Though there are still a lot of empty storefronts on West 14th Street, one eagerly awaited new arrival just made its Meatpacking District debut. French contemporary sportswear label The Kooples has quietly opened the doors of its first New York store (another is headed soon to SoHo) in the space formerly occupied by Moschino at 401 West 14th Street. Created as a label for men and women to shop together and share (Kooples = couples, get it?) The Kooples is the latest in a wave of French labels like Sandro, Maje, Zadig & Voltaire and Comptoir des Cotonniers, to name a few, who have arrived in the U.S. to cater to customers who in the past might have gravitated toward the designer labels that have now become prohibitively expensive even for affluent shoppers.
On 14th Street, The Kooples has replaced Moschino's whimsical white interior with serious slabs of black and white marble. Is there a whiff of Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent aesthetic in the air? Well, the sleek stone and chrome design bears more than a passing resemblance to the store concept template that the rejuvenated couture house has replicated globally. You'll see the Slimane effect in the collections as well with skinny suits and body skimming shirts and sweaters for men and graphic prints with vintage touches in a distinctive black, gray, white and red palette for the ladies on the other side of the store. Harder edged, streetwise shoes and accessories for both complete the look, and while the label stops short of blatant knock-offs, the current influence is clear —and who can blame them? The look has flummoxed critics who expect more originality from Saint Laurent, but delighted the customers who can afford it. It makes perfect sense for a trend-driven label like the Kooples to translate it a tier or two downmarket to a slightly less extravagant clientele that is still several steps away from cheaper fast fashion from Zara and H&M. The strategy seems to be working well for the relatively young brand. With outposts in Los Angeles and San Francisco already up and running, in-store shops in several Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue locations and U.S. e-commerce set to debut soon, expect to see a lot more of The Kooples soon
The Kooples 401 West 14th Street at Ninth Avenue, Meatpacking District