By  on June 17, 2008

Two new NoLIta stores, Ilus and Début, are serving up plenty of ingenuity along with designer clothes.

Former Wall Street banker Linda Pratka has opened Ilus, a boutique that offers three-night rentals for designer dresses, jewelry and handbags, at 248 Elizabeth Street. Last year she came up with the eveningwear-heavy concept for Microsoft's IdeaWins competition and finished fourth. Pratka herself had bought numerous dresses for black-tie events with clients, friends' weddings and Junior League gatherings that were seldom worn more than two or three times. Aside from the limited versatility factor, women in their 20s and 30s have the expense and space issues to consider.

"I have a pretty big closet for Manhattan and it is stuffed to the hilt," Pratka said.

At this point, Ilus features current dresses from 13 designers with three-day rentals starting at $60 and going up to $250. Badgley Mischka Platinum, Nicole Miller, Abaeté and Amsale are among the rentals, and customers have the option to buy individual dresses that are marked down depending on the number of wearings. As of last week, a jewel-necked ivory chiffon gown from Marc Bouwer Glamit!, which rents for $140 and sells for $895, was a favorite item. A multitiered black minidress by Gilles Montezin, whose clothes are featured in the "Sex and the City" movie, was also expected to be popular, Pratka said.

Borrowing from her Estonian roots, Pratka's store's name means beautiful in Estonian. The pink-walled store carries sizes zero to 10 and is clearly geared for NoLIta's more youthful shoppers. Slight alterations can be done on the premises, and Pratka is responsible for dry-cleaning. The weekend rental is ideal for Hamptons goers who can pick up their goods Friday night and return them Monday morning, Pratka said. "After three nights they can bring it back and they don't have to worry about never wearing it again."

They can also pick up jewelry for $10 a pop and bags for $40 or $45. There are plans to introduce sportswear and other categories. Soon Pratka's Web site will allow shoppers to reserve certain items or schedule a pick-up or delivery. Pratka, who expects to break even this year, said designers are enthusiastic about introducing young shoppers to their brands.

Début at 298 Mulberry Street is another newcomer to the neighborhood. The 1,100-square-foot store specializes in up-and-coming designers. Founder and owner Lisa Weiss, a Fashion Institute of Technology grad, was well aware of the challenge young designers face in trying to secure retail space in New York.

The prospect of selling in Manhattan has attracted some designers from abroad and has motivated some little-known designers to produce their first collections. Début has a gallerylike environment in order to highlight each designer's individuality and to give each collection its own space within the store. The setup is designed to give shoppers a better sense of what the various designers are all about.

Spring offerings include collections from Salvador Trinidad, a 2007 Gen Art finalist, and Young H. Cha, an FIT alum who specializes in loosely tailored contemporary clothing. Also on display is the work of Shuji Wada and Eunyong Song, who hail from Japan and South Korea, respectively, and design under the EY Wada label. There are also accessories from Jessica Jensen and Esha Soni's jewelry for Experiment 101.

Other spring labels that are being featured are Doug Reker, Naaima, Quoc Lieu, Anzie, Miss Rowe, Nima, Lialia, Suwha, French Me, Ani Alvarez, Caroline Hedaya, Cue, Julianna Bass and Jill Courtemanche. Début has already lined up some collections for fall such as Anize, Arthur Mendonca, Ashley Rowe, Black Dot, BoKyung Cha, Juhee Chung, Lovenia, Vassilisa and 3gruppo3.

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