Usually, the story goes that the small-town kid moves to the big city to find his dreams and fortune. But for David Gore and Seth Kloss, the direction was reversed.
"We wanted to see what would happen if two New York guys moved to Georgia for a change of pace," said Gore, who, with Kloss, opened high-end boutique Drew Lewis in Midtown last month.
After relocating, the owners began stocking their 3,000-square-foot store with hard-to-find lines that many other Atlanta independents have not addressed, according to Gore, a
former visual merchandiser for Hugo Boss and Abercrombie & Fitch. Kloss handles the
finances for the operation.
"Merchandising in Atlanta is totally lacking. We're bringing lines to the South that customers haven't been able to find down here," said Gore, who projects $400,000 in first-year sales.
Offering an equal balance of women's and men's product at retail prices from $80 to $2,000, Drew Lewis carries contemporary brands including Alexander Wang, APC, Vena Cava, Band of Outsiders, Sea and Sass & Bide, along with a smattering of accessories, including Heather Hawkins clutches. While Gore and Kloss carry 10 styles of William Rast jeans, they're being very selective with denim overall.
"There are way too many denim-driven stores [in Atlanta]," said Gore, who scours Coterie and Project for most of his merchandise, heading to AmericasMart for a few lines such as Poppysam and Cooper by Courtney. "We want to change that. When people think of Atlanta fashion, we want them to think of our store."
Certainly, customers aren't likely to forget it. The store's decor is as unique as its product mix and reflects the owners' allegiances to both New York and the South, without taking either too seriously. The first floor, dedicated solely to men's wear, is lined with traditional oil paintings that might be stuffy and pretentious were it not for the Drew Lewis graffiti emblazoned across the canvases.
China cabinets display a large selection of Tom Ford eyewear (18 styles each for men and women), and scaffolding serves as clothing racks. Upstairs, women are pampered in a boudoir setting of plush carpeting, curtains and lots of brocadeaccents. Colorful antique chairs are mounted on the walls, serving as shelves for apparel.
"The interior is just as important as the clothes. At Drew Lewis, you want to be a part of the atmosphere," said Gore.
On the drawing board, Gore plans to launch a line of playful, graphic T-shirts for holiday or spring.
While he and Kloss aim to bring a Manhattan sensibility to Atlanta retail, they also want to garner attention for local lines. Each month, the store will spotlight an Atlanta designer by carrying some of the line's offerings and returning 100 percent of the sale proceeds to the designer.
Although only in the preliminary stages, Gore also hopes to start Atlanta Fashion Week, an event that a few local organizations have attempted previously, but with little success.
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