shooting the front row. Francisco Costa, creative director of women’s Collection, told WWD the Magazine shortly after the show that, “We’re looking for a new location — I think we have to.”
The new venue is made up of several spaces that were formerly used by the company for fittings, run-throughs and photo-shoots.
Creating personal runway venues is quickly becoming a trend, with designers such as Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana staging their shows in purpose-built venues in recent seasons.
Costa said the company started searching for a suitable venue after the September show with a clear idea of its requirements.
“It needed to be easy for people to access, and be located in the fashion district,” Costa said. “We looked around and couldn’t find anything.…we had this space right underneath us.”
The new space boasts 20-foot-high ceilings and will be laid out to feature a 150-foot U-shaped runway, which creates more front row seating than there was at Milk. Staying within the Calvin Klein aesthetic, the space will have white walls and an exposed concrete floor.
“The space will be very clean, like a gallery space,” Costa said. “The ceilings are extremely high so we will be able to play more with the lighting.”
While Costa may not have worked directly with Calvin Klein on the design of the space, it still came with the founding designer’s blessing of sorts. “At one point, Calvin wanted to do it here too,” Costa said. “This is something he thought about in the past.”
Tom Murry, CKI’s president and chief operating officer, explained the moves underscore the company’s commitment to the Collection business.
“It makes it very obvious that Collection is an important part of the company,” Murry said. “Having it in our own house, in our own facility and in the building all of our offices are in is a very positive thing.
“We are very serious about the Collection business and are willing to invest in it to properly support it,” he added.
The company is also serious about its underwear business and is launching a new ad campaign for spring. (See story page 20.)
Murry declined to disclose the cost of constructing the new space, but said it was “a very significant capital expenditure.” Market sources peg the cost of a project of this nature at around $500,000.
CKI is also creating a 2,300-square-foot sales showroom on the building’s 12th floor to house Collection. Previously, Collection’s sales efforts were based at former licensee Vestimenta’s New York offices, but following the license transfer to Fingen, effective with the spring collection, it was decided to locate the showroom at CKI headquarters.
“This will be a much larger showroom. It will be a much better venue for displaying the product,” Murry said. “Fingen was in agreement with us that it was important to have [the showroom] within our own facility.”
The showroom will also feature a separate 350-square-foot accessories showroom, and 1,500-square feet dedicated to the staff.
“To me the showroom is the most important factor,” Costa said. “It means practicality. I am on the ninth floor, sales are on 12th floor, and I can go up and down. When an account comes in, I can easily be there with it. I can speak to stores.”
The plan is to keep the sales showroom in place once Warnaco Group takes over the Collection license from Fingen in 2008.
CKI is also doubling the size of its press showroom with an 885-square-foot space on the third floor dedicated to all the company’s different lines. It will feature a 400-square-foot celebrity fitting room. “We can have a dedicated space…and we won’t have to shift clothing from showroom to showroom,” said a spokesman. “We will be able to maximize every opportunity.”