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NEW YORK — Miguel Antoinne, a 34-year-old men’s and women’s wear designer, last week opened his first store, a two-level 5,000-square-foot space at 39 Wooster Street in SoHo.

This story first appeared in the October 16, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A 2011 finalist for Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award for women’s wear, Antoinne had been operating a wholesale business, but “retailers were very slow to take us on,” he said. “We were throwing money at wholesale.” He was operating at a loss selling to small specialty stores “because you’re producing such low volume. I want to build a brand. I pulled out of the stores I was losing money on. I know there’s an interest in my brand.”

While Antoinne was closing wholesale accounts, he was getting phone calls and e-mails from customers, urging him to open a store. When he saw the space on Wooster Street, “I knew it was a great opportunity for us to showcase everything we do as a brand,” he said, adding that the location, slightly off SoHo’s commercial path, “felt right. It’s a destination spot.” Antoinne expects the store to do $2 million in sales in two and a half years.

Unlike some young designers who can’t wait to get their hands on a pencil and a sketch pad, Antoinne wanted to learn the business of fashion first. He joined the Bloomingdale’s training program 11 years ago and became a men’s wear buyer, then moved to fine china. “I wanted to run my own business,” he said.

The men’s wear and women’s wear business is evenly divided. “We do a lot of custom work for clients,” said Antoinne. “For me, every piece should be special. Every item has it’s moment, it’s not just clothing on a rack. We’re only housing special items at 39 Wooster Street. We have to step back and be critical.”

Antoinne works with a mostly white and black palette with splashes of color and incorporates leather in many pieces. A cropped black leather motorcycle jacket is $690, a geometric coat in black wool and leather, $910, and a silk tank dress in a hand-painted floral fabric is $1,200.

The store design is minimalist, but doesn’t feel cold or severe. A black and off-white grid pattern on the ceiling has small lights shining from the black strips like stars. “We redid the entire canvas,” Antoinne said, referring to the former gallery. “I designed the mannequins myself.”

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