Last year, when The Shophound was traipsing around Los Angeles, we discovered, Civilianaire, the denim and workwear store that stood out to us in a city crammed to the gills with denim and workwear stores. At the time, we mused that the concept could easily be transported to downtown New York. Well, last weekend, as if by magic, Civilianaire opened it's first New York store on the corner of East Houston and Mott Streets. After we pondered for a while about what other useful wishes we should publish here on our, apparently, enchanted blog, we took a jaunt down to NoLita to see if we would be as charmed by the store on a chilly January afternoon in New York as we were on a balmy May afternoon on West Third Street in L.A.
It turns out that Civilianaire has transported itself quite well. The spare interior with its peg-board walls and vintage pendant lights feels well replicated and the clothes look just as bright and appealing as we remembered. While the general concept of faux heritage brand, vintage-inspired jeans and casualwear is, as we have pointed out in the past, not remarkably novel at this point, the trick at Civilianaire is in the execution, which means basically it's all a matter of taste. As it happens, the brand comes form the team that created Lucky Jeans before selling it to the company formerly known as Liz Claiborne Inc, and the vintage inspiration is in a related vein. While there is nothing new about a pair of classic five-pocket selvedge denim jeans, it's the choice of which particular bolts of Japanese denim to use, including brick red, olive and light blue, that makes their jeans look appealing. The same goes for the classic khakis and checked shirts, and the whole line looks fresh and accessible without veering into banality.
As we had stopped by on one of the store's first days with an open door, there was the expected extra bit of attention from the staff, but, to their credit, they weren't oppressive or overeager. They were extra-quick to let me know that everything in the store was made in California, an increasingly salient selling point these days. Though the store is still without the oversized signs that mark its west coast siblings, a steady flow of customers seemed to indicate some early success for Civilianaire on this coast. We won't be surprised to see another outpost or two around town before long. And while we're at it, world peace and a winning Powerball ticket would be awesome as well —just puttin' it out there.
Civilianaire 53-55 Houston Street at Mott Street, NoLita