Designer boutiques are popping up on Mercer Street at a rapid clip. Those joining longtime residents Marc Jacobs and 3.1 Phillip Lim on the SoHo strip this fall include Proenza Schouler, Carven, Zimmermann and now Balenciaga, which bows at 148 Mercer Street on Friday. (Across the street at 149 Mercer will be the house's first-ever standalone men's store in the U.S.)
The construction workers were still plenty busy when I stopped by the store(s) this morning, but it seems as though the whole thing will be ready just in time for Tuesday night's opening party. And you can already tell that like any good clothing boutique, this one is a tourist attraction in itself; there is plenty to look at besides the clothes, thanks to artistic director Alexander Wang's collaborative efforts with friend/interior designer Ryan Korban. Here are the 10 most interesting things I saw: 1. The marble. Well, there's a lot of it. 5,400 square feet of it, to be exact. It's covering the walls, the floors, the fixtures. Everything.
2. But there's more about the marble. It's called Verde Ramegiatto, which means it's green and that the marbling resembles branches, which it does.
3. The floor. The most direct reference to the house's past, the floor in the entrance way is made of tiles that mimic those lining the floor of Cristóbal Balenciaga's haute couture house at 10 Avenue George-V in Paris. The oversized diamonds alternate between that rich green marble and polished limestone. Korban added chrome cabochons to give it a Wang signature.
4. The first looks. Directly to the right when you enter the space, a row of mannequins wearing key looks of the season are displayed on elevated platforms. It's very similar to how they are arranged at the entrance of the Balenciaga showroom in Paris. It's an old-fashioned way to entice the shopper to move past the rows of beautiful shoes, handbags and other accessories that occupy the first three rooms. (The rest of the collection is housed downstairs.)
5. There's green. Everywhere. Much of the space was inspired by Wang's Fall 2013 collection for the house, and he culled that darkest-hunter green color from looks 26 and 27. The marble, which comprises much of the space, is green, as are the suede-covered accessories cases.
6. That skylight. When you walk in, you can't really tell where the lattice-patterned skylight ends and the floor begins. It's a nice effect that adds a majestic touch to the space. Oftentimes, narrow SoHo buildings are suffocating, the domed skylight makes this one open and airy.
7. The shoe linings. You could also see these at any of the major retailers carrying Balenciaga, but I have to say that the marbled-fabric linings on several pairs of shoes looked pretty fetching in native environs. Fetching enough to make you want to buy a pair.
8. The accessories. Sure, the shoes are nice and the handbags are lovely, but some of the most compelling moments in Wang's fall collection were the accent accessories: oversized safety-pin broaches, bow belts and bracelets. They're all on display near the entrance.
9. The "caviar" embroidered upholstery. Wang and Korban used a bubbly embroidered wool to give the chairs an otherworldly -- but still pleasantly cozy -- feeling.
10. The bannisters. Could a square-shaped bannister be the best thing I saw all day? Quite possibly. Korban chose a cracked resin -- which looks sort of like a marble Lucite -- for the utilitarian fixture. The effect was cool, but also elegant.