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Stella on the Street of Desire

Fashion's "it girl" du jour - Stella McCartney - recently took up new digs at 850 Madison Avenue. Actually, it's the Paris-based fashion house, Chloe, that set up shop in New York's Upper East Side. McCartney has become virtually synonymous with the luxe label since taking over as chief designer for Chloe in 1997. Her designs are described as "cheeky chic" for the hip way she marries old with new. The end result? A new look achieved by using both sexy and modern elements, rejuvenating Chloe's entire line.

Chloe's devoted clientele can finally view the entire collection from apparel to accessories, shoes, jewelry and perfumes in a 3,200 sq. ft., two-level boutique, the company's largest retail venue to date. The Madison Avenue store was designed in the spirit of McCartney's Paris atelier on the rue du Faubourg St.-Honore, says Robert Ceretti, principal of R. Ceretti + associates, a New York City-based architectural and store planning firm who collaborated on the New York flagship. Vogue magazine recently described the studio this way: "An odd but successful mix of antiquey and modern, delicate and brash, with a sixties modern desk here, a blue-and-white chandelier there. Very spare, a little messy."

Working with Parisian architect Hubertus Feit, who is also McCartney's creative director, Chloe's New York store is an expansion and extension of the brand, says Ceretti. "We were hired to pull established design elements together in a cohesive way." The challenge, says Ceretti, was to develop the existing architectural space to best present and highlight the line. "Based on the capacities required and the presentation techniques, there was actually ample room to create a double-height space." Taking advantage of the store's frontage on Madison and 70th Street, Ceretti explains, "We wanted to open up the window bays to get as much daylight as possible." Sheer linen scrims diffuse direct light, giving the space a soft, airy feel.

Ceretti also met with McCartney early in the project's design development phase. "Stella McCartney set design direction for this store in the same way she creates the collection," he explains. "It's all based on her love for elegant femininity and luxury." For example, the store features limestone and oak flooring, not carpet, says Ceretti, "because we had the latitude and space to indulge." The store's vinyl wall coverings come from the airline industry, because of the material's workability in wrapping curved surfaces and ceiling soffits.

Signature elements include etched antique mirrors and a glass chandelier with turquoise glass teardrops; items that might be found in McCartney's studio. "In this store," says Ceretti, "we had the opportunity to use them as major statements rather than accents." In fact, the chandelier is showcased at the top of a sweeping spiral staircase now connecting the two selling floors.

"There was a sense of wanting to make the store feel like it was lighted only by the chandelier," says David Apfel, the New York City-based lighting designer who handled Chloe's lighting. The plan consists of many kinds of fixtures and light sources ranging from MR-16 down lights and recessed fixtures to fiber optics. As an example of the latter, a fiber optic light source can be found embedded in the shelving.

This source showcases a series of perfume bottles, each filled with a different colored liquid. Each glass fragrance chamber glows from the regressed shelf at the bottom of the staircase.

The shop's first floor is devoted to daywear ranging from tailored suits to embroidered jeans and McCartney's signature T-shirts. Smaller items such as perfumes and accessories are also found here. A perimeter wall extending from the entry features handbags on wooden shelves. Above these shelves are showcases faced with etched antique mirrors while an assortment of small leathers, sunglasses and jewelry are displayed below.

The second floor features special occasion garments including tailored suits, camisoles and cocktail dresses. Floor fixtures have been replaced with a mix of 1960s retro sofas, classic tables and chairs, even mannequin torsos. Chloe's collection of shoes and boots are also upper level merchandise, presented on a series of curving glass shelves.

As for apparel, walls are sparsely merchandised with both face-forward and side-hanging options. "Presentation is strictly high-end, but definitely not high-volume," explains Ceretti. "It's a small collection of pricey pieces. We needed to make room for the merchandise to breathe."

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