MAY 2000 A location, at the corner of Greene and Spring
Streets, is found after an exhaustive search of the neighborhood's
listings. "I dreamed out loud to our real-estate agent that it would
be available," says Lynda Abdoo, senior vice-president and retail
director at Ferragamo. The space is inhabited by a clothing store
called Laundry Industry, known mostly for the giant fish tanks in
its windows. But Ferragamo's agent is determined: She tracks down
Laundry's owner in Amsterdam and makes an offer. The deal is closed
LATER THAT MONTH An architect is selected. "We want to be
modern without being avant-garde," Massimo explains. This is a company,
after all, that has its most loyal following among well-heeled ladies,
who swear by Ferragamo's classic bow-tied pumps.
Eight architects are interviewed for the job; four are invited
to submit proposals. The winner? Michael Gabellini, who has a SoHo
firm and a résumé that includes stores for Giorgio Armani, Jil Sander,
and Nicole Farhi. Gabellini also has a sleek Prada wardrobe, a curly,
shoulder-length bob that is impervious to humidity, and a propensity
for wedge-heeled shoes and long, conceptual monologues. Ask him
how he won over the Ferragamos, and he describes "an interpretive
process with respect to the evolution of their collection, something
which was really approaching the spatial aspects directly related
to how the product groups are now being evolved."
The Ferragamos are sold on his visions of filtered light veils,
saturated luminescent planes, and rhythmic lines of direct light.
Custom mannequins! Sheer chain-mail window dressing! The family
taps Gabellini to update all the stores, beginning with simultaneous
projects in SoHo and Venice.
EARLY NOVEMBER Construction begins, and Gabellini experiences
the most frustrating event of the process: The Landmarks Preservation
Commission forbids the use of walnut on the exterior of the store.
"I've left this, emotionally," he says, "but I do believe that walnut
on the outside would've provided more depth and warmth and material
NOVEMBER 29 The project's grand kickoff: The Ferragamo
family invites 40 fashion editors down to the empty building on
the corner for a holiday dinner. The luxury-brand explosion is in
full swing (Chanel's SoHo-store opening was scheduled for that week),
and as the Town Cars clog the block and editors desperately shield
their shoes from the rain, the idea that SoHo was ever filled with
starving artists seems wholly implausible.
The space is raw, with a rough wooden floor, stripped walls, and
bare windows. But outside there's a giant, maroon Ferragamo scaffolding
that enshrouds the building, and inside, round tables have been
set up and tiny white lights are strung around the ceiling. "We
will open this store in May!" cheer the Ferragamos. Their guests
tuck into their steaks and smile indulgently. Thoughts of the still-unopened
Prada store a block away dance in their heads.
DECEMBER One of the materials Gabellini has decided on,
nickel silver, proves to be very hard to come by. It turns out the
European Union has decided to use the very same material to manufacture
euro coins, resulting in a worldwide shortage. The shipment is delayed.
FEBRUARY 20 The space is a cacophony of exposed brick and
insulation, with plywood and construction dust everywhere. "This
building has not been touched!" Abdoo says, pulling from the walls
newspapers heralding World War II troop movements. The foreman walks
Gabellini around the site as a handful of workers saw and hammer
and pry things apart. A gaping hole has been cut in the floor, opening
up to the basement; someday, there will be a giant floating staircase
here. Gabellini takes Abdoo for a tour of the dungeony downstairs
space, which will be transformed, he promises, into a "grotto."
The staircase will open to enormous windows that should, eventually,
flood the downstairs with light. But today it is so dark and so
dusty that everyone is sneezing and shivering.
MARCH 1 The nickel silver finally arrives.
JUNE A call from Ferragamo headquarters. The openingnow
one month lateis looking more like August.
JULY 23 Meanwhile, in Venice, the first completed Gabellini-designed
store in the chain has opened. "I am exhausted," says John Krenek,
Ferragamo's international visual director. "The opening was so much
work. The stewardess even took pity on me." But as he passes the
photos around the SoHo store, there's a tangible relief: This is
possible, the photos say. Gabellini, however, has learned some lessons
from his first go-around, and he calls the project manager over
for a consultation.
JULY 25 A pack of Italian workmen who helped complete the
Venice store have been flown to New York to make and install the
furniture and the fixtures. They are hammering away at the site,
chattering in Italian, and anxiously watching progress in the rest
of the store. There is plenty in evidence: the skeleton of the staircase,
for example. "There are about six trades involved in this staircase,"
says Michael Leonetti, the project manager from Richter & Ratner,
the construction firm hired for the job.
Richter & Ratner has built pretty much every high-end store in
townBarneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and
FAO Schwarz, to name a fewbut the staircase is difficult even
for this crew. It is made of giant slabs of steel (they will later
be covered with limestone); each step weighs 400 pounds. "We had
some alignment problems," Leonetti admits. "We had to do some welding."
Today, it is 90 degrees outside, and everyone on the site has sweat
through his shirt. "It's hard to imagine," Gabellini says to Walter
Migala, the newly hired store manager, who is suffering through
the sweltering meeting in a tidy suit, "but this staircase is going
to be so light."
AUGUST 10 The opening date has been pushed back to September
12. There are now 80 workers inside the space, and in spite of the
102-degree heat they are all moving very quickly. "You can dream
and imagine anything," Gabellini says, rapturously, "but the act
of building has nothing to do with the dreams. It's brick and mortar,
and we really weren't sure, even though we had drawings and experience,
if the proportions would be good. But the quality of the light and
the proportion of the height of the space is more than we even anticipated."
SEPTEMBER 20 There will be a party, 200 or so guests, and
it will attended by several yet-to-be-determined Big-Deal Personalities.
Will the new customers follow? "We have a classic name," Massimo
says. "But we make a constant effort to be modern. From this store,
Ferragamo will learn a lot."
Salvatore Ferragamo is located at 124 Spring Street. For other
locations and a review, click
From the August 27, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.