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Stagnation in retail spells death, according to Domenico Vacca. "I think that every ten to 15 years — actually, now, it has to be faster than that," the Italian designer told us over a lengthy chat earlier this year. "It's good to reinvent yourself every five years, minimum." To that end, Vacca has taken reinvention to the extreme at his new flagship store just off of Fifth Avenue, which quietly opened its doors this week ahead of its grand opening in May.
Vacca has consolidated all of his New York locations into this one superstore at 15 West 55th Street, which has been in the works for the past few years. "We are right in the middle of a change in terms of retail and fashion," Vacca said. "People have changed their habits and the way they shop. So, what is the point of retail right now? The point is to create an experience."
Just what makes this new store so extreme? Let us count the ways: The accessories that flank the store's entrance are accompanied by an Italian-style café that produces beverages from "the Rolls Royce of coffee machines." There's the DV hair salon for women and the DV barbershop for men on the second floor. There's a by-appointment "couture atelier experience" where you can build a wardrobe from scratch, selecting fabric for suits and dresses and exotic skins for handbags and shoes.
And let's not forget the membership perks: $1,800 a month gets you access to a private club with a full-service bar — and regardless of whether you're having a single cocktail or popping bottles with three of your guests over light appetizers (or at sushi night!), it's all included in the price, as is a birthday party for you and up to 19 of your non-member friends. The club will also serve as an art gallery, with new works displayed every few months, and is attached to a terrance where a movie screen will be set up in the summer.
Membership's currently limited to 500 people, to keep it intimate. "It's manageable in terms of developing relationships among the members," he rationalized.
That membership also gets you the opportunity to book one of the 30 residences upstairs for short-term stays, which come with perks like a concierge to recommend restaurants and shows and a chauffered limo.
"We found that there's a lot of [apartment] requests for people that come to New York on projects" that last a few months, Vacca explained of this unusual feature. "They don't want to stay in hotels — they want something that's going to look like a house or apartment." Same goes for wannabe New Yorkers of a certain socioeconomic status looking for an apartment. (Airbnb, apparently, does not cut it.)
And the side street could become something of a paparazzi magnet, too: "We're working with studios who have celebrities staying in New York for a longer period of time," Vacca disclosed, without naming names. "This is right in between renting a room or a suite in a hotel and renting an apartment for a minimum of a year." Of course, everything is outfitted with the brand's own gear, from the linens on the beds to the dishes in the kitchenette.
In spite of the opulence, Vacca hasn't forgotten about those of us who need to spend our $1,800 on things like rent and groceries. " I think New York really needed places like this to get together," he said. "We'll give you an experience that makes you come out from your house...If you shop, great. If you just come for a cappuccino, fantastic. If somebody comes for a shave, why not?
"It's just to create a place where people can come get together," he concluded. "It's like recreating a square in Italy, but here in New York."