Sonja Rubin and Kip Chapelle were among the pioneers in the Meatpacking District when they opened their boutique there in 2002. Although that store was shuttered in 2013, the designers of Rubin & Chapelle have returned to Manhattan with the opening of a shop later this week at 964 Madison Avenue between 75th and 76th Streets.
The duo, who met at the Fashion Institute of Technology, created their women’s brand in 1997 and at their peak counted Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus as among their retail clients. Their collection is known for its sleek and sophisticated silk dresses, pants and tops that drape with ease over the body. The line is now sold exclusively direct-to-consumer through the brand’s e-commerce site as well as at its store in Malibu.
The Malibu unit opened in 2011 and features a gallery-style design that was used as the prototype for the two-level Upper East Side store in New York. Both were designed by Annabelle Selldorf.
Chapelle said he and Rubin were about to sign a lease for the store in January, right before the pandemic-fueled lockdown, but waited until now to take the plunge. Sales of the brand have rebounded after a dip at the start of the health crisis, giving them the confidence to revisit their retail plans.
“New York is a challenging environment for retail but this is such an iconic place,” he said. “We just felt like this was the right time to open a store.”
Rubin said they never considered going back to the Meatpacking District since the neighborhood has changed dramatically since they operated there nearly a decade ago. But the Upper East Side with its high-end hotels, galleries and proximity to Central Park was the key motivating factor for taking this space.
The boutique, which spans two levels, is “not really big, but it’s unique,” Chapelle said. As a result, the assortment offered at the store will be curated and the remainder of the line will be showcased on screens displayed on the walls.
What is being carried are the duo’s bias and spiral-cut silk tops, dresses and jackets, which are designed to be worn from day into evening. The daywear and a new collection of bags are merchandised on the ground level, while a bespoke program is housed on the second floor where customers can select fabrics and silhouettes and place orders that can be delivered in as little as one week. Prices include $680 for tops and $920 for pants to $1,850 to $7,200 for evening. The collection is produced in New York and fresh offerings are expected to be delivered every four to six weeks, they said.
The bags, a new category for Rubin & Chapelle, are inluenced by equestrian, saddle and bridle equipment, and consist of four styles and colorways made with recycled leather and manufactured in the U.S. from artisanal leather that is vegetable-tanned in local tanneries and assembled in Manhattan. The collection ranges in price from $890 to $1,850.
In addition to creating their designer collection, Rubin and Chapelle are teaching a four-semester, fashion thesis program at FIT where they have brought in guest speakers such as Hussein Chalayan, Dr. Valerie Steele and Edward Buchanan.
The official opening date for the store is Wednesday.