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NEW YORK — Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
This story first appeared in the March 6, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At least for Will Leather Goods, an Oregon-based leather accessories brand that will open its third freestanding store, a 2,000-square-foot location at 29 Prince Street at the corner of Mott Street here in April.
The brand operates a flagship in Venice, Calif., as well as a store in Portland, Ore., and is sold to retailers including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. It hopes that its new location in New York City will open the brand, which is best known for its belts and bags, to the international consumer.
“We call the New York store the world store since so many people from all over come,” said William Adler, the creative director and founder of the brand. “We want to share with the world the state of Oregon, with its inspiration of nature, trees, rivers, and the beautiful mountains.”
Adler will be replicating the aesthetic of his two other stores, which he designed in collaboration with his daughter, Shane, using Oregon’s state tree, the Douglas fir, for its walls, ceilings and floors.
“The Douglas fir has a very antique but rich brown tan tone,” Adler said. “I want customers to come in and smell a mix of strong wood and leather.” But don’t expect any trees to be sacrificed for the sake of ambiance. “We’re not cutting trees down to build the store,” he said. “Oregon is a very ecologically friendly state and all the wood we use is from fallen trees.”
Antique blades, saws and other fixtures dating back 100 years — all found in Oregon — will also be shipped to the new store. They will hang on walls as well as on top of wooden displays throughout the space.
Adler started in the business selling belts from a small stand on the Venice Beach boardwalks. He later sold that brand, moved to Eugene, Ore., and started his current leather business whose mainstay continues to be leather belts that are beaded, embroidered and studded. One belt is beaded in reds, greens and yellows in a style of the Navajo, and sells for $165. A fully studded belt retails for $150.
Other than the belts, Adler is most excited about his antique bags, called Found, which will have their own section in the store. “We find materials from all over the world and then reoil and refurbish them,” he said.
One example is a Swiss medic bag from World War II that was discovered in an army surplus store. It had been there for 70 years before Adler purchased it, soaked it with olive oil and revived it to its original appearance. Today, customers can use the bag for a 15-inch laptop or for a camera. It sells for $225.
Another two bags are created from woven rugs from Oaxaca, Mexico, which Adler reworked into duffle and messenger styles by fusing the canvas and cashmere fabrics into one.
“They are older rugs that are archaic and primitive in design, but we recreated them for a modern but vintage look,” he said. The messenger bag will sell for $350 and the duffle for $750.
Adler said the store will carry men’s, women’s and home goods. And to entice customers to stay, Adler said he will offer an espresso bar with complementary lattes, espressos, coffees and teas.
“When people come into a Will store, we greet them as if they are coming into our home,” he said. “And whenever a guest comes over, you offer them a cup of coffee or water. Our mission is to have them stay for a while.”