February 19, 2009
Through an odd coincidence, The Shophound found ourselves without any fashion show invitations on Wendesday. While this could have been a disturbing development, we were actually kind of relieved. We could have just gone to the tents and seen a few shows with extra standing room, or watched them on the mentors, but we were relishing the day off. While the temptation to simply remain in bed was strong, we eventually picked ourselves up and made our way to Giorgio Armani's newly opened Armani/5th Avenue superstore that just opened with a glittery launch party this week.
What do we call this amalgam of the designer's various lines? Is it a flagship? Doesn't each brand have its own multi-level flagship on Madison Avenue? This is a sort of Armani Mega-center. With four floors, the store covers only the designer's core labels. Mall focused stepchild A|X Armani Exchange is a joint venture, though Armani has recently increased his stake, and Armani Collezioni is a first cousin who lives only in department stores.
The clear centerpiece here is a swooping staircase that connects each level. While the previous inhabitant, Hugo Boss, created an airy, open interior, Armani uses the staircase to make a swirling tunnel from which shoppers can emerge at their chosen department. Covered in white, the installation will be a challenge to clean and maintain. Dark scuff marks were already visible near the floor, and we can imagine some hapless char person tasked with scrubbing the stairs every evening after hours.
Starting at the top we have men's clothing and shoe lines with the main Giorgio Armani label side by side with Emporio, the still pricey "diffusion" brand. Up here we also found a chocolate counter named Armani Dolci, the home collection, Armani Casa (whose presence was minimal) and the Armani Ristorante featuring an expansive view of Fifth Avenue. We began to wonder if the restroom had a sign over the door reading Armani Toilette. One flight down, we found the women's apparel lines along with a cosmetics counter. The street level features the high margin goods including a wall of sunglasses and watches and cases of accessories, mirroring the merchandising concepts of the Gucci megastore a few blocks uptown. Downstairs is relegated to Armani Jeans, Emporio underwear, swimwear and a small presentation of the EA7 active sportswear brand.
It's a lavish presentation, and it goes without saying that eighteen months ago it must have looked like a fabulous idea to replicate the megastore concept that Armani had implemented in other major international cities. There's no accounting for timing these days, but we couldn't help noticing that both the main collection and Emporio were already available with a much better selection in their own large boutiques only blocks away. This is the kind of sumptuous, promotional brand statement that luxury labels have begun to question in the past year. The question here is not whether Giorgio Armani could make a big, fabulous store. That was already a foregone conclusion. At issue is whether or not he can do it profitably in this climate, which remains to be seen.
Armani/5th Avenue Fifth Avenue at 56th Street, Midtown
There is no A|X in this mega store... it is Emporio Armani...
Posted by: rhonda | February 19, 2009 at 09:25 PM