by Grandin Donovan
Stroll through the Lower East Side these days and you may be drawn to the red leather wingback that fills the window of 62 Clinton Street. Behind the glass is Spec., the promising men's shop opened last month by Hong Kong transplants Andrew Wong and Elton Chung. Together they curate a host of Japanese labels that interpret classic casual outerwear with unusual cuts, new finishes and unexpected materials.
Spec.'s label roster includes Ships, Takeo Kikuchi, Comme Ça Commune, Think Pink, Power to the People, Dips, Nicole Club, and Min, many of which can't be found anywhere else in the city. Even the Ben Sherman gear they carry is made for the Japanese market.
Andrew, who has designed for D&G, AX, 555 Soul and Ecko Int'l, looks beyond the mercerized, enzyme-washed textures of recent years. "All that softness—people are getting sick of it." He pulls a stiff blazer in heavy cotton twill off the rack, explaining that tougher, more durable fabric with a "dry handfeel" is gaining popularity in Japan. One fieldcoat almost looks like leather; "P-U", says Elton—cotton coated with polyurethane.
Most of the stock arrives through Tectonic, Spec.'s sister store that Elton, an erstwhile banker, restauranteur and importer/exporter, opened a year ago in Hong Kong. "We see people get inspired by Japanese streetwear," says Andrew. "Since Elton had a store already, and all the connections, why not offer it to New York?"
A washed leather jacket from Dragon 9 is soft and textured. For two rakish looks, its collar can be turned up and buckled at the neck, or unstrapped and turned down into a thin-lapelled blazer. May Champ reconstructs hoodies with printed chest panels—check the psychedelic floral double-slash or the kirin "V". One of the most compelling pieces is an herringbone wool fieldcoat from PPFM, with two zip left shoulder pockets, a belted back and a subtle dye treatment.
In true Hong Kong style, there are some great unbranded items. Tagless woven henleys are a steal, and an anonymous blazer skillfully marries sportcoat casual with the double-knit cotton of a quality hoodie. New product will come in every month, announced by email, and will rotate in with items already on the floor.
The store itself has a warm, almost woodsy décor, kitted out with salvaged timber racks, an antique rail ticket counter, and a crystal chandelier—just for a dash of old-world whimsy. The corkscrew painted on the exposed brick wall nods to the space's former use as a wine shop.
Be sure to check out the slim leather wristbands by Nneuhs, ne Deacon Yu, which use iron fasteners and simple twists for a masculine-minimalist effect. Word to the wise—Japanese provenance means many items are better tailored for slighter frames, and everything is limited in quantity and size. If it fits, buy it—it might be your only chance.
Spec. is located at 62 Clinton Street, between Rivington and Stanton, 212-228-3008.
Bridging three islands of fashion and commerce—Hong Kong, Japan, and Manhattan—the import boutique Spec. brings Asian hip to the downtown scene.