Dec 9, 2008

Fashion - A Store for Modernists: Vera Wang's Newest Boutique

Renata Espinosa

New York – Vera Wang hasn't opened a boutique since 1989, but it only means that her new store, which opened in New York on Dec. 4 to a packed crowd of well-wishers, can lay claim to be the most contemporary shopping experience one can have with Vera Wang.

That's good, because what interests Vera Wang is how modern women shop now, whether it's about mixing expensive things with the inexpensive or shopping for entertainment value.

"I wanted to build the brand first," said Wang at the opening night party in Soho. Her brand includes everything from couture to a collection for Kohl's, and the store is a microcosm of that diversity, featuring a mix of her high-end Vera Wang Collection and her contemporary, lower-priced Lavender line, as well as a range of shoes and accessories.

"That's what the world is about today," she said, herself smartly clad in a mixture of pieces from her Kohl's and runway collections, topped with a Fendi fur stole. "Whether a dress is $300 or $1000, why not? It's the same taste level, it's the same thinking. I don't like retail snobbery."

The store's architecture, with soaring ceilings, dramatic ionic columns (original to the building - "I'm the foundation!" said Wang) and open, airy layout feels like a cross between a classical Greek theater and a contemporary art gallery, where the clothes function as both the actors and the objects of desire. Plumbing the depths of the store as one shops feels like taking a behind-the-scenes tour of a stylish film set of epic proportions - even though the entire space is only 2500 square feet, modest by flagship store standards.

"The whole thing is like the Metropolitan Opera," she said. "You can change the backdrop, everything can be raised or lowered, the colors (of the lighting) can's all about playing with light and movement, which I'm all about."

Wang plans to open two more stores early next year in Los Angeles, one devoted to the Lavender label, and one comprised of Vera Wang Collection and bridal, but don't expect a carbon copy of the New York store.

"I like every store to be different," she said. "A whole new experience."

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