PARIS — After opening 20 boutiques around the world, including a half-dozen in Asia in the last year, Alexandre Mattiussi could have been blasé ahead of the latest Ami opening.
Not so — because the new store is located in New York.
“It’s the one I’d been dreaming about the longest. There was something of the ‘American dream’,” he told WWD ahead of the opening, and not least because Barneys New York was the first retailer to buy the brand when it launched in January 2011.
“Before that, I’d visited the U.S. as a tourist. [Being sold there] marked the international stature of the project and a certain idea of success — having clients,” he added. “It’s a great anniversary present to ourselves.”
Beyond the dream, there is a solid commercial reality. In the space of a decade, the French men’s wear label grew from four retail points to 600 worldwide, counting its own stores — six in France, one in London, four in Japan, and 10 in China.
As for the U.S. market, it represents 20 percent of Ami’s business — and 55 percent of those clients shop in physical stores. He attributes his success on the market to a match between the brand’s faux-casual vibe and “the energy in American fashion and culture.”
In New York, Mattiussi expects to attract a similar mix of male and female clientele as in other destinations, thanks to a wardrobe proposition offering a neat middle road between the strictures of suiting and overly casual dressing.
“It’s about being well-dressed, which really means dressed in a way that makes you feel good about yourself,” he said. “Adele recently wondered who was making music for her generation if everyone’s making music for TikTok. That’s how I feel about clothes. As much as I’d love for TikTokers to be wearing my clothes, my thing is making clothes for guys of my generation.”
Located at 77 Greene Street in SoHo, the 1,615-square-foot store is flush against the Loewe shop and opposite Saint Laurent’s retail outpost, an area heavy on the fashion side and where Mattiussi was keen to have the Ami identity writ large.
Although he wants to maintain the Ami identity, he insists that he wants his store to take on some of the local codes — as he has done in other places — like a new neighbor moving in and keen to join the community.
Hence the collaboration with Brooklyn-based artist Kevin Lyons, whose illustrations are splashed on a limited run of T-shirts and sweatshirts sold only in-store and on Ami’s U.S. e-commerce site, but also the store’s features.
Designed by an in-house team of five, the new store will follow the “bourgeois and warm, like old-fashioned men’s boutiques” mood of the Paris stores, through details like the weathered wood flooring.
The highly graphic play of mirrors and oversize checkerboards effects are a nod to New York’s more industrial mien — and overcome one particular feature.
“I don’t like those building entrances, where you have the residential door on the left and then this long corridor on the right for the commercial space,” he admitted, describing how he had the entrance lined with mirrors and hopes to add red lighting to create a striking and very Ami hall of mirrors effect.
Inside, mirrors continue and features have been given an XXL treatment to play on the cube-like proportions of the space. Within another giant cube occupying the far wall are the cash desk and the changing rooms, generously sized and lined in plush off-white wool, for a cocooning effect.
“When you close the curtain, you’re facing yourself and your image in the mirror. It’s a really intimate moment where everything happens, how the materials feel, how the clothes fit,” he said. “Plus, that’s where you find out if those pants make your butt look good.”
It turns out that the pandemic reinforced Mattiussi’s desire for physical retail experiences. “I like the idea of shopping. Like everyone else, I shop online but the retail experience brings an architectural approach to design,” he said, adding that he found interior architecture increasingly exciting.
On the whole, the past 18 months have been quite the upwards ride for the French label. Mattiussi stated that the company had been on a rising trajectory pre-pandemic and that to their surprise, they’d “doubled the projections of 2020, and then doubled them again in 2021.”
Openings will continue apace, with plans for a second store in London, as well as first units in Seoul, South Korea, and Hamburg, Germany. A “big one” is also in the cards for Paris, where he is about to open a women’s corner in Galeries Lafayette — on the luxury brand floor.
“We’ve gone up into the luxury segment, but that doesn’t mean we’ve raised the prices on our core offering. I’ve just given myself the freedom to draw more sophisticated pieces. Before, I was about blue shirts and gray sweaters. Now I’m doing leopard-print coats and trousers in lush wools,” he said. One of his classic T-shirts with the embroidered A topped with a heart logo retails for $200, while an oversize down jacket goes for $1,835. The new Déjà-Vu bag, fronted by Catherine Deneuve, retails for $1,500.
His imagination is also running a mile a minute on the road ahead. “Ami is about joy and a good mood, places where you want to meet. I’d love to have a little street with lots of little stores, women on one side, shoes, denim. That’s what I’m dreaming about,” he said.
For now, though, he is focused on enjoying his Big Apple moment. After the store’s soft opening over the weekend, he is marking the occasion with an intimate dinner on Tuesday, followed by a party atop the Empire State Building on Thursday. “It’s not to show off. We wanted to get a kick out of the occasion, give ourselves a great present — and share it with New Yorkers.”