Twenty-somethings opening happening boutiques in NYC are becoming a thing. A few months ago, 26-year-old Claire Distenfeld opened up her luxury retail space, Fivestory, and then just last week we trekked over to the Meatpacking district to celebrate the opening of 25-year-old FIT grad Philip Salem's first store, OWEN.
The party, which was hosted by Hanneli Mustaparta and attended by some of New York's finest, was the perfect way to fete the the new store, which has been over a year--and much toil--in the making. Salem even returned to FIT, once he had set his sights on opening his own store, for continuing education where he learned how to write OWEN’s business plan—a key reason why his venture-capitalist father ultimately decided to invest in the idea. Since then, he's dedicated time and money to making his dream a reality, hiring Philip Lim’s store architect, Jeremy Barbour, to design and build out OWEN’s interiors, which include 25,000 paper bags affixed to the ceiling, and instituting a financial framework by hiring an accountant and an inventory manager. The clothes are thoughtfully displayed and merchandised--Salem's even gone to the trouble of carrying slips to go with some of the store's more see-through fare. So far, all the hard work has paid off: In the three weeks since OWEN’s opening, Salem has already had to place many re-orders for items that have sold out.
So for those of you who dream of opening a boutique, read on to find out how Salem made his a reality--there are more than a few helpful tips to be learned!
Fashionista: How did this idea come about and what experience did you have prior to opening OWEN? OWEN came about around a year and a half ago right after I graduated from FIT, where I studied Fashion Merchandising and Management. Going to school there was the best experience I’d had in my life at the time because I’d gotten really involved. I was a correspondent for their TV station and would cover fashion shows and would go to New York boutiques to interview the owners about what they were buying and the trends of the season. Fashionista: So how did the buying process work when you were virtually an unknown? Well I started making appointments a year ahead of time. I’d call until they picked up and emailed until they wrote back and told them about my vision for the store. I said 'I am opening a new boutique,' not 'I want to,' because I knew no matter what, this was happening.
Fashionista: What are some other steps you took towards opening OWEN? I went back to FIT for continuing education classes to write my business plan and I also wrote the OWEN brand book, which is this giant dossier of my inspirations and thoughts for the store. I wanted an industrial feel, something natural so when I handed it to the architect he was really impressed.
Fashionista: What was important to you when training your staff? I actually started by posting on FIT’s website because I wanted to have an alum or two in the store and then I posted openings on Parsons’s website. I really wanted to get students or new graduates involved that had experience in the retail industry. We had two weeks of training before we opened and I handed out a list of our designers with biographies and pictures of special pieces from each. I would see people yawning and said, “No you have to study this, you have to know all of the designers before you step onto the floor.”
Fashionista: So what is next for OWEN? Well, while we haven’t really gone full force into it yet, in late spring or for fall/winter 13, we are going to roll out my private label. The men’s will be called Owen and the women’s line will be called something really important to me: I’m going to name it Eva Owen, which was my mom’s name.
Click through to see more images of the store.