FIT alum Phillip Salem oversees OWEN, a multi-label specialty store that features both emerging and eminent designers. In addition to focusing on the contemporary market, Salem emphasizes the importance of personalized service in the retail world.
With so many multi-label stores on Washington Street, how do you differentiate your inventory?
Yes, there are a few multiple label brands on Washington Street but I like to consider them compliments rather than competition. I carry a different mix of designers and I buy from a different point of view. Even if there is a designer crossover or two, they are bought completely differently since they are different characters from the same book.
What service perks can one find at OWEN that they won’t find at other chains on the street?
Everyone that comes to OWEN will be treated like Beyoncé! It’s a motto I have stated since day one and have really implemented as a standard of service at OWEN! My staff is trained on every designer, country of origin, fit, and all the details that make each garment unique. It’s about getting the OWEN client involved with what they are buying so they leave with a sense of knowledge of what they are buying and a cute story surrounding their purchase!Can you tell us a bit about the design of the space? Why the brown lunch bags? Did you pack brown lunch bags as a kid?
Haha, the funny thing is I never pack my lunch, ever. Even in grade and high school I always bought lunch. But I really wanted to infuse the natural industrial history of the building with a more organic down to earth feel. I created a brand book, which had images and text that really showcased the elements I wanted incorporated into the store. I began working with Jeremy Barbour of Tacklebox NY and he really vacuumed what was in my brain and translated it perfectly into the space creating a warm environment.
What has the traffic been like?
It’s been great. Being at the entrance of The Highline has been an amazing benefit. Being right at the intersection of the West Village and the MPD has brought a mix of the neighborhood crowd and tourists from The Standard, The Jane Hotel and Gansevoort.
Do you find more customers are locals or tourists?
It’s truly a mix of both. Since OWEN is close to both a residential area and hotels, I get that perfect mix.
Which of your items were the first to sell out?
Henrik Vibskov sweaters, Joshua McKinley tanks, Kai-aakmann jumpsuits and all the Rodebjer knit sweaters, which are amazing!
Are shoppers looking for a specific price point?
Yes and no. I carry a mix of different designers, mainly in the advanced contemporary market, but I still have some great price point designers including Cheap Monday and Kai-aakmann, but I have a keen eye for design and quality. Someone may be attracted to Cheap Monday, but not realize its Cheap Monday until they see the label.
Which new designers can we expect for fall?
So many great ones! Ostwald Helgason and Sophie Hulme from London, Sally Lapointe from New York (a Gaga favorite) and Silent Damir Doma from Paris. A great mix!
Do you have a favorite up and comer you’d like to add to the mix?
I had my eye on Josh Goot from Australia and I am carrying him for AW12. It’s exquisite! He is an extremely innovative designer that knows how to use color and print with the best fabrics and fits. The fits are off the body, which is a huge style I love…clothes that fit off the body!
Are you doing all the buying on your own?
Yes, I hand pick every piece, from the stud earing down to the designer dresses.
Where will you be traveling for fashion week(s) this September?
Paris! I went for men’s and can’t wait to tackle women’s!