“Madison Avenue is some of the planet’s most expensive retail real estate,” says Eric Le Goff, senior director of the Manhattan firm Cushman & Wakefield, citing prices from $1,000 per square foot. With the downturn came empty storefronts and “For Rent” signs. But as The New York Times reported, some saw a silver lining: a way to create a healthier Madison. “As rent prices are being corrected, we’re seeing younger, more niche brands enter the market,” says Le Goff. That’s good news for those lamenting the “old Madison,” where small shops like the Madison Avenue Bookshop and Primavera Gallery, with special pieces and highly personalized service, dominated the area. Take Parisian perfumer Frédéric Malle, who in 2007, when the avenue was starting to resemble a strip mall (Juicy Couture, anyone?), declared, “I want something intimate; I don’t want to be on Madison.” He’s set to open his first U.S. outpost here later this month.
For its second Manhattan outpost, Marni designed a two-story, gallery-like space to showcase a full selection of its sculptural and abstract clothing and jewelry. 21 E. 67th St.; 212-257-6907
2. Solange Azagury-Partridge
London-based jeweler Azagury-Partridge opened her first stateside boutique last spring in a dimly lit but sleekly designed space, marked by her enamel Hot Lips ring in the window. 809 Madison Ave.; 212-879-9100
3. Ralph Lauren
Seventy-second Street could officially become Ralph Lauren Way next fall, when a four-story women’s and home collection store—and rumored RL restaurant—joins the Mansion and Ralph Lauren children’s store. 888 Madison Ave.; 212-606-2100
Look for Bensimon sneakers, Barbour jackets, and Selima Optique spectacles for the tiniest fashion plates at J. Crew’s latest store, which “encourages kids,” says creative director Jenna Lyons, “to style themselves.” 1190 Madison Ave.; 212-348-9803
5. Frederic Malle
Malle’s cultish Editions de Parfums collection is here, along with a new home-fragrance line that includes candles ensconced in red hand-blown glass. 898 Madison Ave.; 212-249-7941
6. Isaac Mizrahi
After 22 years in the business, Mizrahi opened his first Manhattan boutique in a restored townhouse in September. 23 E. 67th St.; 212-288-8111
7. David Yurman
There are the classic cable bracelets and great gold hoops, but this space also has a larger bridal selection and a new watch collection. 729 Madison Ave.; 212-752-4255
8. Devi Kroell
Kroell’s second boutique (her first is in East Hampton) arrived this fall and carries her signature oversize python hobos and crystal-studded clutches as well as her ready-to-wear line. 717 Madison Ave.; devikroell.com
9. Gagosian Shop
Art dealer Larry Gagosian’s new storefront sells coffee-table books from Richard Prince and Andy Warhol as well as Marc Newson desks and Corbusier chairs. Downstairs is Other Criteria, a Damien Hirst–run space stocking limited-edition books and posters. 988 Madison Ave.; 212-744-9200
For its 100th anniversary, the Kwiat family decided it needed its own store to hold the company’s classic diamond rings, tennis bracelets, and heirloom-worthy New Vintage collection. 725 Madison Ave.; 212-725-7777
11. Brunello Cucinelli
The Italian cashmere purveyor will fill its new 2,000-square-foot space with gray cashmere tuxedos, oatmeal six-ply sweaters, and perfectly rugged leather luggage. 683 Madison Ave.; brunellocucinelli.com
12. Buck House
Longtime Madison Avenue shop owner Deborah Buck consolidated her antiques gallery into one big space. Here, Buck’s eclectic finds mingle with a similarly curated selection of vintage jewelry. 1318 Madison Ave.; 212-828-3123
Other Stops Along The Way:
13. J. Crew Collection, 1035 Madison Ave.; 212-249-3869.
14. Stubbs & Wootton, 987 Madison Ave.; 212-249-5200.
15. Baby CZ, 820 Madison Ave.; 212-288-8030.
16. Mauboussin, 714 Madison Ave.; 212-752-4300.
17. Hermès Men’s Boutique, 690 Madison Ave.; 212-751-3181.