NEW YORK — Aside from the music of Brazilian performer Caetano Veloso, Nili Lotan’s TriBeCa design studio was almost empty. But being on her own is just what she likes.
Tucked away in TriBeCa on Watts Street’s western end, the designer sought out this tasteful space, far removed from Seventh Avenue’s hustle and bustle, in November. She earned her stripes at Adrienne Vittadini, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and Nautica before going out on her own two years ago. Now Lotan has a new sales rep here, is adding more outerwear, selling overseas and offering a limited-edition silk shirt collection this fall.
She just signed on with CD Network at 4 West 22nd Street to rep her line in New York. Instead of focusing on solely building distribution in the U.S., as many up-and-coming designers do, Lotan has turned her attention to Europe, where she aims to sell to 30 stores. Earlier this month, the designer signed a deal with Mark & Friends, a Berlin-based company, to sell her collection to top-tier European retailers like Felden Kirchen in Hamburg.
European buyers tend to shop the way Lotan does, in that they are more influenced by the look — especially the workmanship of a garment — than by trends, she said. They also prefer to buy one item they will enjoy for a long time than several less luxurious pieces.
“They buy clothes like they buy wine. They buy to enjoy it, and they want it to last a long time,” Lotan said.
Born in Israel, Lotan is dismayed by how Americans aren’t more selective in their shopping.
“Even my teenage daughter does it. She will buy four sweaters at once, and I will ask, ‘Why can’t you just buy one and really enjoy it?’”
For fall, Lotan has moved away from an all-cotton collection to offer a greater variety of fabrics, including wool, cashmere and, for the first time, leather. Offerings have doubled, but wholesale prices still range from $80 to $265. She also continues to make all of her pieces in New York.
“That’s important for me not only for convenience but also for quality. At this point, I need to be in control of the product,” Lotan said.A former member of the Israeli army, Lotan stamped her military ID number on her signature logo. Military-inspired looks are featured in her fall collection. “More Army Blue: The Uniform of Uncle Sam 1874-1887” and “Victorian and Edwardian Fashion for Women 1840-1919” are books that provided inspiration. A 1910 burgundy velvet jacket with brass buttons and tiered tails with strands of tiny pom-poms that she bought from vintage specialist Bob Mallot also helped inspire her version of a military jacket — and prompted her to break out taped episodes of “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
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