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DECOLLAGE: ART, APPAREL MIX IN WEST VILLAGE SALON

Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — There is life after fashion public relations.
Leah Forester and Heather Rich, two publicists well seasoned in the trade despite their relative youth, walked away from the comfort and security of in-house jobs last fall in search of a more meaningful business adventure. They have now teamed up to create an experimental company of their own in a rickety 1846 West Village town house here that combines their former press-hounding experience with retail entrepreneurship.
Forester, 27, was public relations and image director for Diane Von Furstenberg, while Rich, 29, was director of public relations for three years at Jill Stuart and most recently headed promotions for Next Model Management. They had wanted to strike out on their own for some time and, after Sept. 11, found themselves propelled to take a chance, “while we’re still young and willing to make a mistake,” Forester said.
Through friends, the duo discovered the four-story town house at 23 Eighth Avenue — most recently a private residence and once housed a cooking school — was available, so they made that the base of operations for their new business called Decollage.
They renovated its four rooms — one per floor — in a Thirties salon style, with chinoiserie wallpaper in the drawing room, a jade library, a rose boudoir and a gilded stairwell. Each room displays lingerie, dressing gowns, earrings and purses from the collections they will represent, casually strewn across antique furniture or, in one instance, a chandelier Forester trimmed with scraps of sable leftover from an old coat she had once remade into the lining of a denim jacket.
“Anything that we wanted to do would have a lot of obstacles,” said Forester. “I had a safe and steady, regular paycheck at Diane’s, but I figured there was nothing to lose at the end of the day.”
Decollage is part store and part showroom. Forester and Rich will sell pieces from several collections by private appointment or during salon nights beginning April 8, but they also represent several lines, such as Jennifer Porter’s jewelry, Nancy Bacich handbags, handmade knitwear from Lainey Keogh, Damaris Evans lingerie from London and Cozmo Jenks headpieces and hats adorned with sequins and mother-of-pearl. Virginia Bates is also a client, offering several vintage pieces culled from the Twenties and Thirties that help give Decollage an aura of a bygone era.
Furthering that motif, Forester and Rich looked to put together an eclectic mix of clients beyond fashion designers, such as Gracie New York, a 150-year-old firm that designed the chinoiserie wallpaper, and M.E. Rainer’s functional, handcrafted wood jewelry boxes.
Other friends have provided special products for Decollage, but are not being represented by the company for press. Zac Posen created one-of-a-kind dresses and men’s bow ties, while Alice Roi and Peter Som offered some runway pieces for the store, which will also carry Miller-Harris candles and perfumes, Rod Keenan hats, Wagner & Ko jewelry, Carlos Miele dresses, and cookbooks and sauces from Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Since many of the collections are being accepted on consignment, the idea of Decollage is to give designers and artists an outlet for some of their more avant-garde work they might not be able to place in a traditional retail venue.
“Some of the items we have now might change from season to season,” said Rich, who calls the Decollage concept a “fashion gallery. It’s going to be constantly changing and organic.”

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