Ports 1961 Opens Flagship

Ports 1961 to unveil store in Meatpacking District this Saturday.

NEW YORK — After some extensive construction, Ports 1961 is finally ready to bring its eclectic spirit to New York.

This story first appeared in the February 13, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On Saturday, the fashion label, which was founded here in 2004, is slated to open its New York flagship at 3 Ninth Avenue, in the Meatpacking District.

This is Ports 1961’s second store after the first opened on Melrose Place in West Hollywood last year. Creative director Tia Cibani said New York was supposed to open before Los Angeles, but the project took longer to complete due to structural challenges and additional construction.

Over the past few months, the company has been restoring the 150-year-old building with architect Michael Gabellini, who is perhaps best known for creating the retail look for Jil Sander when the namesake designer was still there. The Ports 1961 store has a 31-foot display window along Gansevoort Street, offering a view into the interior features such as twisted nickel bars, floating Lucite shelves and American walnut floors.

Cibani said her favorite feature is a floor-to-ceiling skylight — a carved-out, outdoor space created through giant glass panels. It will have a polished stainless steel ground that reflects all colors of the sky. “There was originally a garden in the back, so we wanted more interior space but didn’t want to lose the element of having some type of outdoor space,” she said.

The building is next to favorite Meatpacking District haunt 5 Ninth. The former house’s second floor will be used as a gallery and event space, starting on April 22, when the brand marks the launch of a new book by artist Kenny Scharf.

The store opening marks a new chapter in the history of the company, which has its origins in Canadian brand Ports International. “After this store, the plan is to really build the shop-in-shops in specialty stores,” Jacqui Wenzel, Ports 1961’s president and head of U.S. operations, said. “We have the stage to merchandise the collection with all its layering.

“I think it will help further our better department store business, because they can see Tia’s entire vision,” Wenzel added. In the U.S. the line is sold to almost 200 stores including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Stanley Korshak in Dallas. Wenzel said first-year sales projections for the New York boutique are “at least $1 million.”

The store will also offer a mix of books, music and art objects that inspire Cibani. “It’s important you sell more than just clothes,” Wenzel said. “That joy of shopping is still there and, in this climate, you have to make sure you have items under $100.”

One of the interior features is a large patina brass table with a glass top by the late Jay Smith that at one time stood inside Linda Dresner’s recently shuttered boutique on Park Avenue. Wenzel once worked as the buyer for Dresner. “Its kind of like getting married…something old, something new and something borrowed,” Wenzel said.

The third floor of the building will serve as Cibani’s design studio. “I think I will be in the store a lot,” Cibani said. “I like the idea to come down and mess with the window and redress the mannequins, and be part of the culture of the store, come down and say ‘hi’ to the customer. I think it’s nice to have that chance, because it’s not often you get to be so close to the customer.”