NEW YORK — Veronika Brusa has a lot on her palette.
Brusa continues to produce art projects, design her Berenik collection, operate a Berenik store in Zurich, and on July 10, launch a 9,500-square-foot Berenik Boutique and Talenthouse at 419 Broome Street in SoHo here.
The store will be multifunctional, with the Berenik collection front and center, a photo studio and hair salon on the main floor.
Brusa plans to rent space to 50 designers. She declined to discuss the rent, but said the store would provide sales staff, storage space, use of its payment system and other support.
On Berenik.com, a message to designers reads: “We are a brand, too, and we understand the struggles of being a designer, so we truly have what you need.”
“We don’t want them to be pop-ups,” Brusa said of the designer shops. “We’re offering short-term and long-term rentals of several years. We’re doing everything so they don’t end up looking like pop-ups.”
The lower level will be devoted to a Berenik outlet, where she’ll close the loop on past-seasons’ merchandise.
Brusa said Berenik came together quickly. “I had the idea last fall and signed the lease seven months ago,” she said, as workers painted and used machine lifts to hang lighting. Several people were putting Berenik’s summer collection on racks, but the space looked raw.
“More locals are shopping on Broome Street. Obviously, it’s close enough to NoLIta and near Howard Street, which has become its own neighborhood. Lafayette Street is busy,” said Beth Rosen, the RKF broker who represented the landlord, Broad Broome LLC, noting that Berenik can draw shoppers from all those areas. “It’s not traditional retail. It offers a bit of a sense of discovery.”
Brusa’s designs have minimal decoration, and, rather, celebrate fabrics such as Japanese triacetate that doesn’t wrinkle. For spring, colors are mostly black and off-white, with some navy, peach and gold thrown in. A viscose crepe dress with an abstract print is $203; a black crepe coat, $240; a jumpsuit silk crepe with a black and gold print, $245, and a long sleeveless black dress, $170.
The designer said she conceived of Berenik as an “art-as-brand-brand-as-art” collection.
Sometimes art and fashion collide, as when Brusa incorporates her projects into Berenik presentations during New York Fashion Week. Her spring 2018 collection was featured with On the Train, Brusa’s photographs of desert landscapes, beaches and forests, and the artist riding the train next to a rainy window and in the sleeper car.
Brusa didn’t always see herself designing fashion. She attended The School of Design at GBS St. Gallen, in St. Gallen, Switzerland, graduating with a degree in visual arts, communication and design. Her art includes etching, woodcut printmaking, silkscreen processes, collage and sketching. While conducting artist residencies in cities such as Warsaw, and living in Buenos Aires, Shanghai and Paris, Brusa said she began formulating the idea for Berenik, which launched in 2012.
“I taught myself fashion design,” she said. “I made a lot of awful stuff and ruined a lot of fabric.”
When Brusa’s husband got a job in Shanghai, they moved to China. “That’s when I really started to produce. I lived in Shanghai for a year.” Brusa said the designers she met in Shanghai who were starting their own businesses inspired her to take out loans and make the necessary investment in her brand.
Brusa still owns Berenik. “It all belongs to me,” she said. “I had a lot of money come in and family money,” she said.
The Talenthouse part of the store’s name refers not only to the independent designers, but to a coworking area on the lower level. “I want to have writers, photographers and videographers,” Brusa said. “We’ll bring our resources together and make projects that are difficult to do if you don’t have a lot of money.
“New York has a lot of ambition,” she added. “I’d like to do film production and TV shows. I have lots of writer friends with great ideas. We’ll build out the platform and if cash is needed, we’ll provide it from Berenik.”
Brusa wants to build a community of creatives that will call Berenik home. “We want to have cool people around,” she said. “I love my work, but last year I realized I need to change some things in my life. I don’t want to be sitting in my studio for 16 or 17 hours a day anymore.”