I love SoHo on a beautiful sunny day. You can’t help but feel that you are about to discover something. That’s partially due to the architecture and inspiring industrial buildings built in the late 19th century (and thankfully, landmarked and preserved in the 1970s). Mercer Street is a narrow cobblestone street, and many of its stores are located in the back entrances of the grand buildings that front on Broadway. The dichotomy is fascinating when you enter a store like the newly opened Lanvin boutique. Looking at the brick and metal facade it seems that it has always been there. The inside is another story. That’s SoHo.
The block between Prince and Houston is bubbling. Lanvin and Self-Portrait join Balenciaga, Marni and Prada’s back door as well as The Mercer hotel. And more boutiques are on the way.
The new Lanvin boutique is full of visual surprises, starting with the stunning ramp that leads from the street to the selling floor.
There is a small display at the top of the ramp and stairs: creative, rather life-like mannequins dressed in the new fall collection along side the new Pear minaudieres.
Walk down the stairs next to the ramp, and find yourself in the new Lanvin world. The store features both men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, as envisioned by the brand’s new designer, Bruno Sialelli. The store was conceived to showcase the collection, and it does this brilliantly. Chic, elegant, and fun.
The walls are covered in whimsical murals by the artist Luke Edward Hall. Nothing is forced or crowded.
The mannequins are original. They mimic real people doing real things, and living in the clothes. They are part of the Lanvin story. It now has a new, happier chapter. The fashion world was shocked back in 2015 when Alber Elbaz had a disagreement with the then-owner, a Taiwanese media magnate, and departed the brand he had revived. A string of designers floated through the studio, with none of them producing compelling designs. And the owner was reputed to have financial issues. The majority of the Lanvin business was bought in 2018 by the Fosun Fashion Group, which injected some much needed capital, and attracted new management as well as the new designer.
You can visualize how the clothes will look as the mannequins are true to life. The men’s and women’s collections feature casual and evening wear.
Buttery leather jackets, thick silk dresses and tops, floaty dresses, denim and embroidered statement dresses have a modern look. A group of clothing is made from prints inspired by Babar, the Elephant.
Accessories are a big part of both collections. Cool jewelry, new bag shapes, scarves, belts, you name it.
Women are buying some of the men’s clothing, and some of the bags work for both men and women.
The men’s side has a very relaxed feel, even in the tailoring. The same motifs, jacquards, Babar and daisy prints are used for men’s and women’s pieces.
The design of the store and the clothing speak the same language. From the bags and shoes at the back wall displayed on mirrored cubes, to the posing figures around the store, all is elegant and new. You can find the same clothing and accessories in the Madison Avenue boutique, but you’ll be missing all this attitude. It’s good to be surprised.
As you walk out of the shop, notice how the architect has kept many elements of the 1861 building intact: The exposed brick walls and the original tin ceiling. Old and new also work well together — making this store extremely modern.
Lanvin, 150 Mercer Street, 646-603-0057
Walk a few feet along Mercer Street and you will find a store with an artistic construction in the window. Walk in and enter the Self-Portrait boutique, a British contemporary luxury label created by a Malaysian designer named Han Chong.
As you pass the structure, you’ll see it is a wooden homage to lace — one of the designer’s favorite fabrics.
Past the installation and down a flight of stairs, you reach the clothing, hung on wooden racks that echo the piece at the entrance.
Self-Portrait has been around since 2014. The clothes are feminine, but also reflect a semi-androgynous spirit. They are on the dressy side, but you could wear some of them to the office. The brand has a large celebrity following, Royals included, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lace, chiffon, crepes, velvet and novelty fabrics are the core fabrics. The clothing is very detailed but it is not overwhelming.
Guipure lace, embroideries, pleating and ruffles decorate the clothing. There is a lot of black, and black and white, with red and cobalt accents.
The clothes are body skimming, and flattering. Defined waists are a thing here.
There are minimal pieces like the rhinestone-trimmed jumpsuit, and blouses and skirts.
The clothing enhances the customer. It’s sexy and flirty at the same time.
The boutique and the clothing are both an artistic statement. The clothes are well made, and well priced. Not a bad combination.
Self-Portrait, 158 Mercer Street, 917-639-3175
There had been a papered-over window featuring only the word Redemption on Wooster Street for months and months. The Italian label is known for its glamour and rock’n’roll meets bikers ethos. Launched in 2013 by three friends, Gabriele “Bebe” Moratti, Daniele Sirtori and Vanni Laghi, the store is finally open. When you enter it, it’s easy to see why it took so long to finish. Designed by the firm Gensler, the space is one-of-a kind for SoHo. The entryway features a rock-chic dress and a guitar case. A signature.
Enter into the “foyer” of the store (what store actually has a foyer?) that is devoid of product, and you are reminded that the ultimate luxury is “wasted” space. Bebe Moratti, the creative director, the son of a former Milanese mayor, with a business and finance background, is a photographer as well as a designer. Vanni Laghi is the chopper buff who built custom motorcycles that were auctioned off to partially finance the charitable wing of the business. (The brand gives 50% of its net profits to support organizations for social change.) All of this makes the design of the space far more interesting.
The actual merchandise is in a large room that evokes Milan or Paris. The space is beautifully designed with handcrafted details, parquet floors, intricate moldings, plasterwork and more. The clothing is displayed carefully around the room.
Sustainability is the key to the brand. The clothing and accessories are manufactured in Italy and France using local fabrics. Redemption invests in the artisans who make the clothing as well as supporting a wide range of charities. You can reap the benefits of this while lounging on a leather couch in the soaring salon. Who thought sustainable shopping could be this glam?
Biker jackets and form fitting rocker babe dresses define the brand. The clothing is not shy.
The colors are primarily black and white, leavened by monochromatic prints and animal spots. The trio knows their customer. Day clothes and evening clothes mix in together. Jersey, knits and sweaters too.
Accessories include shoes and belts, black of course.
A red animal print blouse provides a touch of color. A counterpoint to the plunging white blouses and bodysuits, sharp black jackets, and the super slim pants.
There is an abundance of cool statement dressing. Sleek and full. You might not want to hop on your bike, or your significant others’, in these dresses, but you wouldn’t look out of place if you did.
Redemption, 102 Wooster Street (b/t Spring St & Prince St)
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.