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SoHo Fashion to Hit Kansas

Can SoHo style play in Leawood, Kan.?

Can SoHo style play in Leawood, Kan.?

That’s what the operators of Three Wildcats LLC, a private company involved in retail start-ups, hope to prove with the firm’s latest concept, Soho 119.

“We want to dress women in all of their lifestyle needs, with an international point of view, a New York sophistication, a sense of fun, sexiness and modernity,” said Carmella Spinelli, chief creative officer of Three Wildcats. “That means not getting stuck in trend. It’s more about style and lifestyle.”

“We’ve done our due diligence, and our focus groups, and know there’s a population that feels forced to travel to find the right fashion,” added John Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Three Wildcats. The third “Wildcat” is chief financial officer David Hulshof.

Soho 119 is scheduled to open Aug. 1, in a 160,000-square-foot open-air lifestyle center called One Nineteen, which houses a Crate & Barrel and Dean & Deluca, among other stores, and is located in Leawood, a wealthy suburb of Kansas City. Three Wildcats is partnering with RED Development, a developer of lifestyle centers, on Soho 119, and on Deegie’s Carma, a specialty store for 18- to 28-year-olds that opened in Kansas City in March.

Spinelli, former associate chair of fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design, and Wilson, who previously worked at Vestimenta, Ferragamo, Nordstrom and Net Worth Solutions, characterized Soho 119 as “experiential” and unlike other stores in that you can shop a mix of classic and trend merchandise from established and up-and-coming labels, and sip a merlot as you await a facial at the vinotherapy spa for skin treatments derived from the by-products of grapes. A wine and mozzarella bar will be part of the retail offering.

Furthering the atmosphere is the gallerylike store design, conceived by Gensler, the architecture and interior design firm. The layout is very open, with an artistic metal screen system to segment the merchandise. The screens can be translucent, transparent or opaque, depending on the linings, which could be shavings of mahogany, bamboo or flowers, to relate to nature. The store is also being designed with bronze metallic framed fixturing, mahogany tables, a light wood floor and an asymmetric set of large windows on the women’s side and smaller ones for men’s. A 90-foot boulevard runs down the middle, dividing men’s to the right and women’s to the left, with accessories and shoes just behind, and the restaurant in back.

This story first appeared in the June 18, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

About 20 percent of the merchandise will be designer, 40 percent gold range and about 40 percent upper bridge prices. Eighty percent of the selling space will be devoted to women’s, 20 percent to men’s, and the appeal is directed toward consumers 25 and older. The owners expect Soho 119 to generate $400 in sales per square foot, or about $4 million in revenues for the 10,000 square feet of selling space. Among the women’s labels the store plans to sell are Donna Karan, Yeohlee, Moschino Cheap & Chic, M Missoni, D&G, Calvin Klein, Peter Som for Bill Blass, Carlos Miele, Giuseppe Zanotti, Jenni Kayne, Gryphon and Bensoni.

In men’s, the plan is to carry Ralph Lauren Black Label, Jaz by Joseph Abboud, Malo, Just Cavalli, Rag & Bone, Fred Perry and Hugo Boss.

“It’s not so much of a price point as an aesthetic and a look,” Spinelli said. “We’re taking a blended approach,” meaning no hard shops, no merchandising by categories and no denim wall, she said. “Everything will be blended,” meaning blazers will be shown with silk blouses, skirts and high heels. “There will be day-to-night on one rack — literally.”

Even before Soho 119 makes its debut, the team is considering future sites in such cities as Sacramento, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, and Austin, Tex. The strategy is to open Soho 119 stores in “tier-two markets, where there isn’t a Saks or a Neiman Marcus,” explained Wilson. “There may be a Nordstrom or a Macy’s, but it will be where people feel fashion underserved.”

“There’s a certain part of New York you can take to the Midwest, things people like about New York, but there are also local shopping habits,” Spinelli said. “It’s a balancing act. We are not trying to impose a New York fashion sensibility.”

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