Shiny Chic Brands are Mad for Madison Ave

Featured image
Looking east towards Madison Avenue and 64th Street.

New York is back. Brands — large and small — are betting on New York; investing in the city and opening new stores filled with all sorts of goodies. And the stores are full of customers. Ah, the joy of dressing up!

There is good reason to be optimistic. Fashion houses like Hermes; LMVH, owner of Dior, Fendi, Tiffany, Bulgari and more; Kering, owner of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, etc.; and Capri Holdings with Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo, are all reporting large increases in sales and profitability. Seems strange, doesn’t it? But people really want to get back to doing the things they love. And for many of us, that means shopping, dining, seeing friends and socializing.

Elegantly Displayed Clothing at Fendi
Elegantly displayed clothing at Fendi.

Fendi opened a major new store a week or so ago. Sylvia Fendi, the only remaining member of the family to work at the brand, hired the uber-talented designer of Dior menswear Kim Jones to take over the design of the women’s fashion for the brand, a post that had been held for decades by the late Karl Lagerfeld. Mr. Jones and Ms. Fendi steered the design process for the luxurious new flagship store.

Fendi Accessories
Fendi accessories.

The boutique is across the street from the old store, in what used to be a Coach space. Walls of windows bring in lots of light to highlight the beautifully displayed women’s accessories on the ground floor. Belts, bag straps, mini-bags, scarves, gloves, watches and more fill the cases.

A Small Selection of Handbags at Fendi
A small selection of handbags.

And of course there are the luscious signature bags. What’s not to love?

The Newest Fendi Bags
The newest Fendi bags.

The team brought back the famous Baguette bag, and introduced the newest Fendi First F-logo bags.

Some of the New Fendi Footwear
Some of the new Fendi footwear.

There is a spacious shoe salon with shoes and sandals, boots and booties, and, of course, sneakers.

A Private Fitting Room at Fendi
A private fitting room.

Off the shoe salon is a large V.I.P  salon. Customers are pampered in privacy. The changing room is to the right.

All The Benches are Covered in Fur at Fendi
All the benches are covered in fur.

All of the changing rooms are marble clad, with a Fendi fur-covered bench. However, each space uses a different color. The ground floor space is a pinky beige. One of the rooms in the men’s department is dressed in a deep emerald green, with a striking green fur bench. A must visit.

At The Top of The Stairs
At the top of the stairs.

Upstairs is a very well-curated selection of men’s and women’s RTW. There are seating areas everywhere, and the space is cool and relaxed. Jones’ initial women’s collection, and subsequent couture collection, was highly anticipated. And they did not disappoint. The clothes are interesting and wearable.

The Display Bubble at Fendi
The display bubble.

The display feature at the top of the stairs is a large, clear bubble. Visible from Madison Avenue and 57th Street, you walk the bridge onto it. Fendi First bags carved out of marble sit among other new leather bags. The displays will change regularly. Standing in the bubble gives you an amazing view.

A Very Chic Bar at Fendi
A very chic bar.

There is a wonderfully designed cocktail bar in the lounge leading into the men’s department. Bars in shops seem to be a new thing. I have seen them in several other stores. Brands had suspended serving champagne and other drinks and nibbles because of Covid. That trend is now reversing itself.

Men's Accessories and Clothing
Men’s accessories and clothing.

Men’s RTW and accessories are designed by Sylvia Fendi. From luxe briefcases and man-bags to tailored jackets or leather blousons, the luxe quotient is up there.

Upstairs At Fendi
Upstairs at Fendi.

The pieced white mink trench on the right is heavenly. All the clothing is pretty wonderful. I am pretty sure Mr. Lagerfield would be happy to see the label move forward. He was known never to look back.

Fendi, 595 Madison Avenue

The Signature Storefront at Dior
The signature storefront of Dior.

Dior is on the move, too. The brand will be in a pop up on Fifth Avenue for about the next two years. Some handbags remain in the 57th Street store, until that closes in December. The old Fendi space will be incorporated into the new redone Dior stores during the renovation, adding a lot of square footage.

The Staff is Ready to Work With You at Dior
The staff is ready to work with you.

The front of the store is designated to men’s and women’s accessories. The entrance is full of helpful handlers ready to guide you through the new store. The women’s collection is to the left, and the men’s is to the right.

The Light Filled Women's Area at Dior
The light-filled women’s area.

The women’s RTW space has very high windows covered in the Dior Cannage pattern, taken from the chair backs Mr. Dior used to seat guests at his fashion shows. The light makes Maria Grazia Chiuri’s designs look even better. And champagne and other drinks are back at Dior, too.

Some of The New Fall Dior Clothes in new store
Some of the new Fall Dior clothes.

The new Fall-Winter collection is here. There are plaids and suitings as well as more casual pieces. There is a stairway and elevator that lead to a lower level with large V.I.P salons and even more accessories.

The Fine Jewelry Area at Dior
The fine jewelry area.

There is a dedicated space for the fine jewelry designed by Victoire de Castellane. The jewels are imaginative and unique. In addition to the jewelry, accessories like sunglasses, belts, and hats are added.

Shoes, Boots and Sneakers at Dior
Shoes, boots and sneakers.

And of course there is a grand shoe salon filled with shoes, boots and sneakers of all shapes, colors and sizes. The shoes tend to fly out of the store.

Dior For The Home
Dior for the home.

Dior home goods are now also available in the boutique. A small selection is set in the middle of the store, along with the personalization department. The Paris boutique always had a large decorative department. Hopefully there will be even more styles in the new store. The men’s department was so full of shoppers that I could not get any photos. The Kim Jones’ designed wares are extremely popular.

Dior, 767 Fifth Avenue

A Few Weeks Ago at Manolo
The scene just a few weeks ago at the Manolo Blahnik boutique.

Everyone wondered what happened when the Manolo Blahnik boutique in the West 50s closed. It seems that the family was paving their way to something bigger and better. Manolo’s sister Evangaline had always worked with the designer. Her daughter Kristina grew up playing in the London boutique. She’s now the C.E.O. Last month, I poked my head into the space and was anxious to see it finished.

The Best Loafers on Display at Manolo
The best loafers on display.

The boutique is divided into two spaces. What I had been looking into was the men’s area. It had been hard, or nearly impossible, to find Manolo men’s for years. That will no longer be a problem.

The Dramic Men's Shoe Display at Manolo
The dramatic men’s shoe display.

Laceups, loafers, boots and even sandals? They’re here. Everything is made with the same attention to detail that made the women’s shoes collectible. The dark teal walls make all the shoes look even better.

Another Chic Bar at Manolo Blahnik
Another chic bar.

Men get a beautifully designed bar. It sits where the space transitions to the women’s shoes.

A Serene Display at Manolo Blahnik
A serene display.

The decor of the women’s space is completely different; only the beige carpet remains the same. But then, the women’s shoes are completely different than the men’s styles, so why not a different atmosphere?

Which Pair is for You at Manolo Blahnik
Which pair is for you?

Mr. Blahnik, a.k.a. Manolo to SITC fans, is a man with great charm and a wicked sense of humor. His shoes reflect his personality, with a je ne sais quoi flair. If a trend offends him, he stays away. Platforms? Forget-about-it. That is why his style has endured, and a second generation is running the family brand.

A Case for Precious Shoes
A case for precious shoes.

There are unique embroideries on bags and shoes. Also sprinkled around the store are the designer’s drawing of his shoes, or croquis. These drawings are the starting point for each shoe or boot.

The Women's Shoes at Manolo
The women’s shoes.

You can always make a statement with your shoes. Sandals, loafers, booties flats and heels. There is a shoe for any time of day. As if you didn’t already know, you won’t find a sneaker or rubber flip flop in this store.

Manolo Blahnik, 717 Madison Avenue

The New Store on Madison Avenue
The new Ludivine store on Madison Avenue.

Madison Avenue also has some great smaller stores with less aspirational prices. Perfect clothes to wear every day. Ludivine recently opened on the Avenue, but the store has been in the city for decades. The first iteration was on West Fourth Street in the Village. The store moved to Lexington Avenue, and stayed there for many years. When a space opened on Madison during Covid, Ludivine moved on in.

There is Always Something New Arriving at Ludivine
There is always something new arriving.

The owner is French, and the clothes are “cool-girl” French. Most of the brands are French. But not all.

Casual Clothing Iwth a French Touch
Casual clothing with a French touch.

The boutique has a loyal following. The styles are what New Yorkers, and particularly Upper East Siders, wear.

So Much to Chose From
So much to choose from.

A good selection of jeans is the foundation. Add some shirts, sweaters and dresses and other casual outfits. Interesting sneakers and shoes round out the mix. The inventory changes constantly.

Casual Fall Clothing is Arriving at Ludivine
Casual Fall clothing is arriving.

The look is neither boho nor buttoned up. It is an easy mix of great pieces that you will not find in other stores. It is effortlessly fashionable, just like that French girl next door.

Ludivine, 764 Madison Avenue

More Classic Looks from Maison Ullens
Many classic looks at Maison Ullens.

Maison Ullens is a Belgian brand that makes pared down classics, with a lot of knits. And interesting bags. Their other stores are located in Aspen and Paris. The clothes are carefully and beautifully made.

A Selection of Bags at Maison Ullens
A selection of bags.

A whole new vibe will be arriving in the store in the next few weeks. Maison Ullens has partnered with the Colombian-born French designer Haider Ackermann. He is known for his designs for Tilda Swindon, who wore his looks at the Cannes Film Festival last month. I can’t wait to see what he’s been doing.

Colorful Classics at Maison Ullens
Colorful classics.

It is always encouraging to see brands evolving, and refining their look. And it’s wonderful to see all the changes on Madison Avenue. Who knows what other new brands and concepts are coming. But come they will.

Masion Ullens, 727 Madison Avenue

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.

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