NEW YORK — George Sotelo has a story to tell and he’s turned it into a physical experience at his first Thorsun store in SoHo here.
Over the weekend, the founder and designer of the men’s swimwear and lifestyle brand quietly opened the doors to a 1,600-square-foot store at 93 Crosby Street. The shop, which he is calling Thorsun La Isla Manhattan, is technically a pop-up, but Sotelo said he has plans to make it a permanent location.
“I have a great wholesale business with some terrific partners but I’m tired of advertising online and having people opt out,” he said. “This is a billboard in the middle of Manhattan.”
The store was designed to illustrate Thorsun’s “travel narrative.” Sotelo started the brand in 2016 with just men’s swimwear but has since expanded into shirts, footwear, women’s, children’s and home products — all centered around the travel message. Sotelo also has an ongoing collaboration with Charvet for a resortwear collection, which is being carried at the store, and the plan going forward is for the Thorsun label to further expand into categories such as sweaters and other heavier-weight pieces for winter travel that will be called Thorsun Mountain.
While the anchor brand is Thorsun, the store also offers an assortment of brands in womenswear, accessories and beauty, all of which have their roots in travel or Sotelo’s home country of Mexico. Women’s brands include Thakoon, Anna Sui, Lisa Marie Fernandez and Caravana. There are Mexican ponchos and an assortment of beauty and wellness brands including Francisco Costa Brazil, Granado, Paloroma and Arquiste, along with an assortment of ceramics and pottery from artisans in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca and Michoacan, where his family is from.
The store also carries House of Intuition healing products and candles, luggage from FPM Luggage and has partnered with WatchBox to sell pre-owned luxury watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe and others. Coming soon will be an assortment of rare first-edition books from the Hydra Book Club.
Later this summer, he will also introduce a travel company and magazine for people to book trips.
“I’m approaching my 20th anniversary of living in New York and I’m here to stay. I travel to a lot of beach locations but always come back to this island, the best island in the world,” he said of Manhattan. And the store is intended to “romanticize the experience” and celebrate his adopted hometown while paying tribute to his roots.
“We’ll offer the best Latin American resortwear, ceramics and art,” he said. Everything in the store is for sale, including flowers, bananas — still on the tree branch — and artwork from American artist Brent Owens curated by Natasha Wolff of Sperone Westwater.
The plan is to have a rotating selection of merchandise as well as installations and events throughout the summer.
Sotelo got the taste for retail when he served as the creative director of the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y., a few years ago and selected the assortment for its shop. “I enjoyed being a merchant and bringing in other brands,” he said. So when conceiving his own store, he sought labels that would be a complement to the Thorsun resort life message.
Since opening over the weekend, Sotelo said sales have been triple projections. “People are interested in shopping again,” he said, adding that the bulk of the shoppers were tourists who have returned to New York. “This is amazing advertising for the brand,” he said.
It’s not the last Thorsun store he intends to open. At the end of July he will open a pop-up in Bodrum in Turkey in the luxury hotel Macakizi. The shop will be done in partnership with Istanbul 74 Escape, a platform for designers and artisans, and will be open through September.
He also plans to open a shop in Sao Paulo in Brazil this winter in a luxury shopping center in that city that will remain open through the country’s summer season.