Sitting on a cowhide-covered ottoman in Fivestory, her luxury boutique in New York City’s Upper East Side, founder Claire Distenfeld beamed with excitement as she talked about the retailer’s recent two-floor expansion, which includes its new shoe room.
“Taking your shoes off is an emotional feeling, and you don’t want to feel like you’re in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a store,” Distenfeld explained. “When we decided to expand, we said we should make the shoe area as intimate, private, special and feminine as possible.”
Now located on the second floor of the store, which happens to be ensconced in a New York townhouse, the shoe section moved from its original marble-floored garden area to an intimate space that provides a 360-degree view of designer footwear.
“[It’s a] leg up on our competitors where their shoe floors are so big you can’t see everything. You always feel like you’re missing things — at least I do. So to be able to sit in this room and see an expansive amount of shoes, but also see that these were handpicked and perfectly curated, and you don’t even have to get up to pick the shoes you want — we thought that was really important,” she said.
Distenfeld said shoes make up approximately 35 percent of business. The mix includes Gianvito Rossi, Tabitha Simmons, Santoni, Paul Andrew, Aquazzura and more. While luxury labels remain the core of the retailer’s shoe selection, Fivestory has worked to include a more diverse range of styles.
“We do well with all of our shoe brands because it is so curated. We have Bernardo rainboots, [for example], and we sell hundreds. We also have the $800 shoe next to the $150 shoe and have the same women buy both,” she said.
Sneakers have also made their way onto the Fivestory shelves, with brands including Koio and Veja.
Koio, a handcrafted Italian leather sneaker brand, has been popular among consumers, and coming early next year will be an exclusive sneaker collaboration with Fivestory, paying homage to America.
“Our shoes are the perfect fit for the Fivestory customer because we apply the same attention to detail and quality as Claire does in the design and curation of her store,” said Koio co-founder Chris Wichert. “Shopping at Fivestory is very elevated and enjoyable at the same time. Our customer loves to shop there to get a whole outfit that matches our shoes.”
Most recently, Fivestory teamed up with Sergio Rossi to celebrate the shoe floor opening with an exclusive capsule collection of the sr1 slipper in three colorways: black, powder and gold.
Sergio Rossi Group CEO Riccardo Sciutto said, “This special capsule collection is another step forward for the sr1, the collection that marked the rebirth of the Sergio Rossi brand. It is modern, versatile and seasonless, which is how we are able to develop new ideas with international partners [such] as Fivestory.”
The shoe is also reimagined in a silk moiré, which is inspired by the boutique’s interior design. Distenfeld hand-picked walls in that material for the new shoe space.
While footwear is a primary focus, Distenfeld is forging ahead with new initiatives in other parts of the store. Fivestory’s top floor will act as a pop-up space for companies to keep things fresh. (For the next three months, beauty brand Follain will be featured.)
With five and a half years under her belt, the owner — who self-funded the company with her father — prides herself on its unique experience.
“I don’t feel like any other store is as emotionally driven as we are,” she said. “People want to come to see what we have, why we have it and where it came from. We opened without an ounce of retail experience. We didn’t walk in here with spreadsheets and numbers and sell-throughs; we walked in here with feelings. I want to be experiential.”
That’s not always easy in today’s increasingly challenging climate. “Retail is a monster, and day-to- day is a very scary place,” Distenfeld said. “The tactic is that you do what you do really well, listen to your customer, make them feel great, and then they will shop.”
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