In the case of bringing the Milan-based La DoubleJ home collection to Bloomingdale’s in New York, tenacity paid off.
“I’ve been working at Bloomingdale’s for three-and-a-half years and ever since I started I wanted to get La DoubleJ into the store,” Kelley Carter, fashion director of home at Bloomingdale’s, told WWD. “This is a strategic partnership and it’s a big deal. We only expect to expand on it. It took a lot of work, and a lot of following up. I am very persistent.”
For the past few weeks Bloomingdale’s has been finessing a La DoubleJ home shop inside the 59th Street flagship, applying the final touches last week. Featuring the Milanese brand’s latest homeware collections crafted by artisanal firms in Italy, the 200-square-foot shop-in-shop on the seventh floor is a high-vibe, bistro-like concept inspired by the La DoubleJ store in Milan. There’s a wide selection of 18-karat gold-trimmed porcelains, handblown Murano glassware, Ancap printed porcelains, Napoli color-blocked napkins, linens, and lots of exuberant colors and prints for those bent on entertaining with flair.
The space, La DoubleJ’s first shop-in-shop at Bloomingdale’s, is awash in the brand’s signature burgundy hues with bistro tables set with pieces mixed and matched, custom-printed carpet, and bamboo cabinets merchandised with the wide product array.
“La DoubleJ fills a gap of what we were missing,” said Carter. “It brings energy and vibrancy to our assortment which mixes elegant patterns and materials in a modern, sophisticated and whimsical way. We were definitely looking for a fresher approach to setting the table.”
She said there’s sufficient space in the shop to show the breadth of product. “There are so many mix-and-match ways to put the table setting together and layer on patterns, prints and color. The bistro concept is really fun too.”
“Many people get intimated by a lot of pattern and print so you kind of have to massage it. If it’s too much pattern for you, the good thing is you can layer in the white plates,” said J.J. Martin, founder of the La DoubleJ ready-to-wear and home brand.
Asked why it took a long time before agreeing to the Bloomingdale’s shop, Martin replied, “We were really focusing on Harrods, Lane Crawford and Net-a-porter and we were doing a lot of business ourselves,” selling directly to customers. “When we decided to go in with Bloomingdale’s, it was because we then wanted to have more of a foothold in terms of image and our own brand recognition.”
Bloomingdale’s tabletop floor is largely populated by traditional heritage brands and some younger brands so La DoubleJ, with its fashion-forward orientation, stands out.
“The customer that comes to us for our homeware has no budget constraints,” said Martin. “It’s a true luxury customer. La DoubleJ ready-to-wear is also a luxury product, but our products are much less [expensive] than the Guccis and Pradas. We tend to be positioned as accessible luxury in ready-to-wear, whereas in homeware we’re in that luxury notch.”
Martin started her business in 2015 initially by selling vintage fashion. She developed a ready-to-wear brand about a year later and went into the home business in 2017, which has consistently added categories, including candles most recently.
“Everything we do is 100 percent made in Italy,” and typically product is getting increasingly hard to find, Martin said. “It’s really important for me to find these historic patterns and glassware.”
She noted that all of her plates are porcelain with 18-karat gold trim and made in Verona, Italy. Among her bestsellers currently: a set of four dessert plates crafted in collaboration with porcelain maker Ancap with hand-painted 18-karat gold trim, priced $320; a pair of table linens in solids for $90; a rainbow-colored glass set of four created with Venetian glassmaker Salviati that’s handmade in Murano glass, priced $550, and regionally inspired scented candles for $180.
In America, said Martin, “We are for sure looking for more shops-in-shop opportunities. It’s a game-changer when you can show the setting for a full five-course Italian meal. America is our number-one market, with just over half of our total sales.” The next biggest market is Europe, followed by the Middle East, she said.
Matches and Net-a-porter are key clients, though the business with Bloomingdale’s will grow. La DoubleJ homeware will also be sold at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza store in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is renovating. It will also be sold at Bloomingdale’s Aventura, Fla., stores. Bloomingdale’s does not sell La DoubleJ ready-to-wear, but wants to.
Staging events is part of building the business and showcasing its value in entertaining. “Homeware gives you the occasion to sit down and have dinner with your customers experiencing the product,” said Martin. She has hosted special-event dinners at Capitol, a luxury boutique in Charlotte, N.C.; Sant Ambroise on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, and once La DoubleJ took over the pool area of Passalacqua, a luxury retreat on Lake Como.
During the 2022 Christmas season, “we turned this dusty old-school cafe, Caffe Roma in Manhattan’s [Little Italy] neighborhood, into a wonder room of print,” right down to the napkins and coffee-to-go cups, Martin noted.
She holds the role of co-chief executive officer with her business partner and ex-husband Andrea Ciccoli, CEO of The Level Group, the e-commerce partner of a range of luxury brands including La DoubleJ. The brand’s first store opened in Milan in 2021, located on central Via Sant’Andrea, near Chanel and opposite Bottega Veneta, and a few steps away from Via Montenapoleone. Last year, shops-in-shop openings included the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, and in Comporta, a town in Portugal, while Harrods in London expanded its existing La DoubleJ shop.
For the Salone del Mobile, the Milan furniture fair next April, “We’re planting our flag in the homewear business,” Martin said, noting that currently, it represents just 12 percent of her total business. She’ll be showing both her latest home designs as well as pieces from past collections that “continue to live on,” as she said. “We’re actively building our assortment” with evergreen pieces as well new collections.
“The goal of our homeware is always to add a splash of joy into your home and let that raise your vibration,” said Martin, who considers herself a “maximalist” in her approach to style. “It’s so nice when we can actually take over a whole space and just show the impact that that bold color and poppy print and this frequency pattern can lend to a space. Plus the tables are all laid out differently, so you have a ton of inspiration on how to mix and match our homeware families.”