The Great Eros recently opened its third store, a 600-square-foot unit at 66 Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan’s West Village, which embodies its ethos of comfort and beauty.
“I wanted to create an environment for the clothing to sit in,” said designer and cofounder Christina Viviani. “It’s the intimate experience I felt was missing in retail.”
Viviani’s bras, panties, bustiers and bodysuits are manufactured in Italy at a family-owned factory operated by the third generation. The matte Italian fabric of the Sonata bralette is edged in a custom geometric lace woven by a third-generation lacemaker in Como, Italy. Hang tags for the collection are printed on paper milled in Fabriano, Italy. Talk about attention to detail.
Viviani spent 15 years working in design capacities at Donna Karan and other brands before launching the business with cofounder Emilio Ramirez. She test-drives every product. “I’m a size DD,” she volunteered. “The Great Eros is wearable sensuality in modern, timeless pieces. It’s for a woman who’s dressing for herself. The store is a very safe place for women to explore themselves.”
Fabric is one of the top priorities for Viviani. Eros’ signature Italian double-layer mesh is used for the Canova double bralette. The Forma bandeau is made from Ponte de Roma cotton that’s free-cut with lattice stitch detail from a vintage Swiss machine. “It’s our signature thing,” she said, adding that she’s working with micro ribs and knits from Japan and silk from China.
Viviani spends a lot of time on fit. Heat-molded technology “gives a great ergonomic shape” to bras, she said. “Most intimates are fitted on just a size B. We’re giving women a new shape.”
Eros’ loungewear is not necessarily meant to be worn strictly at home. Nearly every item doubles as ready-to-wear, Viviani said, citing the Ereni wrap dress with French cuffs, $425; Crudo raw silk pants with a paper bag waist, $265; Fresco bodysuit in Italian cotton and tulle, $110; Tilia Japanese knit draped T-shirt with back ruche detail, $135, and Tilia T-shirt with knot over the bust, $135.
Viviani points to the brand’s namesake, a hardcover copy of Eros magazine, Autumn 1962 issue with an 18-page photo shoot by Bert Stern of Marilyn Monroe weeks before her death.
“We call this our grown-up store,” Viviani said, noting that in Brooklyn, the Williamsburg unit has 400 square feet of selling space, and Boerum Hill, 175 square feet. A section of the store offers tastefully labeled objects such as the Minamo vibrator, made by women, $120; Sakura with a cherry blossom-smooth texture, $90, and Yuki, with a texture that feels like mochi, $90.
The store, designed by Rufus Knight of Knight Associates, was inspired by early- to mid-century modernist artists such as Valentine Schlegel, Jean Arp and Brancusi, “whose fluid forms take on primitive and anthropomorphic qualities” Viviani said. Panels of oiled Sapele wood frame the collection. Apparatus lighting, which combines vintage lighting components with aged brass, gives the space an incandescence. A large nude painting of a woman by Kristen Giorgi commands prime wall space above the fireplace. Giorgi’s nudes in pen and ink were printed on Eros’ tissue paper.
So far, Viviani and Ramirez have financed the business themselves, but she said they may be open to outside investors. The brand is growing at wholesale accounts such as Journelle, Barneys New York, Need Supply, the Dreslyn, J. Crew and Madewell.
“We’ve more than doubled our growth,” Viviani said. “We’re up 61 percent from our first to second year. For us, having retail is having the right home to connect with customers.”
Viviani plans to open stores on the West Coast, and eventually, international units. “Expanding into swimwear is a no-brainer. I’d like to grow the assortment with more deliveries, but I want to stay focused on what we have. We have a story to tell.”