Taking It Up a Notch: Gucci's Jumbo Flagship Raises Bar on 5th Ave.

Is Fifth Avenue the next Ginza? Gucci's new 46,000-square-foot flagship at 725 Fifth Avenue in takes Manhattan's designer retailing to a whole new level.

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The new store features separate floors for accessories, men's wear and women's wear, with specific areas for ready-to-wear, evening, footwear, accessories and pre-collections. Some of the categories have double exposure in special displays.

Gucci touches abound, from a subtle double-G patterned carpet in the women's footwear area to the iconic "web" stripe, which often features prominently in the collection and is etched into the frames of the glass fixtures. For the furniture pieces sprinkled throughout the store, Giannini sought inspiration from interior and furniture designers of the Thirties and Forties, including Gio Ponti and Jean-Michel Frank. Another inspiration was the Gucci store on Via Condotti in Rome, which just underwent a similar makeover and expansion (see related story on opposite page).

With white marble floors, the Art Deco-style sofas, chaise lounges, smoked glass coffee tables and dark rosewood cabinets, the store has the feel of an expansive Upper East Side townhouse whose owner has a taste for luxury and a penchant for mid-century modernist style. A mix of ribbed glass windows and clear windows reflecting natural light into the space offers views of Fifth Avenue, a departure from the previous concept, which was darker in its execution.

"The idea was also to create a special environment with an emphasis on transparency and light," Giannini said. "The bronze glass, the use of white marble and black marble and the use of gold are new, because, for me, gold is one of the most important colors for Gucci today."

A key feature of the store is the three-level free-floating staircase, delineated by vertical gold and clear Plexiglas rods.

White marble with a stripe of black marble down the center and charcoal carpets cover the main floor, where Heritage, a new department described as part museum and part limited edition product, is located. Samples from Gucci's archives are displayed in glass cases. Newly reissued exclusive products are sold here, such as Leonardo, an accessories collection named after a Fifties print Giannini found, designed for the launch. Leonardo handbags are trimmed in precious skins and have bamboo handles.

"There will be new product every six months," Lee said. "We're thinking of our New York customers and their desire to have something special exclusively. We did tons of different exclusives for New York such as the metallic ostrich bag from the Hysteria collection."
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