It’s not easy being a small boutique in the West Village, competing with luxury megabrands like Marc Jacobs, which now has not one but three stores on Bleecker Street. But it seems even Jacobs is feeling the effects of the recession; he’s cancelled his company holiday party for the first time in 18 years, according to the New York Times, which last month also reported that luxury brands are cutting their advertising budgets. If times are tight for fashion’s power players, what’s in store for their mom-and-pop neighbors this season?
“I’m happy I’ve always priced most things under $300,” said Joie Jager, owner of the custom jewelry boutique Soixante Neuf. About three years ago Jager transplanted her Los Angeles business to a 200-square-foot space nestled on West 10th Street between Hudson and Bleecker. There, shoppers can find unique, feminine pieces, often for under $100, and even 90-percent-off sample sales. The shop is also stocked with monogram necklaces in solid gold or vermeil, cocktail rings with stones ranging from onyx to faux turquoise, and a small selection of L.A.-style clothing, handbags, and sandals. When tourists veer off Bleecker and stumble in, “they feel like they’ve found a hidden gem,” Jager said. Noting that she’s had back-to-back days without a single customer in recent months, she’s hoping a storewide 20-percent-off sale through Christmas will boost the “slow and sporadic” movement of late.
Across the street at Castor and Pollux—a well-edited boutique featuring downtown designers like 3.1 Philip Lim as well as up-and-coming labels—owner Kerrilyn Pamer is also taking increased measures to draw customers. This winter Pamer is hosting trunk shows every couple of weeks, along with a number of raffles and charity dinners. She sends email newsletters about these promotional events to her litany of loyal customers, many of whom followed her from the original Castor and Pollux location in Brooklyn. “This is a time that breeds creativity,” Pamer noted. “You’re forced to examine what works and what doesn’t, and plan accordingly.” She’s placed her Spring 2009 orders with the recession in mind—choosing lower-priced pieces that remain true to her elegant, past-meets-present aesthetic.
You’ll find a more free-spirited approach to the recession a couple doors down at Rosemary Wettenhall’s vintage shop, Madame Motovu. Wettenhall believes she is her store’s own best advertisement—she’s committed to loving every piece she sells, and to showing warmth and kindness to each person that walks in the door. Her sliver of a space conjures the closet of a really cool, wealthy aunt, lined with crystal-beaded shift dresses and silk scarves; French lingerie from the 1950s and rock-and-roll jackets from the 70s; embellished belts, rare designer bags, and costume jewelry starting at $20. Self-described as “a magpie of beautiful things,” Wettenhall picks up most of these goods in her travels—from garage salesand villages in Parisand flea markets in Africa (she’s originally from Uganda). Despite the tough economy, she believes that “if you love it, you can sell it.” A pretty holiday gift, she said, can do wonders for the spirit.