Whoa — Madewell’s upcoming collaboration with Gucci? A mega fandango of customers? Unthinkable? Probably. But the company’s completely and utterly unfamiliar rollout of a physical pop-up shop at Manhattan’s Flatiron building this weekend has seriously given some serious mastication purposes to Camila Coelho, who has helped build Gucci in the United States and is the brand’s public face in America.
“For months, it’s been a promise to the industry that this would happen,” Coelho said on Tuesday morning during a telephone press call. When asked to reconcile the Gucci’s tumultuous — and erratic — behavior with its well-established, mainstream retail aspirations, Coelho seemed a little bashful.
“I think it’s very strange,” she said of the invitation, the invitation from Gucci president Michele Norsa. “But it’s a way to get people excited for our collaboration. It’s not something Gucci could do, in its own way. I love my job, and this is something Gucci wants me to be a part of.”
“If you have a big partnership with a big fashion brand, you don’t need a big brick-and-mortar store,” Coelho continued. “I love New York. I’m not sure how you could do a brick-and-mortar shop [without] taking one particular project with Gucci.”
Gucci has been grappling with a merchandise issue. For a couple of seasons now, insiders have said that the label was either pushing high-end or high-style dresses out of fashion entirely. Gucci has recently attempted to improve its “gateway” product with a gold ad for its $580 “Neverfail” bag, and last week’s “Gansevoort”-like fall fashion collection with many bold-patterned pieces. The newly launched Gucci BOOM store at the Flatiron, home to the “House of Gucci” concept and the pop-up shop, will have “Teardrop” brooches and “Dumfries” striped dresses.
The timing is right for a collaboration with Madewell, Coelho said, because of both the label’s and Gucci’s necessity to move into markets beyond the New York City, Miami and Los Angeles area. “We are seeing customers come from all over the country to New York and Miami,” Coelho said. “Florida is a big market for us. Miami is growing, and so is Dallas. So we have to not only think about the markets we’re already in, but we have to be coming from new markets.”
Madewell has been this same lucky mascot for a lot of brands. Brands such as Steve Madden, Penney, and others often have their shop concepts at the Flatiron. It’s one of the neighborhood’s heartmarks. And so Gucci has never once considered a retail presence at the neighborhood — until now.
“The whole idea is being spontaneous and welcoming and keeping this artisanal element alive in this massive space,” Coelho said of the party for Gucci BOOM hosted by Gucci next Saturday and incorporating an unspecified group of 80 people. “We are keeping it as small as possible, with a number of so-called ‘guests’ (guests being the insiders in the industry). There’s no place like it, and it’s an extension of Gucci.”
On Monday morning, Coelho noted, the Gucci BOOM’s future — at least on the physical stage — seemed uncertain.
“Thank you all for your patience,” she wrote in a Facebook update. “We are still working on [tomorrow]’s plans for BOOM. We will update again. Until then, and hopefully some of you can come and check it out for yourself. We hope to see you out in the process. Love, Gucci.”
Answering a few lingering questions for now, the good news: Gucci BOOM will likely open its doors early in the evening — possibly even before 10 pm. “Even though it’s still going to be dark,” Coelho said with a laugh.