“I think at these times we need creativity, but you also have to think about things that are salable. Right now it’s about hitting the right balance between marketing and creativity. It’s better to play it creative than safe because why will people come to you if they’re going to see the exact same thing everywhere else.
“I never thought that was a good solution for me,” he continued. “We need surprise, we need to make dreams come true. You also have to make clothes that have an attraction and people are attracted by some surprise. In life it is always like that — what you love, what makes you smile is surprise — either things you don’t expect or something beautiful.”
Always an apostle of the unconventional, Gaultier’s new store substantiates his sentiments.
It’s the first of a global rollout by the designer, whose company’s retail volume is estimated to be $350 million.
Designed by architect Philippe Starck, the 2,700 square-foot space at 759 Madison Avenue, between 65th and 66th Streets, is all about the unexpected and the beautiful.
The store, which Gaultier initially envisioned as very plain — one basic color and almost troglodytic — is now an eggshell and pale pink confection, with etched glass and colored mirrors.
It just goes to show how the vaguest notion of inspiration can be interpreted by the likes of Starck. “I thought it would be good to have someone who was truly a professional to collaborate with,” said Gaultier. “This is his [Starck’s] child, but it’s a little of mine too.” The store’s entrance gives way to a two-story expanse of space that will feature a film of moving images 24 hours a day. The theme will change from season to season and could be anything from “Versailles, to something exotic, the sky with flying birds and moving clouds,” said Gaultier.
The rest of the narrow boutique is decorated with clothing racks made of crystal and metal, molded cream adobe type units meant to emerge from the wall, and flesh-colored silk taffeta padding which lines the wall insets. These are filled with matching mannequin forms. The forms, which mirror the Gaultier fragrance “Classique,” are referenced all over the store in smaller versions.
“We wanted to have a maharaja feeling with antique baccarat motifs for the hangers and mirrors,” said Gaultier.
“Jean Paul said that he wanted something with references to India, something out of tadelack, which is very rounded, and polished by hand. To express one side of the essence of India, but then to do maharaja accents like crystal and engraved glass, to show rich and poor, a balance evocative of India,” said Starck.
While the end product is far from a Moroccan mecca, the effect is extraordinarily feminine and luxe, especially with the flesh-colored padding on the walls. Flesh, to be sure, an adjective emphasized by Gaultier. Not pale pink, but flesh.
There is also a showroom on the second floor of the store that is reserved for showing accessories and private couture fittings.
When asked, “Why New York now?” Gaultier responded, “The question should be ‘Why not New York before?”‘ After several years of jockeying and negotiation, Gaultier is thrilled to have a boutique and especially this boutique, which is the first prototype for the rest of the Gaultier stores opening all over the world. “The plan is 15 stores in five years,” said Donald Potard, president of Jean Paul Gaultier.
This year the firm will open new stores in Cannes and Paris while renovating its London store and the other Paris boutique on Rue Vivienne. Other locations the company is considering include Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Milan with an eye towards Asia as well.
The company is also looking to use this store prototype for other shops-within-shops at department stores and airports, according to Potard.
The crystal clothing racks are filled with Gaultier’s women’s and men’s ready-to-wear designs. The women’s fashions emanating from their respective niches include pinstriped silk blouses with ruching, suede pants, floral silk chiffons and suits. The store will carry JPG Jeans furs, and accessories such as bags, shoes and jewelry. Prices range from $400 to $775 for blouses, $660 to $1,200 for dresses and $420 to $1330 for pants.
Gaultier’s collection is also carried by major department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
An invitation-only cocktail party will be held tonight at the store, followed by a private dinner and after-party at Lotus. Gaultier, while humble about the invite list, did manage to say that some of his dear old friends like Naomi Campbell, Kylie Minogue and Alberta Ferretti might drop by.