NEW YORK — Nicole Hanley’s first store, which opened last month at 210 East 74th Street, packs a lot of color into a mere 400 square feet of space. A skylight, exposed-brick walls, ebony bamboo floors and arched mirrored doors give the store a downtown vibe, while chocolate brown walls set off the jewel-toned clothes. A round table covered in an orange, brown and magenta fabric is surrounded by small Lucite chairs.
Hanley’s designs are available in a handful of stores in Florida, Connecticut and Texas. Before opening her own shop, she held trunk shows at high-end boutiques around the country that each netted between $10,000 and $30,000. “I had to open a store after two years of doing trunk shows,” said the 30-year-old designer. She declined to give a sales estimate for the store.
Her collection, which began with three tops and three dresses in silk jersey, could have been the sartorial equivalent of the musical one-hit wonder. But Hanley isn’t resting on her silk jersey laurels. For fall, she’s going beyond the basic shapes to design short leather jackets with scalloped edges, plaid suits with unfinished hems and short shirts encircled with thin bands of leather. Hanley’s signature leather skirt has oversize belt loops that cross over the two front pockets. For fall, the style is reprised in a variety of lengths and a range of fabrics, including houndstooth and satin.
“As the collection grows, it will work well for department stores,” said Hanley, who designed a collection for Henri Bendel. Part of the appeal of her designs is the unusual color combinations, which include brown with either fuchsia, apple green or purple. “Because I come from a stylist’s background, I mix textures,” she said. “I love the rough edge of vintage leather with a drapy fabric.”
Prices range from $220 for a deep V-neck tank top to $690 for a long leather skirt.
Hanley’s background includes stints as a designer for Rugby and a stylist for Polo Ralph Lauren. Before joining Ralph Lauren, she was a buyer at Intermix.
Like many designers, Hanley said she set out to create pieces that were missing from her wardrobe but couldn’t be found in stores. She’s is no design snob, however, and volunteers her limited technical knowledge of designing apparel. “They threw me on the conceptual design team at Rugby in 2003,” she said. “The designers at Rugby taught me how to flat sketch. I’m so thankful for having had all these different jobs in the fashion world. I was a philosophy major.”