This week’s opening of Pucci’s new bellwether flagship on Madison Avenue in New York has attracted much Internet chatter and media commentary for the giant bee-stung lips in its window, but much more important is the fact that the store presages a wave of heavy expansion in a famed brand that suddenly seems ideally placed for rapid growth.
Pucci has always been a glamorous label, the brainchild of an Italian count from an ancient Florentine clan, and the first luxury brand to land on the Moon. But only of late has its turnover begun to catch up with its renown, as it hit that golden mean of a hard-working and talented designer – Peter Dundas - in synch with savvy management team. The new Madison store is a smooth synthesis of Dundas sexy modernism and the opulent glory of Pucci’s palazzo in Florence.
“It feels like the final leg for the brand, linking it to Palazzo Pucci. We could not hope for a better space to present the collection,” Dundas told FWD Friday evening, Nov. 16, as he boarded a plane in Florence for a fitting in London.
CEO Alessandra Carra, who joined the Tuscan label two years ago, revealed to FWD that Pucci will open 25 new stores or shop-in-shops by the end of summer 2013, in a truly massive global retail enlargement.
At present, Pucci boasts some 60 boutiques and shop-in-shops. Its new expansion is seeing the brand add boutiques in Kuwait, Moscow and Sao Paulo, with sleek new spaces in both Selfridges and Saks. It’s also marching into new markets, like Indonesia and Thailand. All told, Pucci will add 14 new stores and 13 shop in shops, some in joint ventures, though the renovation of flagships in Paris, Rome and New York will all be under its direct auspices.
“And we plan to open in Rome, in the center of the city at Piazza di Spagna, in the opposite end of the place to Valentino,” enthused Carra, who was born in the Renaissance city of Parma, studied in Italy’s oldest university in Bologna, before going on to a seven years stint as an executive at Ralph Lauren, and five years for Valentino, prior to joining Pucci.
Carra refused to reveal the capital expenditure involved, however she did say that the rapid fire development would roughly grow Pucci’s total retail space – outside of its wholesales business to multi-brand boutiques - to nearly 9,000 square-meters from a current total of some 5,000 square-meters. Given current building costs for high-end boutiques and the likely “key monkey” Pucci would have to pay in order to acquire long-term leases in top retail streets, a ballpark figure for the total capital outlay would be about 40 million euros.
“I’m Italian and I love our fashion and have always admired Pucci. When I was first approached by LMVH I had no doubt I had a sleeping beauty in my hands. One of the last beautiful brands not exploited yet,” enthused Carra, who is so busy working on the expansion with Laudomia Pucci, board member and daughter of founder Emilio, that neither was able to make the opening New York on Monday.
Located on Madison and 71st street, in the former space occupied by Yves Saint Laurent, the 250 square-meter space features two-tone crushed marble Terrazzo flooring throughout, an idea taken from the brand’s birthplace in Tuscany.
“I was so happy to work with architect Joseph Dirand because he can combine traditional styles with surprising elements, which is how I like to approach collections,” explained Dundas.
Adds Laudomia Pucci “Our business has become so big, many of our clients were not aware of our heritage. And now we have gone full circle. Luxury but with history.”
Dundas also chose a purple-veined, Breccia dei Medici marble from Palazzo Pucci, using it with quirky gusto in carpets, custom-made cabinets and clever couches.
“It’s the same color as the door frames of my office door!” laughs Dundas, noting that the dusty rose changing rooms mean, “women really want to hang out there.”
Asked about the front window, he revealed that it is inspired by the bright lips in the latest ad campaign starring uber model Amber Valletta.
“It really pops on Madison Avenue. People know we are here!”