NEW YORK — Around the world in 300 square feet.
That’s Figue at 268 Elizabeth Street, between Houston and Prince Streets in NoLIta, Stephanie von Watzdorf’s new lifestyle store opening Tuesday.
The brand’s first store may be small, but von Watzdorf managed to include items from Morocco, Africa, Colombia, Bolivia, Cameroon, India and even Maine — a true global affair. Von Watzdorf founded the Figue brand in 2012 with Sabina Schlumberger.
For the store design, von Watzdorf collaborated with Steve O’Neil of O’Neil Langan Architects and Marrakech-based designer Maryam Montague. “I wanted to create a space that was like a journey, not a store,” she said. A Moorish archway divides the store into two rooms, and it has a peacock wooden doorway from India, perforated metal lanterns and crocheted lanterns from Morocco hanging from the ceiling, feather headpieces from Cameroon decorating the walls and Belgian wood shelving.
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Prior to founding Figue, von Watzdorf was vice president of design at Tory Burch. “I continue to consult with Tory,” she said. “She knew I wanted to do this, and she’s very supportive.”
One of her mainstays is vintage military jackets from the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, decorated with embroidered designs. One jacket has an elaborate and bejeweled beetle on the back and silver filigree-like embroidery on the sleeves. “It’s like wearing jewelry,” von Watzdorf said. Another has a fish skeleton created from metal beads and Swarovski Elements. Von Watzdorf said she has the jackets beaded in Bombay. Each one takes a week to finish and sells for $1,400 to $1,850. The collection will be sold at Bergdorf Goodman on the sixth floor beginning in November, Figue’s first move into wholesale. Prior to Bergdorf’s and the opening of the Elizabeth Street store, Figue was sold only via its own Web site and at a pop-up shop this summer in the Hamptons.
Von Watzdorf buys alpaca ponchos and cardigans in Bolivia. “We can work with artisans,” she said. “It’s a way of giving back.” Mochila handbags handwoven in Colombia “are made by this tribe of women, and a community of women in Morocco make these leather bags,” she said, pointing to an Italian leather tote that sells for $895. Tuktuk bags are made from black fabric and embellished with metal shapes and colorful pom-poms. Von Watzdorf added large pom-poms for bright pops of color to neutral shoes inspired by Indian ballet flats. “I’ll carry other people’s shoes and accessories,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be my design, just my point of view.”
She’s no snob when it comes to prices. Von Watzdorf sells $38 bracelets beside $4,500 diamond and sapphire earrings.
Gypsy-meets-jet-set is how von Watzdorf describes her style, which she developed as a child living in Paris. Eventually, she moved to New York, where she graduated from Parsons School of Design. Along the way, she developed her love of travel with a little help from her family. She picks up a book that’s sold in the store, “In the Spirit of St. Barths” by Pamela Fiori, and flips to a page with a photo of a man and woman lying by a pool. “That’s my father and my stepmother,” she said. “The photo was taken by Slim Aarons.”