NEW YORK — It took more than 180 years, but Woolrich finally has a New York City flagship.
This past weekend, the company, which was founded in 1830, quietly opened a 1,900-square-foot, two-level store at 125 Wooster Street in SoHo here. The store carries men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories under the Woolrich John Rich & Bros. label, the company’s more contemporary offering that has been designed in partnership with WP Lavori in Corso for 16 years.
In June, the Woolrich, Pa.-based Woolrich and the Bologna, Italy-based WP Lavori expanded their 35-year-long licensing deal. Under the terms of the new, long-term international distribution agreement, WP Lavori will manage the European, Japanese and Korean markets, while Woolrich Inc. will oversee operations in North America and handle logistics and distribution. The companies will work together to coordinate activities in China and support the growth of Woolrich’s historic woolen mill in Pennsylvania, including investing in new machinery and working with new fibers, such as cashmere, mohair and cotton blends.
Joshua Rich, executive vice president of Woolrich and the eighth generation of the founding family, called the long-standing association with WP Lavori “an intimate relationship.”
That history shows in the new store, in which vintage pieces from the original mill share space with antique windows and furniture from an Italian hardware store.
The upper level is devoted to the Woolrich John Rich & Bros. collection, with men’s and women’s sportswear on opposite sides and, in the center near the cash register, a rack of parkas for both genders. Wool blankets, hats, bags and other accessories are also offered, as are Mark McNairy for New Amsterdam shoes. A McNairy-designed collection of shoes under the Woolrich label as well as others from Generic Surplus will be delivered by the end of the month, Rich said.
The store also will offer some exclusive product that will be sold only in New York City. Cristina Calori, WP Lavori’s founder and president, said these special items will be the “interpretation of pieces in the archive collection” that have been updated to appeal to a modern customer.
The lower level is designed as a contemporary men’s club and houses the Mark McNairy-designed Woolrich Woolen Mills collection, the company’s special Made in U.S.A. collection, and other special projects. The Made in U.S.A. collection of men’s coats, vests, scarves, bags, shirt jackets, blankets and backpacks are based on modern interpretations of some key pieces.
The store also will house art exhibits, such as the Douglas Kirkland black-and-white photographs on the walls that Woolrich commissioned in 2010 to commemorate its 180th anniversary. Celebrities such as Andy Garcia are photographed in the company’s parkas, a product that Woolrich is credited with creating in 1972 for the Alaskan pipeline workers.
Images from Italian artist Paolo Ventura, who shot the brand’s fall campaign, are expected to be showcased at the end of October.
The windows feature the work of contemporary Italian artist Giacomo Lion, who uses fabric threads to create structures that are meant to blur the lines between design and art. Lion has reinterpreted the iconic Woolrich buffalo-check print to create a one-of-a-kind structure that will live indefinitely in the store’s windows.
The New York store is the first of several that are planned around the world. In the U.S., Rich said the plan is to “conservatively open at least five stores within the next three years in key metropolitan cities,” such as Boston, Seattle and Aspen, Colo.; the companies are “evaluating Canada.”
Stores recently opened in Prague and Hamburg. A 1,000-square-foot shop-in-shop at Isle of Man, Chicago, is scheduled to open next week, and a shop-in-shop is planned to open on Oct. 15 at Beaker in Seoul, followed by a Tokyo store slated to open two days later. The brand is also carried at Isetan, Beams and United Arrows in Asia.
By 2020, some 50 Woolrich stores are expected to operate in major cities and ski resorts in Asia, Europe and North America, the companies said.
WP Lavori operates 10 Woolrich stores in Europe as well as nearly 30 shops-in-shop in Italy and close to 20 in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, the U.K. and Spain.
“We’ve been talking about bringing our retail concept back home to the U.S. for a long time,” said Rich. “The brand has performed very successfully in Europe and Asia over the past few decades, but we’ve never had a strong retail presence in the U.S. We’re moving into SoHo just as the temperature is dropping, so the timing couldn’t be better.”
Calori said the Woolrich John Rich & Bros. product still sells quite well in Europe, and sales in Italy continue to strengthen. In fact, according to Patrick Nebiolo, executive vice president of Woolrich, business is running close to 20 percent ahead of last year in Europe. The label has been sold in America for only the past four years in stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Scoop.
Rich said sales of the contemporary collection are expected to get a boost from being added to the Woolrich e-commerce site this fall for the first time.