Between a couple of boutiques that recently opened within a block of each other in the neighborhood—one a high-end designer label, the other a California-casual line, both with their origins in denim—West Village shopping just became even more fun.
On Christopher Street, Rag & Bone’s new men’s store launched in a former porn shop in December. A few months earlier, designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville opened a flagship space just two doors down, with no immediate plans to expand. But when an adult video store vacated a neighboring space, Wainwright and Neville decided to buy it—and divide their men’s and women’s lines—fearing a commercial brand like, say, American Apparel, might otherwise move in. “They wanted to maintain the Christopher Street vibe,” explained store manager Stephen Biebel. Rag & Bone, with its juxtaposing playful and proper aesthetic,felt perfectly positionedbetween the block’scolorful sex shops to one sideand bespoke British label Lord Willy’s on the other.
Business at the new men’s store has been solid, according to Biebel, who said they’re currently exceeding store goals. He attributed much of this success to Rag & Bone’s “recession-proof styles.” Though the clothes are pricy (cotton shirts run in the high $200-range, and blazers around $500), they’re also classic—and customers realize that wardrobe essentials like waistcoats and dark-wash jeans are smarter investments than trend items. Still, “now’s not exactly a time to make grand business plans,” Biebel said when the subject of further expansion came up. Instead, he’s focused on creating a warm atmosphere where dynamic West Villagers can feel at home. “There are so many characters in this neighborhood,” he noted, “more than in any other part of the city.”
At 7 For All Mankind on the corner of Bleecker Street and West 10th—stocked with not only jeans but also a range of everyday basics from sweaters to jackets to hoodies—manager Kenneth Stuard is equally committed to creating a convivial customer experience. “It’s our goal to always make people feel special,” he said, alluding to some of the more stuffy designer stores a few blocks up.7 had been scouting potential retail spots on Bleecker Street, though not planning on moving into the West Village for another year, when a space suddenly became available. It’s been a whirlwind since their November launch, but Stuard believes this is a blessing in disguise; keeping him too busy to worry about the recession. And so far, store traffic has been steady. Recent customers include celebrities like Kristen Johnston and Kyra Sedgwick (whom Stuard found all the more endearing after overhearing her urge her young daughter to be price-conscious). Once the staff has a chance to catch their breath, they plan to focus on giving a unique West Village identity to 7’s latest outpost. “West Villagers are more fashion-forward,” Stuard said,“so it makes sense to offer them a different selection.”