By  on January 13, 2005

NEW YORK — Shoppers who favor unexpected finds should have plenty to choose from in two new stores that are opening on opposite ends of the city.

London-based designer Eskandar opens his first signature store in the U.S. next month at 33 East 10th Street, and B8 Couture, a shop specializing in European labels and designed to look like a jewelry box, will make its debut Friday at 27 Little West 12th Street. Unconventional in their approaches, both retailers are trying to distinguish themselves in downtown’s increasingly crowded retail scene.

Eskandar already has stores in London and Paris. The 6,000-square-foot East Village space has refinished 100-year-old hardwood floors, brick walls and high ceilings to create a feeling of openness. Set up to be a moveable space where the environment is continually tweaked, the store does not have any permanent fixtures so displays can be easily moved around on a regular basis.

“I wanted to create a space where friends can come to meet, browse, have tea, relax and be comfortable — to bring a state of calm, an oasis, to shopping in the city,” Eskandar said.

Downtown was a sensible choice, considering the East Village is where he has an apartment. Eskandar found the property down the street, during one of his frequent trips to his favorite restaurant, Il Cantinori. He also wanted to be far enough away from Bergdorf Goodman so as not to affect his annual $4 million business there. Having a freestanding store gives Eskandar a place to merchandise all of his offerings.

“I have such a big business in New York, and I have opened stores in London and Paris in the past two years. New York was really the next progression, then I’m going to rest,” Eskandar said.

In addition to the designer’s signature collection, which reflects various cultures inspired by his extensive travels in Europe and the Far East, the store will have such exclusive items as embroidered linens, antiques, Moroccan rugs and semiprecious jewels. Sold in 75 stores worldwide, his collection is known for its natural fabrics and varying layers. His bath and body collection also will be offered.

B8’s owner, Karine Bellil, spent about $400,000 overhauling the 1,515-square-foot space. She said her store caters to “people who really want to be unique and express themselves through their clothes.” Frankie Morello, John Richmond, Ichthys and Charles Anastase are some of the brands to be sold there.

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