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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"Gucci [Love] NY" products will be sold while supplies last to mark the flagship opening. Handbags, a briefcase and luggage made of shiny white canvas printed with GGs share a motif of red and royal blue stripes that looks like a baseball uniform. All proceeds from the "Gucci [Loves] NY" products will be donated to Playground Partners of the Central Park Conservancy, Lee said.

Men's takes up the second floor, while women's occupies the third. That 10,000-square-foot floor is divided into a series of rooms, each with a pair of gray or chocolate couches facing opposite sides of a coffee table. Rtw has also been allotted more square footage than in the old store, reflecting the fact that "total rtw sales increased 21 percent in 2007," Lee said. "This store will help us continue that momentum."

The women's fitting rooms, replete with touches of gold and rosewood, feature silk velvet walls, and there is a special VIP room, which can be accessed through a separate elevator and entrance on 56th Street.

Meanwhile, jewelry makes a bold statement with its own three-level shop, accessible through an entrance on Fifth Avenue and a pass through to women's rtw on the third floor. Of the jewelry store, Lee said, "We butt up to the wall of one important competitor," referring to Tiffany.

"There's a big gain and presence for fine jewelry," Lee said. "Fine jewelry in the [54th Street unit] was relegated to a 350-square-foot space tucked in the back of the store. From the space we're investing, we believe we're going to grow the jewelry category. We'll have the complete range and have done some exclusive, very luxurious pieces such as a special necklace and earrings for $500,000."

Giannini admitted that, when she first saw the empty space, she thought, "Oh my God, it's so big, how will I fill it?"

But she soon came to relish the scope of the project. "The old stores are a different mood," she said. "We wanted to begin again."

Giannini herself coined a name for her new retail concept: "At the beginning, I used to refer to it as the 'strategy of diversity,' because it is important that the ideas are the same, but you can have a different emotional approach in each area.
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