In an attempt to build a different type of retail atmosphere in the hinterland of the Lower East Side, the BID recently unveiled its newest project — a store named Forward at 72 Orchard Street between Broome and Grand Streets. But this isn’t just another new hip downtown boutique on a block that is currently home to old-fashioned fabric shops and women’s undergarment stores. The BID has selected four up-and-coming designers to showcase their wares in the store and learn the retail business from the ground up.
“Because many entrepreneurs don’t have the start-up capital necessary to secure retail space in Manhattan, Forward provides an opportunity for talented designers to learn all aspects of running a business, from the retail and wholesale sides of fashion to the merchandising and marketing,” said Andrew Flamm, executive director of the Lower East Side BID.
The narrow, 1,000-square-foot space serves as not only a retail shop, but also a showroom, office and production space. The store’s design was kept simple, with exposed brick walls and wood floors.
The shop will feature the works of four or five designers, each for a six-month stint. In an effort to create a stronger retail base in the neighborhood, the BID’s aim is to help these designer’s move into retail shops of their own. “The hope is that they’ll use the strength and consumer awareness to move up the street into a space they can afford,” said Flamm.
Each designer is required to take a 13-week entrepreneurial course in order to prepare them for overseeing the business responsibilities at the shop. They are also required to work a minimum of two days a week in the shop managing everything from sales and production to the phones.
The BID was able to finance Forward with grants and by putting up some money of its own. It has no financial expectations for the shop at this juncture, according to Flamm. Although reluctant to comment on how much BID has invested, its start-up costs, promotion and advertising ran into tens of thousands of dollars. However, making a profit isn’t the goal at this point. “The payback is helping the designers get on their feet and help them to create new businesses and to generate greater foot traffic for them and for other retailers in the neighborhood,” said Flamm.
The first crop of designers currently working at Forward have been chosen through a screening and voting process spearheaded by the BID’s board of directors. Owners of other neighborhood shops, such as Alife, Timtoum and Patch 155, were key in handpicking the group.
The designers include Jennifer Dwin, Siri Wilson, Franklin Rowe and Wendy Tabb. Dwin, a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute, prides herself on using unconventional fabrics for her pieces, like creating an evening dress out of T-shirt material. Wilson specializes in crochet, embroidery and embellishing vintage items. Rowe crafts sleek leather pieces for men and women, while Tabb focuses exclusively on jewelry design.
Retail prices at Forward range from $28 for a jeweled choker to $2,000 for a leather coat.
“We think this is going to be a terrific shot in the arm for the neighborhood in terms of generating new interest in it as a retail destination,” said Flamm. “There is a long history of mom-and-pop shops in this neighborhood. We’re not a group of chain stores, we’re not a mall. These are real people doing real things.””122701″>”1201″>”JENNIFER>”2001”>”WOMENS>