NEW YORK — Brioni is taking its luxury Italian aesthetic to Madison Avenue here with the opening of a two-level, 5,974-square-foot flagship on 62nd Street.
The store is the second iteration of a David Chipperfield Architects Milan design that launched in Paris in July on Rue Saint-Honoré. But Gianluca Flore, chief executive officer of the Kering-owned Brioni, said the layout of the New York store allows for a fuller expression of the design.
“It’s even nicer than Paris,” he said. “That fact that it is two full floors allows for the concept to express itself in a better way.” The Paris store is also on two levels, but one is below ground.
The New York store, which opens Thursday, replaces a smaller unit on 57th Street that closed on Sunday. The flagship was intended to open in late October, but construction delays, due in part to the fact that the location is a residential building, pushed back the opening date.
The opening of the store comes as Brioni is in the midst of another reboot after a tumultuous 10 months. It parted ways with its then-creative director Brendan Mullane, tapped Justin O’Shea as his successor, and then pushed O’Shea out after six months following pushback from retailers and customers over O’Shea’s attempts to make the storied brand “edgier.”
Flore said the store may offer a few O’Shea designs, but the bulk of the offering will be the more-sedate high-end tailored clothing, sportswear and accessories that have become a hallmark of the label since its founding in Rome in 1945. “We will have the entire lifestyle,” he said.
The store design also speaks to the “roots of Brioni,” Flore said. It features gray Travertine floors and walls and colored marble columns that are intended to be reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture. But the cursive script spelling of the brand name is gone, replaced with the controversial Gothic lettering that O’Shea championed during his short tenure at the label, but that the brand says is a reworked version of its historic logo.
Lighting is housed in the ceiling, there are rosewood cases and timber paneling to distinguish the different areas.
A stairway between the two floors is also created from the Travertine and large windows on both floors allow for natural light to complement the interior space, although frosted shades are used on the upper level.
On the second floor, a special plaster is used to provide a textured finish.
Throughout the store, there are velvet seating areas and other furniture from 20th century architects including Albini and Mies van der Rohe. For the opening, a moving tailoring machine, complete with gold spools of thread and thimbles, fill the Madison Avenue windows.
Upon entering, a few suits are hung front and center and the rest of the floor offers clothing, sport shirts, sweaters, jeans, dress shirts, ties, shoes, small leather goods and sunglasses. The upper level focuses more on tailored clothing and includes a bespoke area at the front. The fitting rooms are large and the walls are covered in vintage leather designed to look like upholstery that would be used in Sixties cars.
Overall, the store is airy and modern with no racks full of merchandise to obscure its design. It has two entrances, on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street, and is located across the street from Hermès and near the soon-to-open Tom Ford store.
Flore said Brioni’s store “enhances the brand’s Roman roots with a contemporary undercurrent.” And the design offers the “same quality and details as we put in our garments. We created an environment linked to the DNA of the brand but with a fresh environment.”
He said the large size of the store allowed Brioni to create a special VIP area for its bespoke service — perfect for longtime bespoke client President-elect Donald Trump — oversize fitting rooms and an airy environment that is appropriate for a brand whose off-the-rack suits can retail for less than $5,000. Bespoke suits start at around $7,000 and go up from there.
The store is also intended to plant a stake in the ground in the U.S., which accounts for about one-third of the brand’s global business.
Flore said after a tough 2015, sales have improved here and in fact, Brioni experienced “a strong recovery” starting in the June-July period. “We’ve seen a better trend,” he said. “Our loyal customers are coming back and buying with more confidence.”
Business improved even more after the U.S. presidential election, he said, which is “a very good sign.”
Brioni has also been successful in attracting a different customer and is appealing to men from their mid-30s to 50 in addition to its older core shopper, he said.
Flore said the plan is not to add to the store count in the U.S., which includes 10 stores in Bal Harbour and Palm Beach, Fla.; Las Vegas; Beverly Hill; Chicago and Washington, D.C. (There are also 49 stores around the world in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and other countries.)
Instead, the goal is to increase comparable-store sales in its own stores as well as with its wholesale partners, which in the U.S. include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and others.
But while the store count may not change, Flore said Brioni is still expecting to bring on a creative director to succeed O’Shea and design the brand. “We’re considering and looking for the right person to fit within the strategy of the brand,” he said. Although he provided no time frame, he said: “We will appoint someone.”
For now, the focus is on the New York store. “Our position in America is to reference the iconic elegance of the brand that is recognized by our customer as having style, elegance and quality,” he said. “And we want to make sure we give them an excellent experience too — that’s why we invested in New York.”