Ever since this summer, venture capitalist and co-founder of Tory Burch, the company--and ex-husband of Tory Burch, the person--Chris Burch has been teasing us around town with his very mysterious and somewhat contradictorily self-described affordable-luxury lifestyle brand C. Wonder. The mystery is about to end since the inaugural C. Wonder flagship is finally throwing open its chartreuse colored, C-logo-ed doors to the public this weekend; we dropped by for a a sneak peek led by Mr. Burch and his team on Tuesday morning. “It’s pretty critical for us that we give luxury and [an] extraordinary environment at a price point that a lot of Americans can afford," Burch said clad in a pinstriped suit and velvet monogrammed slip-ons (sans socks, naturally). The brightly-lit, whimsically designed store sells pretty much everything and anything you can think of. There are cable knits, trench coats, striped button downs, rainboots, handbags, costume jewelry, bikes (with bright pink helmets to match), Vespa-like scooters, pillows, picture frames, dishware, clocks, even a freakin’ mini-cupcake maker ($39, if you’re wondering). The price points are, as promised, affordable. While it seemed like everything we picked up was $78--a soft crew-neck sweater, color-block zipped tote, python-embossed ballet flats, and dark-washed boot-cut jeans--the prices ran the gamut from $24 for stackable bangles to $245 (for the bike) and up. But it’s not just the pretty affordable and ridiculously vast (possibly too vast) inventory that is interesting about the store. Burch wants to make shopping at C. Wonder a luxurious experience for his customers. First off, C. Wonder has a no-policy, policy. Basically, you can any return item, at any time. There’s also a “Personalization Zone” (they totally have their own lingo) where you can slap your monogram onto anything from makeup bags to wine bottle stoppers. You can even test out the monogram on an iPad first.
“I’m so obsessed over women,” the Tory Burch ex told us after his presentation. “I love them and I love the way they are and how they shop. I worry, I actually think, what are the hassles in their life? When they come here, I want the other hassles to go away.” To lessen the wait time for check out (a common issue in Soho, especially on the weekends), every sales staffer on the floor has a portable point-of-sale machine that can swipe your card on the spot--just like in the Apple Store. The velvet-curtained dressing rooms will be worth a wait to get in. Each one features a panel with lighting options (like how H&M first had them back in the day — what happened to those, by the way?), as well as “Mood Music.” Oh yes, you can choose amongst options like Flirty (upbeat Muzak), Reflective (some sort of instrumental), Nostalgic (from what era, not sure), and our favorite, Cool (which was playing Patty Smyth’s “Goodbye to You”). The shop is also organized into themed sections, like Palm Springs, English Townhouse, and American Dream, and the modular interior looks like it could be easily plopped into any mall location. “We’ll open 20 to 50 stores in the U.S. next year,” Burch explained. “We’ll open four this year. And then we’re going to go to Japan, China, Hong Kong, Europe, right away.” We heard from a staffer that they’re currently scouting spots in, appropriately, New Jersey, as we speak. It's a pretty ambitious expansion plan, but seeing that Chris Burch is largely responsible for the worldwide takeover of the Tory Burch “T” logo-ed flat, we wouldn’t be surprised if C. Wonders started sprouting up in malls across the country and around the world.
The C. Wonder flagship at 72 Spring Street (between Crosby and Lafayette) opens to the public on Saturday, October 22 with giveaways, raffles, DJs, refreshments, and yet-to-be-named celebrity and style blogger appearances. Let us know what you think if you drop by this weekend.