The sign may say Marty’s Liquor & Gourmet, but once you enter Academy of Art University’s new Shop657, any thoughts of six-packs and Slim Jims will be banished. After the success of the academy’s spring pop-up store, the school of fashion merchandising has created its first permanent retail space in Union Square, curated and operated by students from the program.
“From product development to merchandising, design of the space to sales, (the store) is entirely student-driven,” says Keanan Duffty, senior director of the fashion merchandising school, who chatted about the boutique and its mission. “It’s really a beginning-to-end experience for the students as they follow the life of a product.”
Shop657 had a limited opening in December for the 2014 holiday season, and after closing for winter break, it reopens with the start of the school’s spring semester on Monday. For Duffty, it is the perfect marriage of concept and space. The prewar architectural flourishes, revealed while preparing the boutique, were freshened with a coat of gallery-white paint, making the walls perfect for projecting student artwork, look-book images and footage from the school’s annual New York Fashion Week runway show at Lincoln Center.
“It’s been cleaned up for retail, but it’s still got a little of that grit at the edges,” Duffty says of the way the building’s character was utilized in the shop’s design. It’s a site-specific concept that recalls New York boutiques like John Varvatos’ use of the former CBGB space or Todd Snyder’s City Gym.
“The location is perfect, between proximity to school and shoppers,” Duffty says. “There aren’t other stores really like this in Union Square. I think we’ll attract a different kind of person to the area. It has great destination potential.”
The shop features products by Academy of Art University alumni brands (naturally), including womenswear by Rinat Brodach, jewelry by Golden Pony Workshop, women’s shoes by Konstantina Tzovoulou, menswear by Voidthebrand, cheeky sweaters with #selfie motifs by Sha Suganda’s Chibi and academy sweatshirts customized by textile students.
Duffty points out a series of pillows emblazoned with neon graffitied classical portraits by pseudo-punk home line Apartment 415, Joanne Lu’s minimalist cashmere coats for Mute and Tommy Pham’s “Homiès” sweatshirts (playing on the classic Hermès logo) for San Francycle as popular standouts over the holiday season. He notes that designers and merchandise will frequently change, giving the students more opportunity to experience real-world buying and curating for retail.
“Many of the alumni designers in Shop657 are already carried in other stores and have their own followings,” Duffty says. “There’s a few we might not be able to keep here long because of the demand and their success away from the academy. If designers do cycle out of here for that reason, it’s a great dilemma to have.”