Domenico Vacca has long been known as an expert tailor of men’s and women’s suiting and shirts on Fifth Avenue, but now the brand with Italian roots is moving into a massive new space on Fifth and 55th that will not only be home to its new retail space, but also to a very exclusive members-only club, 35 residences, a barbershop, and a hair salon, with even more in the works. Domenico Vacca fills us in on the grand new venture and what we can expect when it opens this fall.
What made you want to take on a venture of this magnitude, to turn Domenico Vacca into a full lifestyle brand?
We had been in 10 stores around the world and in New York on Fifth Avenue between 59th and 60th for 13 years and our lease was coming to an end very soon. I always had this idea in my mind for the last few years of doing a concept store, a private membership-only club, and a residency hotel. We have been expanding the offering of the brand to become more of a lifestyle brand. We launched watches, crystals, and stemware two years ago, and now with the opening of the new store we are launching a fragrance collection, a tableware collection, and an eyewear collection. The opportunity became available on 55th Street. In the beginning, I was just looking at the retail space on the ground floor and the first floor, but we found that they were open to the idea of rebranding the whole building. The ground floor and the first floor will be retail but also house a private club, a café, a barbershop, and a hair salon, and on the lower level there will be our headquarters plus a photo studio for our photo shoots and a tailoring room for all the alterations. Then there will be eight floors of the residency with 35 suites, and the rooftop is another space that we are actually attaching to the private club.
Why did you choose this location?
If you start from Park Avenue on the corner, you have the Ferrari shop, and if you keep going up you have Michael’s restaurant, which is an institution. Vivienne Westwood is also opening on 55th Street, and Ralph Lauren opened the Polo Bar, and on the corner of 55th and Fifth they have their store. Then you have The Peninsula and The St. Regis. We are in the middle of the action.
Are the residences for ownership or rental?
It’s more like a long-term-stay residency with a minimum of 30 days. Every suite has its own kitchen and everything you need in an apartment. Plus, it will be fully furnished and decorated by us.
You were personally involved in the design and decoration. Has that always been a passion?
Yes, absolutely. We had always been decorating homes in a discreet way for some of our clients. The point is, when a client loves the brand and the sense of style and the taste of the brand, it not only relates to clothes but pretty much everything. I decorated not only the store but all of the common areas plus the residences because we thought that everything had to be tied together in terms of look and style. Even the furniture in the store has been designed by me from scratch.
How much will the residences cost?
We don’t know yet, because we are still completing them, but it will definitely be competitive. If you are moving to New York and you don’t have a house right away, you don’t want to stay in a hotel for a month—that would be really expensive. And you don’t want to rent an apartment for a year minimum, so this offers flexibility. Also some of our clients are from outside the United States, from places such as the Middle East. When they come to New York they really come with a lot of people and stay for a month or two months, so this could be a very good alternative to a hotel. If you go to a hotel, you don’t feel like you are living in a home, but here you will have the feel that you are in an apartment. There will be a concierge service and a house car with a chauffeur at your disposal. If you are staying in the apartment, then automatically for the period of the stay you will have access to the private club, so there are a number of benefits that other buildings are not offering right now.
Tell us a little about what the club will entail.
We’re calling it the DV Club. We have a lot of clients who travel a lot, entertain clients, go out at night, and sometimes go to lounges or clubs. Clubs are very commercial in New York right now, meaning you need a minimum of two to three bottles if you want to have a nice table, and then you have the promoters. I had a lot of my friends and clients tell me that they were missing a high-end club in New York where everything is based on customer service, not on how many bottles you buy. Here you can come with your guests and enjoy a drink or light food or live entertainment and be in the same place with other successful individuals. We charge a fee for the year and the fee gives you and three guests access to the club anytime you want. The bar will be open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., each client can bring three guests, and you will have access to the free open bar with anything you want. We’re really putting together an amazing bar. We’re also going to have a live music schedule.
What is the membership fee for the year?
It is $20,000. How much would it cost for one night to go to a club with three guests? Here you pay one fee for the year and you never have to worry about your tab again. The idea is to keep members and their friends engaged with wine tastings, tequila tastings, live music and book presentations, and everything else that we think will be appreciated by our members. Plus, when it’s your birthday, on whichever day works for you, you can bring up to 20 guests and we’ll take care of you. My point is to eliminate all the nonsense of the regular clubs and just give a lot to the members in terms of customer service.
How many members will you allow?
We are going to stop the membership at 500 because we want our team at the club to know every single member—what they like, what they drink. That way we will be able to get them their drink as soon as they sit down or walk into the club.
You are also going to have a barbershop and a hair salon.
We are doing a café, a barbershop, and a hair salon in the store. The barbershop and hair salon will overlook the first floor. The café is on the ground floor of the store because we want people to be able to get a cappuccino while they are surrounded by beautiful clothes. What is the future of retail? Where are we going with the pure brick and mortar of retail in 2015? Is it just going to be flagship stores for advertising, or are they going to generate income? People can go online and buy anything they want right now. It’s about giving the client an experience.
You have a lot planned for this space!
You have to also know that we have the building next door, so there is a chance that we will double up in space.
Wow! This is quite the investment that you have made.
But you know, we had the store that was 800 square feet on Fifth Avenue for 13 years and the people that knew about quality and luxury, they have always been our clients. Now we would like to expand that and branch out with other products and bring in other people. If I’m going to be in this market for another 10 to 15 years, then I’m ready to do a big project. We have the followers, the collection, and the concepts to do so.
Is it safe to say that we can expect some high-profile and celebrity clientele to be hanging out in the new establishment?
Totally. Besides our clothing line, we do a lot with movies. I did 50 movies in the last 10 years. We dressed Denzel Washington head-to-toe for American Gangster, and everyone from Terrence Howard in Empire to Jeremy Piven in Entourage, plus Glenn Close in Damages and many other men and women in tons of movies. We dressed Daniel Day-Lewis for the Oscars when he won for Lincoln. We dress an average of 10 people for each Oscars and Golden Globes. When I talked to them about this project, from the very beginning they were really excited about it, especially the celebrities who are not out there in the tabloid magazines all the time, to have a place where they can come and hang out and have a drink if they want. We also have a lot of friends who are performing artists and they are really excited. They are actually telling us which instruments we should buy, which amps, and which guitars. We want to create that casual atmosphere where if someone wants to play guitar while sitting on the sofa we will go grab them one to play. We want to create that feel, that atmosphere, that ambience.
Do you have an actual opening date?
We are shooting for mid-October. We want to at least have a few weeks to make sure that everything is perfect. It will be fun, it will be an experience—that’s what we want to do!