Ba&sh wants to make friends with its new neighbors in Manhattan’s NoLIta. So it’s doing what friends do: borrow one another’s clothes.
The 1,700-square-foot Ba&sh unit at 257 Elizabeth Street represents a new retail concept for the French brand, which was cofounded by Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief, who are best friends and wanted to work on something together.
“It’s an experiential store, the first one designed to thoughtfully elevate the existing experience to a new level. The store was a natural evolution. Our brand has always been rooted in special relationships,” said global chief executive officer Pierre-Arnaud Grenade, adding that the store has a dream closet with ready-to-wear that shoppers can borrow on a regular basis at no charge as long as it’s returned by a certain date.
“It’s based on generosity and friendship,” said Sarah Benady, ceo of North America. “You have a friend you always go to when you need a piece for a wedding or cocktail party that you know you’re only going to wear once. We want to be that go-to friend. We want to open our wardrobe and allow our customers to borrow from us.
“New consumers who never tried the brand, can now try it for free,” Benady said. “For customers that come because they have special occasions, we aren’t offering current collections, but rather, iconic dresses and coats that customers can’t buy anymore.”
While free outfits to wear to special occasions has warm and fuzzy vibes, the ultimate goal of lending the garments, of course, is converting shoppers to the Parisian brand, which operates 200 stores globally, but only five units in the U.S. The Elizabeth Street location is Ba&sh’s third Manhattan store after units on Madison Avenue and Bleecker Street. A sixth store is slated for Malibu, Calif., and in three years, the brand expects to operate 30 units in the U.S., Benady said.
Ba&sh embodies so-called French girl chic with a Seventies influence and hint of urban folk. There’s the Flore midi shirt dress with fringed cuffs and flowing skirt, $435; Despina maxi dress with a mini print and piping at the waist, cuffs and hem, $585; short reversible sheepskin coat, $1,950, and Betty lambskin jacket with multiple zippers, $865. Accessories include handbags such as the Sami crossbody, $670, and calfskin tote, $395; a shoe collection that’s heavy on boots, from Carrie high boots, $550 to Caitlin ankle boots; $425; Coco two-tone pumps, $325, and trainers, priced at $285 and $255.
A pop-up bar dedicated to Gallic brands that haven’t yet made their way to the U.S., includes handcrafted Parisian jewelry brand Atelier Paulin, known for its delicate, personalized bracelets; Maison Plisson, a gourmet French specialty foods purveyor, and Baobab, luxury candles with exotic fragrances and designs.
Mirrors, custom-made for Ba&sh in Paris, are designed for group selfies with “comments that a best friend would make, like ‘You look gorgeous,'” said Benady. Monthly dinners hosted influencers such as Babba Canales, the Swedish marketing whiz who started a brand marketing agency, By Babba, and catered by Daniel Boulud will be held around the big table in the center of the store. “We’re hosting dinners for customers for the holidays and making them super-inclusive and accessible. We’re encouraging women to bring friends and make new friends.”
French classes will be offered on Thursday mornings. “We’re partnering with a French language school, Coucou,” Benady said. “We’re subsidizing 75 percent of the cost. Every Thursday we’ll have a complimentary French breakfast.” A children’s play area with the store’s custom coloring book was created to allow moms to shop in peace for a little while.
The Ba&sh global e-commerce team was relocated to New York. “The team used to be based in Paris,” Benady said. “We think the U.S. is much more advanced than France. E-commerce accounts for 20 percent of sales in the U.S.; globally, it’s less.”
“Elizabeth Street was a very natural location for us because a lot of direct consumer brands have opened there,” said Benady. “We’re surrounded by Cuyana and Soludos. We like being in New York and being with digital native brands that are starting to do retail. That street seems like the perfect place to experience a new concept. Since we launched the line in the new U.S., we’ve heard that retail is dead and retail is boring. There are a lot of new concepts and brands that have a lot of creativity. Everyone is trying to find new ways to create amazing retail.”