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NEW YORK — Who said retailers have grown too cautious?

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Despite the tough times at retail, September has seen a bevy of store openings in New York by designers and retailers of all stripes. Not only have major design companies like Stella McCartney and Jil Sander launched stores, but hip, specialty boutiques have bowed downtown as well, including Rubin Chapelle, A. and Opening Ceremony.

Rubin Chapelle

The design duo of Sonja Rubin and Kip Chapelle opened the doors of their first boutique Rubin Chapelle at 410 West 14th Street on Sept. 21. The 2,500-square-foot space, designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf, is a play between rustic and sleek with exposed brick walls and cement floors contrasting with an entranceway of glass rods and black leather trimmings. “We wanted to focus on the linearity of the space,” said Rubin. “And create a space that breathes and adjusts when you enter it.”

Movable white cycloramas also add to the mod effect and will be used to display apparel, artwork and live performances, such as poetry readings and musical acts.

“Opening our space to artists, photographers, musicians and writers is one way we can participate in the neighborhood’s livelihood,” said Chapelle.

The label’s men’s and women’s collections and accessories will be sold in the shop, along with Austrian products reflecting Rubin’s Viennese heritage. The pair’s designs focus on natural fabrics like silk chiffon, jerseys and leather with unconventional details, bursts of color and asymmetric hems.

Retail prices range from $650 to $1,200 for dresses, $220 to $650 for sweaters and $800 to $1,400 for wool coats. The line is also sold in the U.S. at retailers such as Barneys New York, Louis Boston and Ultimo in Chicago.

A.

Short for atelier, the newly opened store A., located at 125 Crosby Street, specializes in European designers such as Sophia Kokosalaki, Anne Valerie Hash and Angelo Figus. Owners Constantin von Haeften and Karlo Steel commissioned interior designer Fernando Santangelo to create a minimal backdrop for the avant-garde designs they carry. The 1,200-square-foot space features a muted color palette of white, grey and brown, marble tabletops, a midcentury Danish couch, brushed steel fixtures and antique subway lamps.

“We wanted it to be a destination, in close proximity to SoHo shops, but not a part of it,” said von Haeften. “What’s nice about Crosby Street is that it still has a real bohemian feel with the cobblestone street.”

The store sells men’s and women’s wear and accessories. Retail prices range from $500 to $600 for trousers, $800 to $1,000 for jackets and $500 to $600 for shoes.

Opening Ceremony

What sets Opening Ceremony apart from other downtown boutiques is its novel retail concept: Founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are featuring merchandise from a different geographic locale each year. This year it’s Hong Kong, and Leon and Lim have mined for designers, vintage and open-air market items from that city. The idea, according to Leon, was to create a space “as if someone were to go to that country to shop.”

The 2,500-square-foot loft space, located off the beaten path in the southeastern outskirts of SoHo at 35 Howard Street, is situated atop an acupressure massage center. Inside the expansive store with high-ceilings, a long banquet table and chairs are situated in the center, while mannequins around it appear to be engaged in cocktail party chatter.

The boutique carries designers such as Benjamin Cho, Mary Ping and Faunae along with designers from Hong Kong such as Ranee K., Amus and Kitterick. With the exception of Benjamin Cho’s collection, which sells for $300 to $5,000, the rest of the store’s offerings are more moderately priced at $30 to $400.

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