After a spate of rumors, It has been confirmed that Valentino will take over the four levels of space that once held the much loved Japanese department store Takashimaya at 693 Fifth Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets. In the three years since the space lost its initial tenant, there has been much speculation about who might move in, and building owner Thor Equities has announced plans to demolish part of the lavish façade in favor of an incongruous slab of steel and glass. At one point, temporary tenant Forever 21 threatened to move in permanently, but with Valentino, Thor has landed a name that is more in keeping with the building's upscale history as well as with its neighboring retailers like Bottega Veneta and The St Regis Hotel.
Originally constructed as a 3-floor jewel box of a department store with a popular basement tea room, the 20,000 square foot store will now represent the Valentino brand's continued success since the retirement of its namesake designer and some contentious changes of ownership that has left the Roman Alta Moda house in the hands of an investment group controlled by the Royal Family of Quatar. Though work is still being completed on Valentino's long-under-construction Madison Avenue boutique (set to finally debut next month), this new store will be a more high profile flagship, joining big Brand Palaces on Fifth Avenue from other, mostly Italian designers like Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada and the recently arrived Dolce & Gabbana. Like those labels, Valentino will now be represented on both relatively nearby shopping streets, which now seems to be a requirement to achieve a certain level of luxury megabrand status. “In fashion today, everybody has a very loud voice and we need to use the same approach. It means we have to increase in terms of visibility, in the distribution of Valentino, and the Fifth Avenue store is one of the best things we can do because it’s such an iconic location,” Valentino CEO Stefano Sassi tells WWD.
The building's façade is still set to be replaced, but instead of high-tech glass, it will be fitted with a different, less elaborate, but still elegant stone storefront (sketch pictured above) designed by British architect David Chipperfield who will also redesign the interior spaces to fit the brand's store concept. Expect a splashy debut for the new Valentino flagship sometime next year.