Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK--Bill Hallman, a 29-year-old Atlanta-based designer, has become a retail pioneer here. He originally targeted SoHo for his first New York store, but the rents were prohibitive, forcing him to take a space on Lafayette Street in NoHo, which is home to a few funky boutiques and antique shops but no big players. "I'm taking a big risk," said Hallman. "In SoHo, the rents were at least double and spaces were either too big or too small. SoHo is becoming more of an outdoor mall with national chains, and I don't want to be in that type of environment. When that happens, your merchandise has to change to conform."
Hallman signed a lease for a 1,000-square-foot store on Lafayette Street near Bond Street, scheduled to open today.
"Lafayette has a lot of potential," Hallman said. "It's close enough where it's convenient to SoHo. If I'm a local and I want an outfit for Friday night, this is where I'm going to shop.
"We have a customer that seeks fashion wherever it is," Hallman added. Lafayette Street has its seedier sides, but the more adventurous of the fashion set--including X-Girl and Liquid Sky--find it has charm and have set up shop. Both boutiques specialize in clothes with an edge for club kids.
In the last year, restaurants have opened, such as Cyber Cafe, which has been used as a location for fashion shoots. Label, the Los Angeles-based contemporary line, is reportedly scouting for space for a store on Lafayette.
"You can find spaces on Lafayette Street in the 500- to 1,500-square-foot range for $45 to $50 a foot, which is 30 percent less than SoHo," said Caroline P. Banker, senior vice president of New Spectrum Realty Services. "I see this area happening, fashion-wise. New restaurants are a harbinger of an area's development."
The Hallman boutique will house the designer's signature line, which is sold in his two Atlanta stores and a handful of boutiques across the country. Prices range from $60 for shirts to $150 for jackets.
Hallman has developed another label, BH Sport, geared to retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Cignal. BH Sport retails for about 50 percent less than the signature line.
"It's disposable fashion," Hallman said of BH Sport. "You wear it for one season, then it's on to the next.
"We won't sell to department stores," Hallman said. "We want to do another line called Hallman, geared to specialty stores like Barneys New York."

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