Le Board Co-founders

“Raw New York,” by today’s standards means showroom-ing with a stylist’s eye and feminine edge.

Anticipating the launch of its coworking space on July 15, Le Board‘s model is retail as a service, enhancing product discovery in a bare-bones, yet curated selling floor with the added layer of a women-centric entrepreneurial community operating overhead. Le Board is a community space for entrepreneurs in the consumer goods sector where people can eat, drink, shop, work, get inspired and meet like-minded individuals.

Founded in April 2018, Le Board piloted one location prior in New York City before the owners made the decision to expand to its location in SoHo, opening the storefront just over three weeks ago. With around 12,000 square feet operable over two floors of the space at 296 Canal Street — the building towers over the intersection, still bearing identifying landmarks as a former bank at the corner of Broadway and Canal Street.

Le Board

Le Board assumes two floors of a historic bank at the corner of Broadway and Canal Street, assuming 12,000 square feet.  Courtesy Image

Le Board’s cofounders, Sofia Karvela, who is creative director of Le Board, and John Aghayan, chief executive officer with prior experiences in pop-up retailing and finance, shared more of their vision for the space with WWD.

Aghayan said Le Board’s mission is all-encompassing, guiding brands “from the idea to the retail sale.”

Le Board acts as the “anchor tenant” for brands such as Wink Brow Bar, a New York-based clean fragrance brand, Kierin; beauty and wellness brand, A Wild Dove; fashion personality Alexa Chung’s fashion line, and others who would benefit from physical touch points in an area of dense foot traffic (the doors open directly onto a subway entrance).

Le Board

The selling floor of Le Board blends brands and encourages conversation.  Courtesy Image

A push from traditional shopping experiences is what’s helping revitalize neighborhoods so long as landlords are on board with enabling flash retailing — lending online concept stores the square footage to entertain with a physical presence.

Collaborative retailing offers “another spillway to the consumer,” according to Anjee Solanki, national director of retail services at Colliers-International, when asked for insight onto this retail trend. And it’s got momentum in the right markets.

“Taxation on empty storefronts or retail vacancy may provide a new retail home for brands that are vintage, indie to designer boutiques, creating a new chapter for the neighborhood.” She references the journey of the Shoreditch district in East London as a good example of retail at its inflection point.

Collective and collaborative-based retail systems are on the rise. Bulletin, The Wing and San Francisco-based Batch are others that blend new retail experiences and brand discovery — while splitting the rent.

Le Board builds its coworking community through an application process, appealing to budding start-ups and later-stage businesses, (some of which have investments in upward of $6 million), alike. It anticipates accepting 50 to 100 initial memberships, and men can join, so long as the brand is women-founded or women-led.

Monthly membership varies, with a five-day pass for $150, hot desk for $350 or dedicated desk for $600 per month. From there, members gain access to the retail selling floor, whereby Le Board has full-time staffers trained on each brand to engage with customers. The retail-as-a-service model allows fast and affordable entry for ready-to-wear at $100 per hanger plus a 20 percent commission with beauty and accessories categories seeing slightly higher rates.

Le Board

The second floor of Le Board is for coworking and membership begins at $150 per month.  Courtesy Image

“The model makes retail accessible and turn-key for brands without any upfront costs,” said Aghayan.

On how women-centered communities are proliferating in key cities, Melissa Gonzalez, ceo and founder of The Lionesque Group, said, “I think it makes a lot of sense as there is such a strong camaraderie around women who support women today. A veteran in advising and building out pop-up retail experiences for her clients, Gonzalez cited coworking and co-retailing models as a “challenging model,” remedied first by a curatorial approach. “Curation around products being showcased needs to be extremely purposeful and relevant,” reiterated Gonzalez.

“The biggest component is a styling service,” said Karvela, who is also a fashion stylist with more than 20 years in the industry. She teased a rental component of Le Board in the near future. “We believe in personal expression and aesthetics,” she reiterated — revealing how curation is top-of-mind for Le Board.

“It’s about creating awareness quickly, located under one roof with strong cotenancy with like brands or new-to-market brands, and in a location whereby costs, i.e.: rent, operational costs (security, utilities, etc.) are shared, reducing the overall occupancy costs,” said Solanki.

Le Board

The company has a full events calendar with an upcoming panel for working mothers on July 11.  Courtesy Image

The ability to test products and collect feedback are two major benefits of this retail model. “If food halls can do it, why not apparel, accessories, and other products?” reiterated Solanki.

But for Le Board — it’s all about community, too. The company has a full events calendar with an upcoming panel for working mothers on July 11 and a product collaboration with Cala, a small-batch design and manufacturing company for creatives, hosting a fanny pack collaboration launching Aug. 1 with a workshop in the space.