MAYBE IT'S THE influence of the Internet and that luxurious feeling that can come from shopping in your bathrobe, but the latest trend in brick-and-mortar retail is to create an environment in which shoppers feel as if they are browsing through someone's very stylish living room, maybe even their own. Two new stores selling clothing and accessories have drawn attention to this trend--and have competitors snooping around in the shelves for inspiration.
Ruehl No. 925 is the latest brainchild of Abercrombie & Fitch chairman Michael Jeffries. Based on a fictitious story about a German leather-goods family that immigrated to America and opened a shop in Greenwich Village, the store is decorated to look like a town house with a brick façade, a wrought-iron fence and antiqued windows. Inside, antique books (all for sale) and a long gallery filled with art convey an artistic sensibility.
According to Jeffries, the idea is to make customers feel as though they are in a private home, somewhere unique, even if they are actually at the mall. Ruehl No. 925 is aimed at women and men ages 22 to 30 and includes casual sportswear, jeans, accessories, intimate apparel and outerwear. Then there are quirkier products, such as a fragrance that comes in a bottle shaped like an ink flask and limited-edition art T shirts that are signed by a different artist every month.
On an even more exclusive level, designer Tory Burch's shop, Tory, in New York City's NoLIta neighborhood is designed to look like her own living room, with overstuffed sofas, orange walls and a coffee table and rug reminiscent of the style of interior decorator David Hicks. While the shop may look exclusive, the merchandise is not.
Tory sells casual separates like geometrically patterned cotton shirts, cashmere sweaters and colorful Moroccan-inspired tunics, all for under $500. "This kind of fashion at this price was missing in the market," says Burch, who previously worked for Narciso Rodriguez, Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren. "It's more expensive than, say, a Banana Republic but less pricey than Marc Jacobs."
In both cases, the price is right; only the surroundings look expensive.