Byline: Kristin Larson

NEW YORK — Forging ahead like “true New Yorkers,” Kenneth Cole says there’s no time like the present to open the first flagship for his Reaction brand.
“Right now, there’s great opportunity to make a statement,” said Cole, designer and president of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., who offered a preview of the store Wednesday. “New Yorkers need to get out and get on with their lives. So what better time than now to do this and make a statement?”
Cole said originally the plan was to open the Reaction Kenneth Cole store in November, but because of the events last month, the company decided to push up the opening. The space — roughly 6,500 square feet, with about half that devoted to actual selling — at 130 East 57th Street, opens today.
Situated among a diverse range of stores and businesses, the location was chosen for its appeal as a prime international shopping hub. “It’s kind of the downtown of uptown,” said Paul Blum, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “This person doesn’t have time to go to SoHo and that accessibility really extends beyond location to the products.”
Setting itself apart from the more sophisticated Kenneth Cole line, the Reaction flagship will carry a younger, hipper mix to cater to that line’s more casual and spontaneous audience, said Blum. This shop is considered a prototype for potential openings within department stores and other units throughout urban cities in the U.S. While smaller in scope than the Kenneth Cole flagship, it features a full assortment of men’s and women’s sportswear, shoes, outerwear, bags and accessories. About 30 percent of the assortment is denim. Prices range from $38 for a cotton T-shirt to $300 for a leather jacket. A denim jacket retails for $68.
A special feature of the store is vintage items — such as denim pants, T-shirts, sunglasses and purses — to offer an individual edge to this urban customer, Blum said.
“The Reaction customer doesn’t want to be told ‘this is the look.’ It’s old with new,” he said.
Location is not the only point of difference to the Reaction Kenneth Cole store. The space was designed by a team of in-house architects to reflect the fresh, urban image of the line. To evoke a playful, energetic feel, the lighting is bright, the walls are white and there are high-tech video monitors throughout the store. Club music is constant and loud. A blownup version of the children’s toy Lite-Brite covers one wall of the entrance. A dry-erase board for scribbling is displayed behind the cash registers.
Playing on the international essence of New York, the ceiling and floor lighting is reminiscent of the London subway, while clothing displayed from Bungee cords on the walls is meant to look like flea markets in Florence. Even the mannequins are of global nature, designed to represent all nationalities. Taking inspiration from airport baggage checks, there are bag pass-throughs located near the registers.
Cole calls the store a “celebration” of New York, and on that note, will be handing out “I Love New York” T-shirts to the first few thousand who enter the store today. Artists will be on hand to customize the shirts Oct. 26-27.
“New York has this spirit, energy and diversity that doesn’t exist anywhere,” Cole said. “If you can appeal to New York as a community, then effectively, you’ve got something that you can sell anywhere.”

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