Canali is finally ready to celebrate its new home in New York City.
Over the summer, the Italian men’s luxury brand quietly relocated its store one block south, from 625 Madison Avenue to 600 Madison Avenue. During August and September, Canali continued to work on the location and deal with the supply chain issues that delayed the delivery of some of its fall line. But now the work is complete, the store is stocked and the family-owned company is ready to shout about it.
While the distance between the former and current locations is only one block, the difference between the two stores is significant. The new space, between 57th and 58th Streets, is 3,200 square feet on one level and features a new store design with more of a lifestyle aesthetic. The former store, between 58th and 59th Streets, had 3,000 square feet of selling space and used a lower level as well.
“After 15 years in New York, people are now discovering that Canali has a store on Madison Avenue,” said Stefano Canali, president and chief executive officer. He said the new location is “more prestigious” and the traffic it is drawing is of “higher quality.”
The new store also offers the company an opportunity to better showcase its luxury sportswear in addition to its trademark suits. Upon entering, shoppers see casual pieces such as jeans, sweaters, leather jackets, sport coats, sneakers and small leather goods all merchandised as outfits to make it easy for shoppers to coordinate their wardrobe.
The center of the store features a VIP room designed as a private club atmosphere with a full bar where the company’s Me by Canali made-to-measure service is offered. In addition to suits, the company can now custom make a variety of products including jeans, cashmere sweaters and outerwear.
Beyond that is the tailored clothing area where 23 unique suits are on display for the grand opening, along with a display case featuring the Gold Collection of neckwear, which features ties with real gold pieces embedded within them.
Leading to the rear where there are two fitting rooms is a library where a variety of fashion and art books are housed for customers to flip through while they’re visiting the store. A tailor shop is housed downstairs but not accessible to customers.
Since the “very” soft opening over the summer, Canali said the store has performed well. In fact, he said all five of the company’s U.S. stores — it also has units in Las Vegas, Nevada; Beverly Hills, California; Dallas and Houston, Texas — have recovered well since the pandemic began to wane last June. All told, he said, sales in U.S. full-price stores increased 70 percent for the first nine months of this year as compared to 2021. The U.S. alone saw sales rise 55 percent in that time period, higher than the 38 percent increase the company as a whole has notched so far this year. This comes in spite of a 27 percent decline in the company’s Asia Pacific business due to the region’s zero tolerance policy on COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns.
So while overall sales are strong — he said wholesale orders for the spring 2023 season are up 49 percent overall and 55 percent in the Americas — he remains cautious about the future. “We have some concerns about the upcoming months,” he said, pointing to a slowing of the economy, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the still uncertain situation in China.
But he remains hopeful that Canali’s reputation as a trusted manufacturer of high-quality garments for 89 years will position it well for the future. “We never compromise on quality and we sell at a fair price,” he said.
He said the “lion’s share” of the company’s business continues to be tailored clothing, “but it’s not the blue business suit it used to be. It has evolved in shape, fabric and construction and is lighter and more casual.” Pieces such as jersey sport coats, which have the familiar silhouette of a tailored jacket but feel more like a sweater, meet the needs of today’s consumer.
“The percentage of casual pieces selling here has increased since the opening,” Canali said.
Looking to the future, Canali said the company is planning to focus most of its retail-rollout efforts in mainland China rather than in the U.S. “Of the 43 total stores we have, half are in China,” he said. Although the U.S. is the company’s largest region, accounting for around 40 percent of overall sales, Canali believes China is where the biggest opportunity lies today.
“We opened China 20 years ago and there’s growing interest now so we’re investing there,” he said. In that region, he said, the more casual pieces actually outperform the tailored clothing. Canali has been in the U.S. market since 1981 and has a strong business in upscale department and specialty stores in addition to its own store fleet.
The new Madison Avenue store, which was developed with the architects of Park Associati, is the first to sport a new design featuring traditional Italian architectural features. Curved and radiated surfaces are intermingled with light, square shapes. Mineral surfaces such as Cipollino marble (used by the ancient Romans) are offered in two different versions that feature natural finishes and imperfections. Wooden wall panels are embedded with 25,000 metal rivets that were installed by hand and intended to mimic tailoring stitches while Pietra Serena limestone floors are intended to be reminiscent of Italian courtyards. An original lighting concept spreads light in a diffused way that more effectively showcases the collection.
Canali said the design of this space, which he described as “a hybrid between a store and a typical Italian house,” will be used in other new and relocated units around the world. “There are mannequins and displays, but it’s a warm and engaging environment with an Italian twist.”
To celebrate the opening, the store will be converted into a mini art gallery for an event on Wednesday night featuring the works of Italian artists Goldschmied & Chiari. The project is named “Untitled Views” and is composed of colored fumes that are reproduced on mirrored glass surfaces on the Madison Avenue windows and inside the store. The duo has exhibited its work at the Venice Biennale and at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Canali said this art installation is just the first of many events the company will host in the store, including wine tastings — all as a way to engage with its customers.
Canali was founded in 1934 and is now run by the third generation of the family. It owns five factories in Europe, employs more than 1,400 people. Revenues in 2021 amounted to 141 million euros and sales are expected to hit 172 million euros this year.