By  on May 21, 2007

NEW YORK  — James Perse opened his first pure men’s boutique last week on Bleecker Street in 361 Greenwich Village, the first in a mini-boomlet of retail expansion for the Malibu, Calif.–based designer known for tissue-weight cashmere and ultra-soft cotton jersey.

Perse’s premium casual basics blend two aesthetics—coastal casual and modern minimal—in which the beach-loving designer, son of Maxfield owner Tommy Perse, grew up immersed. That hybrid sensibility is also visible in the store design. “A chic shack,” Perse called it, half joking.

The 800-square-foot store is split-level, with a simple surfboard standing guard on the upper landing. There are gifts and media that complement the brand, such as books, CDs and Moleskine notebooks, along with accessories including aged-leather belts and baseball caps bearing the James Perse logo—a red star borrowed from the California state flag.

The dark wood doors to the dressing rooms are louvered, evoking a beach house. There are 50 to 55 apparel SKUs, and clothes sit folded on dark wood shelves or hang against the walls on sliding S-hooks. Perse is still hunting for the perfect vintage mid-century-modern furniture to rest on the reclaimed wood floor.

The store is the designer’s seventh overall. His other Manhattan store, which opened just down the street in 2005 and used to house both men’s and women’s wear, has been converted to women’s only.

“I always intended them to be separate. Originally we had two spaces but we were outbid on one of them, so we crammed into one,” Perse said. From both a merchandising and a shopping standpoint, “it was a constant challenge to carry both in such a small store.”

Men’s is at least 45 percent of sales volume in Perse’s dual-gender stores, so it deserves dedicated real estate, but Bleecker Street is highly sought-after, so it required some patience. Nearby tenants include Ralph Lauren, Brunello Cucinelli and Marc Jacobs, as well as neighborhood businesses including the iconic Magnolia Bakery. Ultimately Perse would like to open a third outpost in the area for his children’s and home lines.

In July a flagship store showcasing men’s, women’s, children’s and home will open in Beverly Hills. It will have a room for men’s underwear and loungewear, a category Perse is looking to build.

Smaller stores are being planned for the Hamptons and uptown Manhattan, which will bring the total to 10.

The men’s store is carrying long-sleeved T-shirts printed with a lengthy list of real beach names, perhaps hinting at the retail empire of the designer’s dreams.

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