The King of Greene Street has been the most talk about boutique among the accessories designer set in Paris and Milan for the past two years. They store has been praised for the keen interest of the buyers, the rich taste of the items and its impact on New York. Stateside the buzz has been decidedly quieter but the Greene Street boutique opened last November nonetheless, selling global and eclectic brands such as Haute, Oktober and Chrissie Morris in a historic Soho building. In partnership with his two brothers, managing director Albert Hong talks to JC Report about business, hip hop and the noble name.
JC Report: How did three brothers without a high fashion background come up with the idea to sell designer clothes in a Soho boutique?
Albert Hong: We have been in the apparel/fashion industry for more than 20 years. We successfully built a line of casual outerwear that started the whole bubble down parka trend that took over the winter scenery in New York, Japan and Europe in the mid ’90s. Prior to developing and successfully licensing this brand, we’ve had the most successful single store retail operation in the urban hip-hop market. The idea to bring KoGS into reality was basically out of a need—the need to bring about a positive energy in synergy with the community, brand and the retailer.
JCR: Initially, was there a very specific sense of the brands you’d wanted to carry in the store, or was much of the selection determined by brands not already committed to selling at nearby boutiques?
AH: Our selection of brands is a mix of brands we knew we needed to have for certain target consumers as well as brands and items selected by the sheer awe it emanates when one holds and appreciates the passion in design and production.
JCR: What does your mix of brands say about the store as a whole?
AH: [It says:] Come and take a look at the work of art that these designers have created, appreciate the passion and beauty and if it convinces you to take it home. So be it.
JCR: What does this difficult retail climate mean for lesser-known names?
AH: Opportunity for providing the consumers something that is not just another item by some mega-commercial luxe brand.
JCR: Before the store finally opened a few months ago, it had been under construction for some time, what was the most crucial feature of your launch?
AH: In development of the space, we’ve consulted many architects and they’ve proposed a variety of plans and build-outs. After initial demolition of the existing structures, we just fell in love with the space. The most important feature in that process was to restore and to maintain, as much as possible, the original beauty of King of Greene Street.
JCR: Being based in a landmark building poses a few different concerns, how do you envision the setting impacting sales?
AH: King of Greene Street, as I’ve mentioned, is the name given to the building. It is a space to appreciate the beauty of the architecture as well as the products exhibited in the retail gallery as well. Many of our customers come in and I see their eyes wander around and look at the beautiful columns, the brick arches and at that point, I take them to the back and show them the cast iron arch that supports the rear façade of the building. Some even asked if we have the original re-claimed wood joists used for the display fixtures for sale. It’s literally a diamond in the rough.
JCR: We’ve noticed that stores are getting creative in luring customers in the door. Do you have any current programs to attract new business?
AH: We will be working closely with the designers to promote their product in our space. We’re also in discussion with our partners, designers, artists and various charities to promote, yet again, another good and worthy cause. KoGS is about the space, it’s about the community and it’s about the designers and artists coexisting in synergy.
JCR: Is there a typical profile of the Greene Street customer?
AH: NYC is really the melting pot of the world and nothing proves to me of this fact, more than just staying in the shop and watching the different people coming in our retail gallery.
JCR: What are some dream labels not yet on roster that you’d like to sell in the store?
AH: Hmm. All I can say at the moment is to be determined.
This interview was conducted by Jason Campbell.