Kirna Zabete, the women’s luxury fashion retailer, on Monday opened a new 6,000-square-foot space in Manhattan at 160 Mercer Street, between Prince and Houston.
The retailer, which has been in SoHo for the past 24 years, spent the last decade in a 10,000-square-foot space on Broome Street and earlier occupied a 5,000-square-foot store on Greene Street for 14 years. In anticipation of the new shop, the Broome Street store closed last Wednesday.
In an interview Friday, Beth Buccini, owner and cofounder of Kirna Zabete, said she decided to make the move for several reasons.
“When I bought my partner out in the end of 2015 and started expanding and opening more doors, I learned that this 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of selling is really the right size for me,” Buccini said.
She said they had 5,000 square feet of selling and 5,000 square feet in the basement for offices and stock, but now they’ve moved to corporate offices on Broadway between Prince and Houston, which has worked out well.
She explained that when they moved to Broome Street 10 years ago, the feeling was SoHo was moving further south. “That the epicenter was shifting. Remember Alexander Wang was opening on Broome Street and more stuff was happening further down. I think that’s less of the scenario after COVID-19,” she said.
“After the couple of months of construction, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in SoHo between the construction site and the old store, I have witnessed what the foot traffic looks like at both places, and the foot traffic on Broome Street has really been a challenge after COVID-19, and especially with the horrible Holland Tunnel traffic. SoHo feels much dirtier down there than it does further north,” she added.
She said the new location is becoming “a powerful block with Alaïa just opening here and Khaite opening here.”
“We still have Balenciaga and of course on the corner, we have the Mercer Hotel and Lure Fish Bar, which are SoHo institutions. There’s a lot of great action happening and a lot of good synergy,” she said.
The new space is completely different from the prior SoHo space, she explained. When they did the Broome Street store in 2013, they decorated with lots of neon signs on the walls and black-and-white flooring. “No one was doing neon signs then and we thought it would be such a fun element, but now everyone has neon signs in their store,” Buccini said.
She worked with the residential interior designer Steven Gambrel of S.R. Gambrel who also designed her home. “I know what a great sensibility he has. I wanted that residential feeling in my stores. I didn’t want it to feel like this very commercial kind of space,” she said.
For the new SoHo location, she’s using the same floor that she used in the Madison Avenue store, which opened last December and which Gambrel also designed. It’s a pink marble imported from Italy. “Everything is Venetian plaster and more padded velvet on the walls so it’s very sumptuous and very luxurious,” she said. She said it’s a “really beautiful pale pink, which looks really pretty on everyone’s skin so you feel very pretty when you’re in there.”
The entrance has an antiqued pink mirrored wall that follows into the main room lined with curved antiqued, brass clothing racks.
According to Buccini, they built out in the center of the space an accessories room with padded velvet walls, and inside is the shoe, bag and jewelry salon.
As with the Madison Avenue boutique, the Mercer Street store has custom, red lacquered chandeliers and a wireless red lacquered check out desk.
“It feels like a fresh start. Even though I’ve been in SoHo for 24 years, it feels like a new chapter in the space that really feels the most like me,” she said.
Kirna Zabete has five stores: SoHo; East Hampton; Madison Avenue; Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Palm Beach, Florida. She’s opening a new store in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall and in the Miami Design District next spring. The new stores will also be designed by Gambrel.
Buccini said what they’ve always been good at in SoHo is customer service. “I think it’ll be a more intimate experience in this space. The other store was really cavernous. We specifically chose this location and this size because where we are with women shopping right now, they’re looking for intimate, special experiences in stores that don’t feel cavernous or empty or soulless,” she said.
She said the fitting rooms have three-way mirrors that are also lit up with warm, glowy light all around.
Asked how the Madison Avenue store is performing, she said, “Madison is going really, really well. Madison is actually outperforming SoHo.”
As for predictions of what will sell in SoHo, she said the neighborhood has become a designer playground with all the brands there. “You’re seeing that designer shopping happening in a really big way all the time so that will be fun. But I always say I like to dress a woman seven days a week, so you still need your easy shirts and cute jeans. I think we’ll be able to give a proper wardrobing experience in this space,” she said.
Buccini noted that Kirna Zabete’s e-commerce business is up 50 percent this year.
Overall, she said the store is doing well with Khaite, as well as leading designers such as Loewe, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent. “We are really growing with TWP [designed by Trish Wescoat Pound]. Every store in SoHo, Madison and East Hampton, everybody wants to wear her. The across the board appeal of her has been amazing,” she said.
Discussing how the clienteles differ between SoHo and Madison Avenue, she replied, “SoHo is definitely more touristy or more downtown local. The Madison Avenue client is very much a Madison Avenue local or an uptown tourist who’s staying at the Mark, or the Lowell or the Carlyle. We’re buying differently. We’re very targeted in how we buy for each location, and we really think about each location when we’re doing our assortment.”
Overall, she said, “We’re doing well with the more colorful prints and the Khaites, Totemes and Sacais, all that very minimal…and then we have the Loewe, Bottega, Miu Miu, Saint Laurent…the other things we sell really well are the Johanna Ortiz, Silvia Tcherassi and La DoubleJ,” she said.
Current business is up 22 percent versus last year, which includes the addition of the new Madison Avenue store; not including Madison, it’s up 10 percent year-over-year. She said the Palm Beach store is strong and East Hampton is up 10 percent to last year.
“We’re feeling pretty confident about how things are going. I think getting out of Broome Street and getting out of that challenging space and having the fresh start here is just what we need for this location,” Buccini said.