Young Designers Get a New Showcase

Say hello to Emerge NYC, a new retail concept of 65 designers selling their wares in small rented stalls or display cases at one venue.

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NEW YORK — There is strength in numbers.

That’s the idea behind Emerge NYC, a new retail concept of 65 designers selling their wares in small rented stalls or display cases at one venue. The 3,500-square-foot store at 65 Bleecker Street features apparel, jewelry and accessories made by designers with a variety of experience levels. Some have no fashion training; others have thick press books.

Two of the best known are Draugsvold jewelry, which has received editorial credits in fashion publications like Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times, and Selma Karaca, a featured designer at Forward, the Lower East Side Business District’s retail platform for new designers and a 2004 Gen Art Styles finalist.

Emerge NYC is the brainchild of Nikolas Petro, a designer who worked for Dennis Basso. Petro founded and operates Market NYC, another market venue for fledgling designers at the gym at Old St. Patrick’s Church at 266 Mulberry Street. Market NYC is only open on Saturdays and Sundays; Emerge operates Wednesday through Friday from noon to 9 p.m., Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Space costs $1,400 to $2,500 a month for a “boutique,” or stall, and $400 to $600 a month for a shelf or two in a display case, or the entire case.

“We wanted to take it to the next level and make it a little higher-end, and have that department store ambiance,” said Alex Pabon, manager of Emerge NYC and Market NYC. “In the gym, we’re just able to offer the designers a table. The designers are young, but many have lines sold in other places. Some do this full-time and some do it part-time. They’re making direct contact with the public.”

On a recent afternoon, Emerge NYC smelled like fresh paint and there was some remodeling going on, but for the most part it looked finished, with crystal chandeliers dangling in a row over the length of the store, which opened Aug. 5.

Yasemin Rodriguez was sitting in her F&Y Dragonfly boutique crocheting a shrug with gold-flecked, copper-colored yarn; Azra Gilad was helping customers select one of her graphic leather handbags, and Tom SoHung of SoHung Designs was showing off his jacket made entirely of ties.

This story first appeared in the August 15, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make the armholes,” he said.

Gilad, whose bags retail for $40 to $200, said she expects to do $40,000 to $50,000 in sales in the first year. “It’s new and it’s promising,” she said of Emerge. “I think it will get better as fall begins. The holidays will be mobbed, as long as they keep up the level of designers and don’t bring in ‘Made in India’ products.”

Her own three-year-old line is manufactured here using Italian leather.

Heidi O. (that’s the name she goes by) describes her pouf skirts and jackets made of vintage fabrics such as toile de joie as “classic yet mischievous, femme-urban.”

“I was a classical ballerina and loved spooky and mysterious Odette-like creatures,” she said. “I was never formally trained. I draw until I figure it out.”

Her clothes do not lack details. One skirt style, for example, has 24 darts. “I’m now deconstructing my own stuff,” she said, pointing to a top with a peplum waist. Her collection was sold at 30 Van Dam in Greenwich Village, a venue for emerging designers, until it closed.

At Jahanna Martinez Designs, dresses in bright fabrics and skirts made from Pakistani sari fabric can be found. Martinez, who attended Parsons School of Design before working at Victoria’s Secret and Byron Lars, makes halters with built-in bras and other details women appreciate. Prices range from $65 for a top to $750 for eveningwear. She said she plans to do $100,000 in first-year sales.

Many of the designers at Emerge NYC can’t afford a freestanding store of their own. Some are testing the waters. Advertising, something most couldn’t afford, is included as part of the rent at Emerge NYC, which will run ads in the Village Voice and Time Out New York, Pabon said.

Dale Urban, a representative of Korres, a treatment line based in Athens, Greece, that has a stall at Emerge, said the company wants to gauge if it should open independent stores. “This is a new idea, and we wanted to try it,” he said. So how’s business? “I’m not complaining,” Urban said. “We did $500 the first day.”

Pabon knows he has to maintain the quality of the products or the concept will degenerate into a bad bazaar. “We don’t want anything mass-produced,” he said. “We’re looking for individuality and creativity. We want to keep everything on the same level, designed and produced in New York.”

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