Don't be fooled. The real luxury in New York is not found on Fifth Avenue, crowded with big brands but also suffocated by the constant traffic of tourists. If you want real luxury, luxury with style, luxury that doesn't scream “I'm here, look at me!” but instead is presented discreetly from the glass windows, you have to take a walk along the silent Madison Avenue. Here, one block east of Fifth Avenue, after two years of mortified desolation brought about by the lockdown, the parade of top international luxury brands is making a comeback. Especially Italian.
All the economic indicators point to this trend: opening of new boutiques or reopening with renovations, increase in commercial rental contracts, expansion towards the north. According to the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District - the association of Madison Avenue merchants, property owners and residents - twenty-nine stores had already opened in the second half of 2022, all concentrated between the intersections with 57th and 86th.
After two years of mortified desolation brought about by the lockdown, the parade of top international luxury brands is making a comeback. Especially Italian
The brands, which until now hadn't reached beyond 72nd street, are moving further and further north where there is greater availability of spaces. Every three premises, there is a new rental ad.
Whilst 2022 ended on a positive note, 2023 got off to an even better start, and waving the Italian flag. At 747 Madison Avenue, on the corner with East 65, at the turn of the year, Versace inaugurated its new flagship store, taking over from Givenchy.
The shop, in perfect Versace style, is a riot of marble and ceramics in shades of white and light gray, interspersed with Greek motifs on the floor and golden detail in the finishes. Behind the glass doors, as in all similar stores, two or three young men in dark suits discreetly check out anyone who approaches and takes a photo from outside.
At the junction with 65th street, you find the most famous brands. It is a coveted space; it is where Madison Avenue manages, at times, to be totally silent, without cars for a few seconds, almost on a human scale
In this area, at the junction with 65th street, you find the most famous brands. It is a coveted space; it is where Madison Avenue manages, at times, to be totally silent, without cars for a few seconds, almost on a human scale, detached from the hubbub on the corners of the avenues that run alongside, one overlooking Central Park and the other closer to the East River. Here, you can find the complete collections, for both men and women, by Versace and other Italian designers. The new boutique is part of a lot of new commercial spaces, 28 in all, including four restaurants.
“Why Madison?” replies one of the store employees, smiling, who however prefers not to give their name, “just take a look around, the beauty of the buildings, the store windows, here taste is everywhere.”
But it is not only Versace who represents Italy on Madison Avenue. In addition to Stefano Ricci, who inaugurated a new store on the corner with East 57th in mid-December, there are Giorgio Armani (Madison and 65th) and Valentino (Madison and 69th) and other brands. It's not just about the very high-rank customers - different from visitors to the more touristy Fifth Avenue - but it’s also because here the stores become part of the architecture of the buildings, like the enormous rectangular window of Mignoni, the spaces of Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, or the art deco of Frette, and Loro Piana, Bottega Veneta, Etro, Buccellati, Giuseppe Zanotti, Elventy, Cesare Attolini, Marina Rinaldi, Achille Salvagni Atelier, Beretta.
Already a hundred years ago, this street was the headquarters of most of the biggest agencies in the world, to the point that referring to Madison was another way of saying advertising. Advertisers discovered it in the 1920s, architects in the 1950s, followed by New Yorkers and the big Italian brands. Nothing happens by chance. Madison Avenue has become the Little Italy of fashion and taste like never before.
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