Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — Paul & Joe, the hip Paris-based fashion line, opened its first U.S. outpost Sept. 29 at 2 Bond Street here.
Location was key for founder and designer Sophie Albou. She chose the quiet yet upscale NoHo block between Broadway and Lafayette because she loves the downtown area but wanted to avoid the “overcrowdedness and obviousness” of SoHo.
“I like the idea of discovering new streets that are quaint and eclectic. Every Paul & Joe boutique location has this similar, special feeling,” said Albou. She also was interested in making her shop a “destination” as opposed to another generic boutique on a street crowded with big-name shops.
The 2,500-square-foot space, designed by Jeanette Bronee, strikes a balance between old and new: exposed brick, lattice detailing and high ceilings complement wide wood plank floors stained olive-gray and minimal furnishings. A large blackboard behind the register is open for shoppers’ random doodling, adding an air of whimsy and accessibility to the store — which was Albou’s aim.
“My idea of shopping in a Paul & Joe store is to feel comfortable, to relax, to spend time, to meet friends. It’s not just for looking at clothes, it’s to have a good time. You can go with your kids, your friends, your family and you can have a chat. It’s a cozy, very convivial, friendly place,” said Albou.
One of the main reasons the opening of the New York store is important for Albou is that she’ll be able to showcase her full lines of women’s and men’s apparel. While Paul & Joe is carried by more than 70 department and specialty stores in the U.S., like Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, none buys the whole line.
“My feeling is that even people who know the line don’t know it that well because there are only a few styles in each store. I am a strong believer that one’s own boutique is the only way to paint a complete picture of what a company truly represents,” she added. That she’s accomplished. Racks of the young and flirty men’s and women’s collections are interspersed throughout the store. Its spaciousness and relative starkness allows the focus to remain on the clothes. Women will find smart boiled wool coats, knockout trousers, rich knits, sheer lace tops and printed blouses with a vintage feel. The men’s line falls more to the wild side, with tapestry pants, slim-fitting shirts and sumptuous sweaters.
Retail prices range from $138 for shirts to $685 for coats.
Overall volume for the company is about $15 million, and it expects first-year sales of $1.5 million from the new store. Even though the bulk of Albou’s business is wholesale — 70 percent — her retail business is expanding swiftly. She has 21 stores worldwide in Japan, France, England, Australia and China. And while Albou would like to open more stores in the U.S., she has no plans to do so yet. “Opening this store in New York has been like a new adventure. Because it is New York, it was a big challenge,” said Albou. “But we put our hearts and enthusiasm in this new store, and we hope people will love it.”