by Erin Wylie
"I at least won't meet myself coming and going."
In defense of her new hat, so says the mother in Flannery O'Connor's Everything that Rises Must Converge. And so goes the philosophy behind Plum, the Lower East Side boutique that prides itself on not creating fashion clones. "We don't carry back stock. We actually try to take the smallest quantity possible so no one is wearing the same thing," says Jeannie Goldman, who along with Jackie Atkins opened Plum—meaning "cream of the crop"—two years ago.
With more than 14 years of fashion experience between them, Atkins and Goldman's vision was well defined. "We wanted it to be old-fashioned and cozy; a place where you can shop and hang out and not feel intimidated." This standing invitation is extended via the décor: Equal parts boudoir and library, it's outfitted with vintage furniture, dramatic curtains that form the dressing room, a glitzy chandelier, and floors humbled to a well-worn patina. The antiquarian romance continues with a globular light outside that bears the shop's name, a vintage typewriter in the window, and the store's cards that, like the floors, have been artfully stained and weathered.
In contrast, the labels that they accumulate with a curator's hand are distinctly modern, and often so fledgling that they are Plum exclusives. "We try to carry things that aren't anywhere yet." Compiled via "lots of friends and connections," each designer's collection hangs in solidarity under a card catalog-style nametag. Octopi's edgy balloon dresses hang beside Hussein Chalayan's bridge line, Prairie Underground's high-waist jeans, or Lynn Larson's purposefully pulled sweaters.
Of the chains and charms galore, Goldman singles out the now-successful jewelry designer Tina Thor and says proudly, "We launched her." Fear not if you don't yet recognize names such as Erotokritos, Errol, or Bedouin…Plum will fill you in.
Photographs by Piera Gelardi
A Lower East Side gem makes Less Is More a closet credo.