There wasn’t really a blueprint for Rebecca Cohen’s new LoveShackFancy store on Bleecker Street—at least, not one from this decade. The spaces that inspired the peeling dusty rose wallpaper, threadbare lace curtains, and vines dangling from the ceilings aren’t even clothing stores: They’re antique shops, old millineries, and ribbon stores in England, Paris, and the French countryside, where Cohen frequently stocks up on vintage textiles and trims. Much of the reupholstered furniture in the new outpost dates back to the 17th century, and the hand-plastered wallpaper was lifted from a watercolor painting circa the 19th century. Cohen is even selling spools of ribbon by the yard and asking customers to take little scraps of fabric home with them to repurpose as they wish.
All to say, it’s a far cry from New York’s typically slick, sparsely-decorated retail scene. The store is almost impossible to miss, with a facade that’s purposefully obscured by tumbling roses, potted plants, baskets, and even a bicycle. Inside, it’s charmingly crowded with racks and racks (and racks!) of Cohen’s new spring dresses and swimsuits, WWI-era jewelry, and plush pillows from her recent home collection. It’s a 3-D, experiential testament to her unapologetically ethereal, undone approach, which she describes as “a little Miss Havisham meets Grey Gardens.”
“I think I was a lady working in a ribbon shop in the 1800s in my past life,” Cohen joked at a preview this week. “One of my favorite places ever is this store I found in Bath where Rachel Ashwell [the designer credited with popularizing the “shabby chic” aesthetic of the early ’90s] used to get all of her antique quilts. It’s just layers and layers and layers of antiques and clothing and dust… That was the most inspiring place for me. So this is sort of taking inspiration from those women, and the ladies selling lace on Portobello Road, and the women running the booths in Paris’s flea markets.”
She worked with Fran Hickman on the interiors and enlisted her own crafty friends to rework and repair a few dozen vintage pieces. During the walk-through, one of them arrived with an armful of lacy blouses and robes made from old curtains, and a hand-tie-dyed vintage slip had pride of place hanging from a brass rail near the entrance. This is the first time Cohen is offering upcycled vintage to her customers, though it’s admittedly difficult to decipher what’s “new” and what’s “old”—which is of course the point.
That fanciful spirit would be nothing without a business to back it up. When Cohen opened her Sag Harbor store last summer—the label’s first—she met her sales projections for the entire year in the first two months. “After Christmas, I knew a Manhattan store would do well,” she said. But as a West Village resident, Cohen didn’t entertain the notion of high-traffic neighborhoods like Soho or the Upper East Side. “I think this would feel like a little bit too much if it was uptown,” she said, pointing out the enormous roses and bow-tied dresses filling her shop window. In fact, this particular space has been on her mind for years, even back when it housed RRL and she was a customer. “My husband works in retail, and I told him if we’re doing a store, it has to be this little jewel box space,” she said. “When it became available, we just did it.”
That’s good news for Cohen’s young downtown clients, but she’s expecting fans from all over the country. One woman traveled from Arkansas to her Sag Harbor store a few months ago to browse for potential bridesmaid dresses. That goes back to how Cohen launched the brand back in 2013: She designed and hand-dyed a handful of dresses for her bridesmaids and received such a positive response, she decided to try a full collection. If you’re wondering where the name came from, Cohen’s mother is to thank: As an interior designer, she lovingly referred to one of her projects as a “love shack,” and it stuck with Cohen for years. Now she has something of a love shack of her own—and it’s officially open today.