Model and entrepreneur Armando Cabral is taking the plunge into U.S. retail.
Cabral, who launched a footwear and leather accessories brand 14 years ago, will open Armando Cabral Mercado on April 7. The store, which will offer an immersive Afro-centric retail experience, has taken a one-year lease on a 1,500-square-foot space at 60 West 50th Street in Rockefeller Center. The store will also serve to launch Cabral’s new jewelry collection.
“When we relaunched last year, I knew we had to find a way to bring the brand concept to life in a dedicated space,” Cabral said. “Everything I create has a high touch and feel quotient. It is made to be experienced in person. However, I didn’t want to open a shoe store because the brand is so much more than footwear.”
In addition to his brand, Armando Cabral Mercado, which means “marketplace” in Portuguese, will feature nine emerging and advanced African designers who will open a rotating series of pop-ups in the store. The clothing, accessories and art brands will complement Cabral’s collection.
“I want to be an incubator for African designers and the store is the perfect opportunity to bring this vision to life,” he said. “The Mercado will give New Yorkers and visitors a window into the world of African art, fashion design and its beauty [and] African creatives an amplified voice here in New York.”
Cabral was born in Guinea-Bissau, grew up in Portugal and was educated in London. He was recruited to become a model while at college and eventually moved to New York, where he started his brand in 2008. Although he has operated stores in Portugal and Kuwait, this is his first retail outpost in the U.S.
The pop-up program is part of a partnership between Cabral and Afreximbank, a longtime champion of African commerce, and its Canex project, which provides financing and promotion for African businesses. Among the brands that will be featured are Taibo Bacar, Doreen Mashika, Maison D’Afie, Shekudo, Silk and Sleek and fine artist Reggie Khumalo.
The space was created by Brooklyn-based designer Stephen Burks of Stephen Burks Man Made and will reflect Cabral’s “eclectic cosmopolitan sensibility and hybrid African roots,” Burks said. At the center is a shimmering curtain, the walls and ceiling are brightly colored and Burks’ furniture will be featured throughout. They’ve even worked to develop a scent that will be used in the space.