A Fashion Trend: Bigger Showrooms and Smaller Offices
February 11, 2014

Jeffrey PeckJeffrey I. Peck, right, a Studley broker, and Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann, Derek Lam’s chief, in a showroom with Mary Valentino, sales director.

With smartphones replacing landlines and online calendars doing the work of assistants, it often seems as if the modern office has moved permanently into cyberspace.

But the opposite seems to be happening in New York’s fashion industry.

In the last few years, many of Manhattan’s top apparel businesses have expanded or reconfigured their offices to allow for larger brick-and-mortar showrooms, where retail buyers can run their fingers along sleeves before deciding whether to purchase sweaters or other clothes for their shops...

In recent years, Valentino, the Italian designer, has reshuffled its American headquarters at 11 West 42nd Street, a 1927 high-rise overlooking Bryant Park, to turn offices into showrooms, like one on the 26th floor. Today, it sports dark wood floors and bright track lights.

Employees crowd a warren of narrow rooms toward the rear of the floor; on a recent afternoon, a 100-square-foot space that once was a single office had five employees, brokers said.

Echoing a design trend prevalent among technology start-ups, fashion companies like Valentino are putting employees in closer quarters to foster collaboration, brokers say, while also using space more efficiently.

Typical fashion employees require 20 percent less space than five years ago, according to Daniel O. Horowitz, a broker with Studley who has represented Valentino and similar firms.

And young people are comfortable with the type of bench seating made popular by Starbucks and other places, said the broker Jeffrey Peck, Mr. Horowitz’s partner.

“Obviously, employees are very important, and you want to give them the best working environment possible,” he said. “But benching frees up space for showrooms and amenities.” By reconfiguring its Madison Avenue office in 2009, for instance, Burberry was able to build a cafe, Mr. Peck said...

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