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NEW YORK — It’s two o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and Helena Christensen is furiously steaming clothes. The Danish supermodel doesn’t usually find herself on this side of the steaming machine — at fashion shows, the stylists’ assistants handle the task — but Christensen’s new store is opening in three days and there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out.
Butik, a 900-square-foot shop at 605 Hudson Street here, is in a state of disarray, but it’s clearly a representation of some of Christensen’s favorite things. “Butik” is an old-fashioned Danish word for specialty store, said Christensen, who’s gone out of her way to fill the space with “everything strange and weird and wonderful and aesthetic and antique and new.”
Christensen’s partner in the venture, Leif Sigersen, a floral designer, shares her sensibility. “We have exactly the same taste,” she said of Sigersen, who had a store in Denmark for 15 years.
The partners gutted the Hudson Street space, a former bar, revealing high ceilings and brick walls. Parts of the wood floor had to be replaced, but several sets of French doors were intact. There will be a hothouse for flowers and plants at the back of the store. An area behind that will be used as an office and sewing room for the clothes Christensen and Sigersen plan to design.
Clothes hang on wire hangers from wrought iron racks designed for the store. “We hate plastic hangers,” Christensen said. “We wanted them to be really simple.”
For a model who’s worn some of the most fabulous and expensive garments in the world, her taste in fashion is low-key, with a decidedly retro feel. About 50 percent of the apparel in the store is vintage and the new product has some of the same qualities. “It has to have the feeling of something different or of another time,” she said.
For example, a jacket by Rutzou with a self belt covered in a handful of buttons and a fabric flower near the lapel is made of material designed to look old. Rutzou’s designer also throws vintage fabric into the mix.
This story first appeared in the April 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Capelets from Baum und Pferdgarten, a popular brand based in Copenhagen, look like something an old-fashioned doll would wear. More modern are Iven Hoj’s finely knit sweaters, Camilla Staerk’s black silk dresses and Norgaard Paa Stroget’s simple maritime shirts for men and women.
Christensen expresses her quirky side in the way she styles the clothing, using priest collars, for example, to accessorize blouses. “We’re just trying to show how you can wear things differently,” she said. “Because we dress every day, it’s fun not to be so serious. We found the priest collars at a flea market.”
Accessories are as unusual as the clothes. Staerk makes sandals from leather and finely knit fiber, necklaces by Veronica Civa are made of wooden beads ordered in colors to match outfits in the shop and belts from Bark in Denmark come in red, white or blue decorated with Danish flags. There are also bags from Peru in honor of Christensen’s Peruvian mother, who was at the store asking visitors how they liked it so far.
Jewelry will range from flea-market finds to serious pieces, such as 18-karat gold rings with coral and diamonds. Prices will range from a few dollars for a beaded flower to $3,200 for a circa 1880 gold-painted wood display case built for a woman who collected bouquet holders. Candles, soaps, perfumes and chocolate from Summer Bird, a small organic Danish factory, round out the offerings.
Christensen, who continues to model and do photography, said her frequent travels will now have more of a sense of purpose. “I’ve never really been settled anywhere,” she said. “I’m going to keep traveling. I live like a gypsy.”