Brands are opening stores at a dizzying rate these days. Many of them are American-made, but new concepts and popular brands from other countries are arriving here too. It is all good for us New Yorkers. Although too many options can cause another set of problems, but I’ll take the confusion.
Why are all these stores opening? How many times have you been stuck in traffic due to an Amazon truck taking over a whole lane as a warehouse, or thanks to a FedEx/UPS truck double or triple parked? The (sad) reality is that everyone is shopping online and the trucks delivering our packages are crowding our streets. Department stores are not exactly full up with the newest smaller brands, instead sticking to the tried and true (boring as it may be).
But brands with strong businesses are finding that having their own brick and mortar can be profitable and good for their image. It’s also interesting to see that malls are failing all around the country. People don’t want to shop that way. They want newness; and they want to be surprised. After all, it’s the experience that counts.
A creation of Jeanne Damas, Rouje is the quintessential cool French Girl brand, designed by women for women. It is a reflection of what an imaginary Parisienne would wear.
The airy space is sectioned off into different areas. Handbags sit at the entrance. Racks of ready-to-wear are placed strategically around the store, filled with coats, dresses, tops, bottoms, and lots of accessories. Most of it is made in Europe.
Boots are important to “cool” French girls. Low heels and loafers, too. But nary a stilleto is to be found. And the colors are mostly neutrals.
There is a lot of denim for sale as well. Different cuts, colors and treatments. The inspiration is vintage and everyday French life. It started as an online venture, but is now sold in Rouje boutiques in Paris, Bordeaux, London, and now New York.
The clothing is hung somewhat randomly. Almost by outfit. The clothes are cut with women in mind, and are more suggestive than revealing. Wrap dresses, trenches, and other staples abound. Damas is recreating her dream wardrobe with every season.
And then there are the cosmetics. Jeanne Damas is known for wearing saturated red lipstick (Rouje=rouge=red). It is such a trademark that Damas was chosen to play Paloma Picasso (also known for her red lipstick) in a new Karl Lagerfeld biopic. Lipstick is a part of the full collection.
Rouje, 476 Broome Street
Schott is as American as Rouje is French. Started over a century ago on New York’s Lower East Side, the manufacturing is now done in New Jersey. Famous for its Perfecto zip leather jackets, the brand now offers much more. There had been a small store in Nolita, but that has been replaced by this spacious boutique.
There are shirts, sweaters, sweats and more. Currently there is a collaboration with the Grateful Dead –Schott NYC x Grateful Dead. Some pieces feature embroidered Dead artwork, and others proclaim Grateful Dead High. Shirts come in plaid and solid cotton flannels. There is a small selection of shirts, jackets, and coats for women too.
There are many styles of leather jackets, as you would suspect. Leathers are sourced from around the world. There are other styles beyond the Perfectos.
Peacoats and plaid jackets are at the back of the store. There you will also find corduroy coats and waterproof vests and coats. The tiny women’s section is off to the right.
There are different varsity jackets, and the classic Schott jackets in plaids and fringed suede. There are hooded sweats and lots of patterned sweaters, Nordic, reindeer and fair isle for fall.
You will find lots of flight jackets as well as “chore” jackets, rancher jackets, and mechanics jackets. And there are also puffers and down-filled vests. Each type of jacket comes in different materials. A large choice is Schott’s new way.
Schott, 32 Howards Street
Across the street, in the old Reformation space, TWP opened recently. The brand was conceived by Trish Wescoat Pound, with guidance from Andrew Rosen (they had worked together at Theory years ago). The collection is based on elevated basics, starting with a man’s shirt cut for a woman.
There are also a lot of jackets, and even some leather tops. The fabics are mostly from Europe, and the clothing is made locally in small factories. It is meant to be simple and easy to wear.
If you want to find bright colors, this is not the store for you. There are shades of white, lots of beiges, black and some greys, and some indigos and navy. There is not a lot of pattern, either.
Jackets can be cropped or finger tip length. The designer displays them with the sleeve pushed up. Shirts are generally shown with rolled up cuffs. This season the pants are very full.
Dressier looks are in store now. Basics perk up when done in silver or black sequins. And there are some pieces that have beading designs, and some organza shirts. Less can be more.
TWP, 23 Howard Street
The Ashley Longshore Gallery and Studio dropped into Soho recently. The self-declared pop artist had been living and working in New Orleans. She recently relocated to New York. Super-saturated color, over-the-top painting is her thing.
Her subjects are often the consumer products of the wealthy, like Birkins, Chanel, jewels, Champagne, and more. And she loves Audrey Hepburn and Oprah. There are large series about these subjects.
Along with paintings, she has done two books, and collaborations with Judith Lieber and furniture with Ken Fulk. And then there are totes, and small objects for the home.
Bergdorf Goodman started selling her pieces in 2018, but now this gallery is the place to find them. Many of the decorative pieces are on the “rude” side. The artist likes it that way.
Chanel lipstick and Cartier Love bracelets have become “sculptures.” Butterflies and Audreys decorate the room.
And of course there is a series of “billionaire” paintings – Bill, Warren, Jeff, Elon, Richard, and many more are available. If you want them gazing down upon you, you know where to find them.
Ashley Longshore Gallery + Showroom, 43 Crosby Street
Travis Taddeo opened a boutique to showcase his growing web business and grow to the next level. He creates seasonless pieces that have a minimalist point of view. Stretch rayon jersey, tencel jersey, silk jersey, silk charmeuse and leather are his go-to fabrics. Basics for men is a new category.
Black and white anchor the collection, with some deep, rich tones thrown in. There is the occasional print. And shredding and hand-done fringe add some fun to the minimalism.
The layering basics can go anywhere, and the dresses are clothing to have fun in. Dresses are long, short and in-between. And they are very good for travel as they don’t take up a lot of room.
All the clothes in the store are made in this workroom. Patterns are made, and garments are cut and sewn here. The collections and limited additions are made in small batches. Appointments can be made for made-to-measure pieces and customized looks.
Leather bags, belts and hats are also part of the collection. The bags have soft shapes that work with the clothing. The holiday collection is on the rack above. The jacket on the mannequin does have some interesting details. And there are cozy sheepskins and wild fringed leather coats in black and silver.
Travis Taddeo, 79 Grand Street
Esprit is back. Founded by Susie and Doug Tompkins over fifty years ago, the brand has seen its ups and downs. It was sold to a Hong Kong entity, and after several blips, seems to be back on the path to success. It was about young, casual clothing in happy colors then, and it is now.
The original logo is still in use, and the clothing still has a light updated preppy feeling. The design and branding is done in New York. Esprit tested a NYC pop-up in 2022, and now they are back with a larger space. The winter collection is full of puffers and other jackets that are colorful and warm.
The men’s clothing is a bit less colorful than the women’s. But it is nicely detailed, and does use some unusual colors for men, like pink and emerald green.
Striped shirts and striped tees, fair isle sweaters and more puffers and coats fill the racks. There is nothing tricky here. It is all priced for a younger shopper.
There are some dresses and skirts for women, but pants seem to be everywhere. And there are cashmere pieces mixed in among the sweats. Many outfits are finished off with cuddly scarves and hats.
Layered pieces give an opportunity for mixes colors so that outfits pop. Bright colors for men not something that is easy to find in stores. Here it looks fresh. The reboot of Esprit is staying true to the original spirit. And the interpretation by the new team is very well done.