John Lobb is taking the “go big or go home” approach for its new Manhattan store. The Hermès-owned men’s shoe label has repositioned itself on Madison Avenue for its biggest store to date that debuted its new concept. FashionNetwork.com spoke with CEO Philippe Gonzalez at a recent press lunch—to include a tour of the new store, trolley ride, and piano-serenaded New York deli-style lunch at Bemelmans Bar—and in an email interview about what’s in store, literally and the brand’s retail plans.
For starters, the brand moved further south on Madison Avenue—a retail trend Gonzalez said is on the rise—from 67th and 68th Street to 62nd and 63rd as brands seek to grab more foot traffic from the luxury strip of 57th Street.
“The global pandemic reshaped the luxury retail on Madison Avenue between 57th and 65th Street. It was important for us to move to this Madison golden strip to present the brand’s evolution and expose it to a wider audience,” Gonzalez said of the new prime location at 700 Madison Avenue.
The store, designed by ciguë architecture firm in Montreuil, France, recalls the innovation of the space age in the form of a ‘capsule’ design and takes cues from Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca, whose organic stone sculptures become display shelves and curved sofas custom designed by French designer Christophe Delcourt that add an inviting and modern mood.
According to Gonzalez, the ‘capsule’ concept encapsulates the world of John Lobb to include new ready-to-wear styles such as the Peak casual suede hiker boot exclusive for the New York store, a care and repair concierge service, a By Request personalization service and its Bespoke service.
“The workshop is at the heart of the John Lobb experience. The capsule is a module designed as a mobile unit, able to occupy any place where it is deployed. It can take various forms, depending on the cities and cultures where it is established. This cabin is designed as a large piece of furniture that contains all the tools necessary for the brand experience,” Gonzalez explained, further expanding, “In New York City, the capsule takes the shape of a large airstream mobile home. By opening, it attracts the eye, reveals the savoir-faire, and stages and organizes services. It is made of stainless steel on the outside and brightly reflects its environment. As a contrast, its interior is all dressed in wood and is warm and welcoming.
The welcome also comes from a first-name basis in-store cobbler. “Paul, our Master bootmaker, will welcome our customers in a comfortable and intimate, dedicated space in the store. He will take measurements of their feet. These measurements will sculpt the customer’s last in a piece of wood. The desired upper will be cut in the best leathers and manually sewn,” the CEO said, adding, “After a fitting, which is like the Haute Couture process, a pair of Bespoke shoes, made by hand in our Bespoke atelier in Paris will be delivered.” The process takes 3 to 6 months to manufacture, depending on whether a last exists. Most ready-to-wear John Lobb shoes run in the lower $2,000s with custom styles in the $7,000 range.
Gonzalez says the Big Apple is a prime location for John Lobb. “We have a long and faithful customer base. The city is elegant and refined. It is not only a window for the US but also for the entire world. The city is such an inspiring platform. “New York is a city where you enjoy discovering walking, hence the release of two styles of the Peak boot, a play on the classic working boot rendered in extra supple Nubuck and constructed in a lightweight walking rubber sole to accompany our customers on any 24-hour journey.”
While New York is officially kicking off the new concept, the CEO said a recent Los Angeles store on Brighton Way at the corner of Rodeo Drive also offers the complete John Lobb services. And more is to come. “Next year, our flagship store in Tokyo on Marunouchi Street will be relocated and renovated, introducing the same concept as New York.” He added that the opening is planned for early April, followed by the opening of a new location in Kyoto in May 2024, a John Lobb “Maison” in a traditional matcha house.
The new store concepts as the brand heads towards its 50th anniversary in 2026. For context, John Lobb has been part of the Hermès Group since 1976. It boasts a Bespoke atelier in Paris, a By Request personalization service, a ready-to-wear footwear collection produced in its Northampton workshop in the UK, and a retail network spanning 19 global stores and a wholesale business. Bearing the same name and perhaps ‘soul,’ it is not to be confused with John Lobb Ltd., a family-run operation catering to its local bespoke clientele from St. James’s Street in London.
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