When Tess Giberson relaunched her collection last spring after a five-year hiatus — during which time she consulted and served as design director for Tse — it wasn’t a simple reboot. Before, the company was a one-woman operation focused around pricy handcrafted wares. Now Giberson is working with two business partners, Harriet Lau and Vickie See, and has repositioned the line at a contemporary price point. “It’s more about the bigger picture,” says Giberson. “I finally have the support to be able to think in a bigger scope.” On May 5, that will expand further when she officially opens her first flagship at 97 Crosby Street in New York’s SoHo.
The 1,200-square-foot space is one the designer has been quietly fine-tuning since she moved in last September, using it as her studio and showroom. “Then we realized it was a perfect space to start doing retail,” she says. “Crosby Street has such a great feeling. You can avoid the chaos of SoHo here. And there’s the Crosby Hotel [a few doors down].” So in January, Giberson began renovations and, last month, had a soft launch “to see how we wanted to lay things out,” she adds. “Having your own retail [store] is such an amazing tool to be able to express your vision, to have the environment to show my clothes exactly the way I want.”
The shop, which takes up 600 square feet, reflects the same sensibilities at the core of Giberson’s clothes — conceptual yet commercial, minimal but not sterile. It also taps into the notion of raw-meets-refined that has been a hallmark of her designs, which, for fall, include lush textured knits and chiffon dresses appliquéd with laser-cut tulle.
But beyond showcasing her clothes (and come fall 2013, handbags and shoes), the flagship also gives Giberson the opportunity to plug her network of talented friends. For starters, See’s boyfriend Alvin Lim, owner of Ambush boutique in Singapore, oversees the store’s retail operations, while the jewelry is courtesy of Ninh Wysocan, a fellow Rhode Island School of Design alum. Also for sale are old-school casette tapes, leftovers from Rob Pruitt and Jack Early’s controversial 1992 art show “Red, Black, Green, Red, White and Blue.”
“Everything I’m bringing in is either from a direct friend or friend of a friend,” Giberson remarks, noting she’s also working on a sunglass collaboration with artist-cum-musician Hisham Akira Bharoocha to make its debut next spring. Meanwhile, she’s also selling art books from Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery, where Giberson’s husband, artist Jon Widman, has shown work since 2004. Widman, in fact, is one of two artists whose work is on display in Giberson’s store. He created a series of hexagonal collages, featuring spliced photos of nature and meditative hand gestures, inspired by his wife’s spring line. “He’ll always be involved,” she says. “It may not necessarily be a collage. He’s also helping bring in the objects, books and the records.”
As for the art installation, just left of the store’s entrance, it was created by Carol Bove, who also made the metal backdrop for Giberson’s spring 2011 presentation. The new piece features an intriguing arrangement of peacock feathers, a dried walnut swinging from a brass frame and artfully draped mesh. There are more Bove pieces by the cash wrap, including a quill-filled wall sculpture. “I’ve known Carol for such a long time,” says Giberson, who plans to feature a rotating roster of artists. “I knew that what she would do would work because that’s my experience — working with people I trust.”