Western Chelsea isn't all about art galleries, as The Shophound discovered when we discovered recently opened menswear boutique Letter J close to where 23rd Street hits Eleventh Avenue. Rising rents continue to drive independent retailers out of the formerly central Eighth Avenue corridor and they are moving West as focus shifts to the High Line and the luxury condos that are rising around it. Those guys are going to need someplace nearby to shop, so hopefully they will find Letter J, perhaps on their way to work out at the Chelsea Piers. Inside, we found a little something for everyone, or maybe an assortment so broad that we couldn't really tell exactly which customer this store was trying to attract. There were classic American basics from Gant Rugger and Save Khaki, and a few steps away, neo-rave wear festooned with smiley faces (ah, the 90's) and some retro club tees from Boy London —perhaps for those clinging to hopes that The Roxy might one day re-open a few blocks away (It won't). But that isn't all. There was military cargo chic one one rack and some harder edged leather street-wear on another with trendy Herschel Supply co. bags in between. One table was full of sunny, surf inspired sweats and tees from GQ fave Aviator Nation. Not enough? Just in for Fall, there's full-on luxury, and much higher price points, from Etro, Lucien Pellat-Finet and Band Of Outsiders. It's a lot to take in. Maybe too much? It's all well-chosen, and there's promise, but not so much focus at Letter J. Hopefully, a few more seasons of business will help the ambitious boutique find and identity to stick with. In the meantime, the influx of new condo-dwellers should help them find the strong direction they need to become the destination store they need to be.
Letter J, 557 West 23rd Street between Tenth & Eleventh Avenues, Chelsea