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NEW YORK — James Coviello’s new 400-square-foot store at 70 Orchard Street reeks of authenticity.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Brass gas lamp fixtures with milk-glass shades from the 1890s hang in the windows, and antique glass cases display Coviello’s hat designs and bell jars. Walls are covered in vintage wallpaper from the Twenties and Forties hung by Coviello himself, and the sign on the door was hand-painted in 23-karat gold leaf.

Coviello said he expects the store, his first retail venture, to do $500,000 in its first year.

“The store has created new challenges,” he said. “There’s a big learning curve. But having wholesale exclusively, you can really lose touch with the customer. I’m going to work in the store on Saturdays. I know the clothes better than anybody. A designer is a natural salesperson.”

Coviello is looking forward to merchandising his collection as he intended it to be presented. “I’m finding that retailers don’t really know what I’m about,” he said. “They don’t know how to represent my line. Everything I’m going to show in the showroom, I’m going to shorten 4 inches for the store. The neighborhood is trendy and there’s also European tourists.”

Prices for Coviello’s fall designs range from $175 for a printed top to $695 for a tweed jacket with a pink shearling collar. Coviello, who designed jewelry for Erickson Beamon when he was 19, is creating a jewelry collection. The designer, who also was a milliner earlier in his career, will offer a selection of his hats, and he’s designed tote bags from leftover fabric. Art books and gifts round out the assortment. “I’m talking to retailers about bridal,” he said. “It would suit me. I’d have about five or six styles in the store.”

A large room behind the store houses Coviello’s design studio, where seamstresses will be available to do free alterations for customers.

Flower arrangements made from bark, dried berries and leaves and tall grasses give the store a woodsy feeling. Coviello said he wanted the two display windows to look like a forest, so he filled them with huge branches and fallen leaves.

“This is going to be the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Coviello said. “I wanted to be more creative. I wanted to go back to why I wanted to be a designer.”

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