There’s definitely a synergy between a certain type of upscale American designer and stores that think they’re art galleries. We’ve seen it from The Row, we saw it (briefly) from Raf-era Calvin Klein, and now it’s the turn of Khaite, whose first store opened last week in SoHo.
Think minimalist concrete walls, even minimalist-er merchandising (a lone dress on a rail), contemporary art touches and a general air of austere intimidation. Reader, I love it.
“We wanted to honor the birth of SoHo as an artistic environment, from Andy Warhol on to the minimalist sculpture movement that Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Richard Serra brought,” Khaite’s Cate Holstein told WWD. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these designers are favoured by the type of women who collect modern art or work in an art-adjacent world. Rachel Tashjian kind of sums her up in her piece on NYFW’s ‘anti-clickbait’ designers.
“I really do love this New York woman, who runs an art gallery or just frequents them, and who gets excited about seeing a Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat-clad Deborah Eisenberg walking down Wooster, and always gets a good table at Raoul’s, and likes to sneak the occasional cigarette. The kind of woman who needs some beautiful pieces to mix in with her mom’s vintage Alaïa or and Yohji. She’s such a cool, aspirational person—aspirational in the sense that you want to dress like her and know how her mind works, what she’s reading and listening to.”
Tashjian could, in fact, be describing Vanessa Traina, Khaite’s style director, uber-chic 2010s-era tastemaker and also daughter of famous couture-ista Danielle Steele. This wealthy, tasteful, ‘effortlessly’ stylish archetype is also the muse of Proenza Schouler this season. “We’re tired of all this fantasy and Instagram clothes,” huffed Lazaro Hernandez. Proenza Schouler’s stylist? Vogue’s Camilla Nickerson obvs.
One might expect an art lover to dress in crazy conceptual garb and wacky colours; Peggy Guggenheim and her butterfly sunglasses spring to mind. But no, this Frieze-frequenting version of the art patron is much more understated. Affectionately known as a Low Key Rich Bitch (h/t Max Berlinger), she’s your girl in Old Celine, New New Bottega and first to get her hands on so-new-it’s-not-even-born Phoebe Philo.
Even though they’re discreet, like a Donald Judd chair, these pieces still have the potential to be impressive. While a pristine Hermès Birkin is now considered somewhat cheugy, the arty Khaite It totes* and boots* are considered investment ‘artefacts’, aka future heirlooms to be passed down the family line. Not Instagram-worthy then (sorry MSCHF red boots), but still deserving of a plinth in a gallery-cum-boutique. Or adorning the heels of your coolest gallerist friend.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
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