Self-Portrait’s new 2,590-square-foot concept store, which opens today in Manhattan’s SoHo, dedicates a significant amount of space to an abstract idea — an installation that occupies the front of 158 Mercer Street.
The unit comes as the brand is expanding in several directions, including a store in Bangkok and growing wholesale distribution on three continents.
“The concept of the store is about the experience for clients, which is why we created this installation inside,” said Han Chong, founder and creative director of Self-Portrait, which is based in London, but shows its collections in New York. “Besides shopping, we want it to be experiential and a unique brand experience.”
With the luxury of space and 22-foot-high ceilings, Chong was able to indulge his artistic inclinations without sacrificing the rationale of the store.
Clear circles in otherwise concealed windows reveal to passersby the installation, which consists of layers of sequined lace hanging from rings and suspended within a raw timber structure that looks like the shell of a house that’s under construction. The tactile fabric labyrinths are interspersed with soft gradient LED lights that travel across a spectrum of whites to pinks to ambers.
Storey Studio, which created the installation, chose lace because the fabric is prominently featured in Chong’s designs, including in the monochrome geometric lace of a frilled mididress, and tear-drop lace of the duck egg maxidress. Prices for ready-to-wear range from $275 to $595, and swimwear, $90 to $470.
The location bows with Self-Portrait’s fall 2019 ready-to-wear collections as well as exclusive dresses and tops developed for the store. There’s also footwear, and a selection of swimwear, a new category for the brand. An assortment of resort 2020, including ready-to-wear, swimwear and footwear will arrive later.
“We wanted to create products that are inspired by the city and exclusive to that market,” Chong said. “We have a selection of exclusive rtw, dresses and tops. With the creative concept of the store, I wanted to also create limited-edition products that will drop periodically with in-store release dates to be announced on our Instagram account, @mrselfportrait. There’s a print we designed for the store that will be on T-shirts, sweatshirts and slipdresses. Besides clothing, we have fun items like sticky notes, water bottles and tote bags.”
Tailoring and alteration services are available at the store, along with assistance with web special orders.
The Central Saint Martins school graduate said the New York store looks completely different from the flagship, which in 2018 bowed on Albemarle Street in the Mayfair section of London.
“New York is a concept store and open for a limited time, so we wanted to treat it as its own special design,” Chong said, noting that it will operate through early December. “I take into consideration the local culture of whatever city we open in and make sure it reflects that personality in the design. Although the design of the London and New York stores are different, they still share the same element of exploration and discovery. I wanted to create a dynamic and exciting shopping experience in New York.”
While phrases such as urban-cool and ultra-feminine, which are used to describe the brand, may seem mutually exclusive, Chong is a master of the mix. For example, burgundy faux leather shorts with fine black lace at the hem, are worthy of Stevie Nicks.
The duality of hard and soft has fueled Self-Portrait’s popularity. The brand logged more than 111 percent compound annual triple-digit growth over the last three years, according to Chong, who said the 2019 growth strategy is focused on company-owned stores achieving double-digit comp-sales year-over-year.
Chong revealed that Self-Portrait will open a store in Bangkok later this year, is expanding into Latin America and Scandinavia and planning stores in key cities in China with Ellassay Group, which announced earlier this month that it will invest $4.2 million in the contemporary label. Together, they’ll operate and manage Self-Portrait’s Chinese assets.
“We wanted to continue to grow our business in China and finding the right partner was a crucial step,” Chong said. [Ellassay Group’s] local expertise will help us navigate the market with a stronger understanding of how to serve our Chinese consumers. We are working with them on the strategy and the best way to establish a better business there.”
“We’re working with our existing retail partners to find ways to support them and the demand of the [Self-Portrait] business. At Lane Crawford, which has carried our brand for a long time, we opened a Self-Portrait shop-in-shop at the Chengdu location earlier this year.”
Self-Portrait’s second-biggest market after the U.K. is the U.S., and Chong said, “I would love to open more stores in the U.S., maybe in Los Angeles. I was there in April, and love the lifestyle there. It’s casual and cool, so maybe we could have a store there.”
“The indescribable energy of New York City and its expansive arts and cultural scene is what inspires me and inspired the concept of the store,” Chong said. “When we decided to open a store, New York was the clear choice. It’s an iconic international destination for our global clientele.
“We’re continuing to build a brand that can transcend category, sector and geography, and that women from all over the world can feel connected to and empowered by,” Chong said. “My design philosophy has always been to think of the modern woman. [Self-Portrait] was created for her and to make her feel great. I have a real-world approach to beautiful clothes.”