There's a trend right now in retail, and it's to make your store more than just a place to buy clothes. It's to make your store feel like a place you might want to live. And that's exactly what Kate Spade New York's Madison Avenue flagship—the brand's first-ever Upper East Side location—does.
"I've always wanted a townhouse we could call our own," creative director Deborah Lloyd said on Thursday, lounging on a pink satin vintage sofa that sits in the center of the top floor's VIP salon. There, Kate Spade New York's most devoted customers can try on the latest wares in private, sipping pink champagne or pretty much anything else from the chic little bar. (The company is so serious about the booze that it even procured a liquor license to keep things above-the-table.)
"It's everything we've been working toward over the past six years," Lloyd said, her eyes tearing up just a bit as she surveyed what is certainly the cherry on top of a very successful run. After all, Kate Spade New York is the cornerstone of Fifth & Pacific (which also owns Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand jeans), experiencing multiple successes that have kept the public company on the good side of its investors.
In all there are four floors to shop, and everything in the Kate Spade New York universe is for sale: the complete home collection—it's the first time everything is available in one place other than online or in a department store—a floor dedicated to ready-to-wear, a bridal suite (featuring all the accessories that make the day), and a shoe mezzanine overlooking the ground floor. That main floor resembles a candy store filled with inedible delights, from the popular range of iPhone covers, to the where-it-all-started handbag collection. There's also a capsule collection of tropical-colored pussy-bow blouses and hot-orange embroidered white dresses designed exclusively for the store. And there are more special items in the works, including a revamped stationery collection. "You are going to freak out," Lloyd told me, knowing of my paper obsession. (As for whether Kate Spade New York will ever actually get into the bridal dress game, Lloyd said, "Never say never. Women come in all the time to shop for their bridesmaids' dresses....")
Inevitably, the store is girly and frothy, with lots of pastels and the brand's signature squared-off bow accenting everything from door handles to custom tables. But its Kate Spade New York's pop-art-mod take on femininity that keeps it from getting too saccharine. Framed vintage records from the 1960s line the walls, tacked up alongside Hugo Guinness prints. (Lloyd has been collecting his work for years.) And then there's the neon sign on the ground floor's back wall, a rainbow of quintessential New York clichés—"Uptown is the New Downtown," "Only in Manhattan," "Let's Grab Cocktails"—that are anything but in such a cheeky display.
"I told you I would get you your townhouse!" Fifth & Pacific CEO Bill McComb said to Lloyd as she walked me through the wonders of the shoe mezzanine. "Next up is a mansion!" If this store is as successful as it looks like it will be, that day might come sooner than later.
Click through for a virtual tour.
Photo: Ashley Jahncke