Domenico Vacca has long been a familiar name around red carpets, though more often associated with men – Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeremy Piven, and Forest Whitaker are a few of his regulars. And his stores in New York (as well as those around the world) have established him as an insider’s resource for quality tailoring and Italian style for women, too.
But his latest venture, a 10-story Domenico Vacca flagship building in New York that opens at 15 West 55th Street with a star-filled party next week, puts Vacca on another level. In fact, few designers have opened stores of this scale of luxury and design anywhere, let alone in the middle of Manhattan, with two massive floors of merchandise, a barbershop, a beauty salon, a spa, a private club, a café, and several private Vacca-designed apartments occupying the upper floors.
It’s the real-life embodiment of the clubby elite that Vacca’s clientele tend to project in their tightly tailored suits. It’s also the sort of space that seems to come from another era, when luxury brands spent lavishly on creating a single retail temple to their style, rather than hundreds of identical locations around the world.
Walking into the store for a preview on Wednesday morning, I found the designer stationed at an espresso bar that faces the entrance, with a tempting display of pastries behind him. Vacca says the café concept is intended to welcome anyone who is curious to see the space, which is being decorated with lots of artworks that will rotate with the seasons, as well.
“I got carried away,” Vacca says.
Until now, Vacca had three small stores in Manhattan (two were located within strolling distance from Cipriani restaurants, if that gives you a picture of the customer base), but as the customers’ shopping habits began to change in recent years, he began to conceive of a new idea for a store.
“At a certain point, I started asking what is the future of retail,” he says. “The answer is experience.”
Many designers have questioned the wisdom of opening so many stores when the future of shopping, for most of us, appears to be online. To draw clients into a physical location requires both excellent merchandise and a level of service that surpasses that convenience of clicks.
Here, you have cliques. The ultimate mark of a Vacca customer will be gaining entrance into the Vacca club, an elegant lounge with an outdoor terrace on the second floor that can be reached through a separate entrance. Vacca says he intends to admit only 500 members each year into the club, and annual membership will cost $20,000. So that is one exclusive place to grab a Negroni. (Piven, for one, has RSVP'd.)
Or, you could just stop in for a haircut or a shave. The barbershop and beauty salons, which surround the custom suiting area, are quite extraordinary, with chairs imported from Italy and a charming staff on call. Both will soon stock Vacca beauty products, too.