Sunday, September 19, 2010


For a long time now, I've believed that retailers need to be mroe authentic... in their product, process, design and decor, delivery, services and relationships.

Shopping in New York always offers an opportunity to discover new and innovative reatilers, off the beaten path and in the unusual locatons. Lately, for the last two years or so, I've been talking about "authenticity" in retail. I think retailers have lost who they are, they're out of touch with their customer and have no idea why they're even in the business. Product looks like all other product, knocked off in colors and patterns and fabrics, but no innovations. One retailer looks the same as the next and there's no differentation.

About 5 years ago, I stumbled on Earnest Sewn in the Meatpacking and knew it was the direction of things to come... truly authentic, unpretentious, about the product and the process. I am starting to see look-alikes, perhaps not by chance. But, my new favorite is AllSainsts Spitalfields in Soho. The store design brings back inspirations from the original garment industry, with 493 vintage sewing machines in the windows and throughout the interior of the store- an AllSaints signature design detail.

AllSaints reminded me of the first time I encountered Earnest Sewn in the meatpacking so many years ago... wow, I was blown away! And, then I noticed the followers.... but, that's all good too. If retail gets authentic again, that everyone wins. So, seeing others follow is a good thing.

Located in Nolita, bordering the Lower East Side (LES) and East Village, the area has attraced more interesting retail like Jamin Peuch, Double RL, Scotch and Soda, and others who get "boutique and authentic" retail. New stores in Nolita that are following this same trend, including Double RL, Ralph Lauren's concept and Scotch and Soda, a retailer based in Amsterdam, Area ID, and others who really understand the concept. Many focus their retail design on authentic aspects of their products, including spools of thread, machines that weave or sew, molds and models for product design, recycled product.

I believe that the emergence of these European brand is also a reflection of the slow mentality of American brands who just don't and can't move fast enough to change with the times. American brands work so hard to be something they are not. These European brands really seem to get it.

While Nolita is experiencing this cool Renaissance, LES is where innovation really is. One of the coolest retail enironments is KAIGHT on Orchard between Broome and Grand. Carrying many recycled and innovative products, KAIGHT offers an array of "designed" goods and products design in collaboration with such designers as Prada, Betsey Johnson, Alexander McQueen and others. My favorite were recycled plastic shoes designed by Melissa. Brazilian brand Melissa has become an international sensation because of its ethical and environmental focus, its use of advanced technology, its collaborations with such design heavy-weights as Vivienne Westwood, the Campana brothers and Zaha Hadid and, last, but not least, comfort.

KAIGHT is an eco-boutique dedicated to advancing the image of green fashion. KAIGHT stocks only the hottest emerging green designers from the U.S., Europe and Canada that make clothes that push the boundaries of fashion in an environmentally conscious and ethical way.

With such cool retail, the older formats will likely die quickly! Watch out!

1 comment:

Leslie Asfour said...

I do believe that American brands traditionally are not authentic and flexible, save a few, like Levis' But all are prey to the influx of a few European brands that define heritage, tradition, authenticity, and history! It isn't about a cookie-cutter formula, but creating an entire new environment for the hand-picked neighborhood in which the store is located, where the retailer really gets inside of the consumer who loves and shops in that neighborhood! Areas exemplifying this trend: Lower East Side and Nolita in NY and Union Street (Cow Hallow) in SF.... many others, but these seem to really understand that niche market for the consumer not wanting to follow the catwalk trend, but looking for meaningful brands and environments.