Twenty Montreal has set up shop in New York City, opening its first retail location in SoHo at 242 Lafayette Street.
The 1,400-square-foot store houses Twenty’s latest men’s and women’s collections and capsules crafted from the brand’s technological inventions, including 3D activewear and Hyper Reality Knits.
The store also houses a coffee counter and juice bar and space to showcase brand collaborations, additional packaged goods and products by different artists, and a gallery space for local artists.
“It’s our first store globally for us,” said founder and designer David Helwani. “Much of what grows out of New York City ends up affecting us on such a global level that it has been the aspirational place to be.”
Helwani grew up in Montreal, but spent the second half of his life in New York City studying law and in the music industry. He launched Twenty in 2011 to propose a more relaxed, comfortable knitwear offering. The brand became a favorite amongst athletes and celebrities, including more recently Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez and LeBron James.
The founder said the brand’s analytics and history with wholesale informed the decision to open in New York City, as well as the city’s fashion history especially in SoHo and the street they have moved into, which Helwani sees as a “once in a lifetime spot.” He mentioned stores like Kith and John Elliott as more motivation to move to Lafayette Street, which has a reputation for buzzy restaurants and stores and an energy left behind by Supreme.
Twenty, much like the industry, met hardship in 2020 due to the pandemic, but experienced a boom in online despite the unfortunate circumstances. Helwani said the brand saw a 428 percent increase year-to-date, which was feedback they weren’t necessarily receiving from wholesale partners.
“The decision was made with info that we wouldn’t be able to have 10 years ago,” Helwani said. “I live a few blocks from the store and felt comfortable being around there and building a community and getting into plans I have for the community.”
Helwani experiments often with knits to create a new product and developed a Hyper Reality Knit that creates what appears to be a print on a sweater, but is actually a design created from the knit.
The designer partnered on this technology with famed photographer Chi Modu, who captured the early days of hip-hop and its many eras, for The David Helwani Project, an initiative where Helwani will collaborate with artists. Helwani tried to get in touch with Modu for three years before meeting the photographer in SoHo and explaining his idea, the technology and how they could collaborate.
They partnered on two sweaters that feature two of Modu’s most famous portraits — Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. — knit into the sweater. Due to the process, they produced a limited run of both styles in November 2020, which have been worn by shoppers and even put on display like a piece of artwork.
“It made sense to have him as a seminal artist,” Helwani said. “Chi was going to be the lead-off and recurring artist.”
Chi Modu passed away on May 24 at age 54 from cancer. “I had no idea he was sick,” Helwani said. “I was in complete shock, it came so fast. I was happy that he was happy with the project because I didn’t want to disappoint him. He’s a legend and I revere him in an iconic way and didn’t want to denigrate his work. Chi was so gregarious and it was a pleasure to be around him. I was just happy to have time with him.”