In a year clouded with closings, foldings, lay-offs, and mergers, we're extra-glad that these innovative boutiques braved the odds and struck out on their own. Whether it's New York darling Steven Alan bringing his cool, classic goods to sunny Cali or beloved Swedish line Acne opening up their first U.S outpost, 2008 was a year for new beginnings despite the less-than-hot economic condition. Below, we've gathered the finest new boutiques so that you can put your hard-earned, cleverly saved pennies to good use.
• New York—Acne Studio
Well before Sweden became fashion's birthplace of over-dyed skinny jeans, it was the home of Acne, a multi-faceted design company that infused the hallmark of Scandinavian aesthetics into a truly modern trend-free collection. This year, Stockholm's finest brought its singular vision of subdued utilitarian idealism along with the brand's creative director Jonny Johannsson and Acne architect Andreas Fornell to a light-filled shop on Greene Street--the label's first "studio" in the States. Johannsson extended his penchant for unfinished work-room style details into a quaint space accented with original Acne-fashioned furnishings, a cluster of potted tulips, and clever hidden door panels concealing the back-room office and fitting areas.
• Los Angeles—TenOverSix
This accessories haven features items by A.P.C., Band of Outsiders, Rachel Comey, Martine Sitbon, Vena Cava, Gryson, Rogues Gallery, amongst others. The feel is pure fun, with a little bit of a gallery vibe: bags are hung on walls, jewelry is framed, and shoes are poised on chairs and suitcases.
• Philadelphia—Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Named after the canonical Walter Benjamin essay in what is perhaps an ironic nod to the bygone era of careful craftsmanship, owner Steven Grasse's boutique is both a fighting cry and artistic inspiration. With its dark wood floors and exposed brick walls, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction houses both works from their own in-house design collective as well as items from local Pennsylvania artisans, alongside custom wallpaper, stationary, and housewares.
• Paris—Limi Feu
Opened this very month, Limi Yamamoto, daughter of Yohji, uses this space as a part-time boutique, part-time showroom. Nestled behind a rue in the second arrondissement in a courtyard, the pink-carpeted stairs lead up to a windowed store with a huge canopy skylight drenching it with light.
• New York—Pas de Deux
We've been obsessing Odin's chic, stylish wares for men ever since partners Eddy Chai and Paul Birardi opened up their East Village doors many years ago. Now ladies don't have to run to their boyfriends' closets for that Rag & Bone blazer or Band of Outsiders plaid. Instead, they can just skip right next door to Pas de Deux, the new sister boutique to Odin. The petite, checkered space carries plenty of Alexander Wang dresses and Vena Cava jumpsuits, along with Boyy handbags and Repetto shoes. Chic, indeed.
• New York—Rag & Bone
Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, the boys behind Rag & Bone's smartly-tailored jackets, razor-sharp stovepipe pants, and strong, cutaway lapels, finally found a home for all that ingenuity earlier this year. The cozy West Village boutique has an antique, rustic feel, complete with low lighting, softly-worn floors, and vintage trunks. It's perfect for showing off some of Marcus and David's best work, like Old English-style greatcoats and snug military blazers with shiny brass detailing.
• Los Angeles—Fremont
The first independent space for the brand, Fremont's design duo Devin Carlson and Britney Pham have used their stylish, simple aesthetic for their store as much they have for their clothes. The clean, streamlined space has lots of room for you to grab their trim trenches to mini jumpers.
• New York—Rogan
Rogan founder and designer Rogan Gregory (who is also an accomplished sculptor and furniture craftsman), has made a name for himself over the past few years with his exquisite jeans, a throwback to the 1950s golden era of denim with their emphasis on function over superfluous embellishment. Following the success of his flagship store in TriBeCa, Rogan has opened up shop again on one of Manhattan's oldest yet newest trendy streets, known locally as The Bowery, where his casual-cool clothing for men and women fit in just perfectly.
• New York—Smith + Butler
Smith + Butler is proud of the community it belongs to, and the store shows that off with its easy-going elegance that is at the heart of Brooklyn and many of its loyal inhabitants. Much like her Montauk boutique, Tauk, shop owner Marylynn Piotrowski has filled the BK location with forever classics and modern staples alike. "Tauk is the young surfer crowd," Marylynn says of her first shop. "And Smith + Butler is the grown-up version...it's for the person who still loves to be active but wants some polish, too." Here, labels include Wrangler, A.P.C., Woolrich, and Barbour, to name a few. Local talent has also been tapped, such as yet-undiscovered Save the Manimal—an inspired brand of moccasin boots and leather accessories locally made in Park Slope.
Smith + Butler, 1225 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-855-4295.
• Los Angeles—Steven Alan
Steven Alan's cool translates bicoastal very easily: lightweight plaid shirts, classic denim, summer shirt dresses. The store maintains its New York boutique's comfy chic, providing a welcome breath of down-to-earth amidst its uber-glam Robertson Boulevard neighbors.
• San Francisco—Acrimony
The acrimonious will certainly have a quick turn-around at this spot: amidst handblown glass chandeliers and cool pipe clothing racks, the goods at this San Fran spot include womenswear lines Chalayan by Hussein Chalayan and United Bamboo, menswear lines Rittenhouse and Wood Wood, plus accessories by Sophia Kokosalaki and Veronique Branquinho.
• Paris—April 77
The round interior of April 77's Paris boutique reminds us of a record, which exactly what was meant by designer Steven Thomas, who created the turntable-inspired space that's filled with gear you can really rock out in. Down the street from the record and fashion company's HQ, the boutique boasts founder Brice Partouche's love for all things edgy.
• Paris—Jerome Dreyfuss
Creator of covetable handbags and other extremely soft leather goods, Jerome Dreyfuss opened up shop in Paris' Saint Germain district, an area full of youths who know a thing or two about quality design and shopping. Dreyfuss claims to have dreamt of that ideal location for years, and the shop itself is a dream come true for us with its modernist locker room aesthetic and large section of French finery.
What is probably one of L.A's coolest stores for the city's coolest girls crossed the sea this year for a second outpost in Tokyo, carrying with it an impressive roster of designer goods by Alexander Wang, Lanvin, and Alaia, to name just a few. If that isn't enough to lure you, there's also jewelry both edgy and delicate (Erin Wasson's Low Luv, opulent Demitasse) and an intimate space made to feel like the inside of a girl's closet, complete with vintage French jukebox. Now doesn't that sound like every girl's dream room?