Two former lawyers have come up with a winning formula for men’s retail—combine designer pieces with street style accessibility.
We’ve already made the case for why New York’s menswear retail scene is booming, but allow us to highlight one outstanding example: Carson Street. Founded three years ago as Carson Street Clothiers by former lawyers-turned fashion enthusiasts Matt Breen and Brian Trunzo, the shop opened in NYC’s buzzy SoHo neighborhood on Crosby Street, an area that has been colloquially-named “Dude Row” for the sheer amount of stores that cater to men that line it. The “Carson Street” in the name refers to a street in Philadelphia, where both founders went to law school.
As the shop evolved, so did the tastes of its customers and founders. Carson Street Clothiers began picking up collections like Jil Sander, Marni, Patrik Ervell, and J.W. Anderson, shifting its focus from traditional menswear to more contemporary brands. It’s a mindset that many male consumers can relate to—after accruing a closet full of dressed-up staples like sportcoats, oxford shirts, and leather shoes, it’s only natural that a man’s casual clothes should be equally elevated.
“We always believe a man should have a suit in his wardrobe, but instead of having a suit from a classic menswear brand, we have them from Jil Sander now,” says Matt Breen.
Earlier this year, Carson Street Clothiers re-christened itself as the simpler “Carson Street,” revamping its website to reflect its more contemporary offerings. The store also moved locations to 20 Greene St., an off-the-beaten-path strip that Acne Studios’ SoHo flagship and cult shops like The Real McCoy’s and BlueInGreen call home.
“I don’t know that the idea was so much to be a destination store as much as be in a location that had like-minded brands and similarly-situated brands that provided a synergy in terms of sharing customers,” says Brian Trunzo.
“TriBeCa is ever-expanding north to Canal St., and SoHo is ever-expanding south, so we thought it would be a nice spot to be in the middle of those two affluent neighborhoods,” adds Breen. “Over time the foot traffic will come. Greene Street is kind of a thoroughfare between the two neighbourhoods, and you have great shops to the north like Acne Studios and IF, and Thom Browne, The Armoury, and Patron of the New to the south.”
The new interior boasts Mid-Century Modern furniture from designers like Brooklyn studio Uhuru and Toronto boutique Mjölk, as well as luxe lighting from Apparatus. Art collector Matt Breen bought several works exclusively for the shop by Don Berk, Ursula J. Brenner, and Valeriy Belenikin. He also commissioned photographer (and creative chief at Havas North America) Jason Peterson for a few black-and-white images that will be rotated on a semi-regular basis.
“As we move things to the luxury realm, represented by the institutional fashion houses, we wanted a space that was able to present that product in the way we thought it deserved to be presented,” says Breen. “And admittedly the old store probably wasn’t the best canvas for that.”
Carson Street’s appeal doesn’t just lie in carrying labels like Neil Barrett, Craig Green, Visvim, N. Hoolywood, and E. Tautz, but also presenting them in the right context. Buyer James Ralston and E-Commerce Director Justin Dean believe that the way they style products on the website and within the store make directional pieces more accessible to the average man.
“What’s always drawn me to these collections is to show how we mix it into our wardrobes. I hope the website and the styling reflects that sort of personal style that we have,” says Dean. “I don’t want it to be snobbish or elitist in any way, but to show how anyone—whether he lives in Kansas, the U.K., or Japan—can work it into what he already has.”
“I think our core customer has changed to an aware guy who’s more into what’s going on with fashion and cares what he’s wearing, as opposed to your typical guy who’s just looking to get clothes,” adds Ralston.
The new store offers ample seating, a lounge in the back, and a bar set-up where customers can purchase online-exclusive labels like J.W. Anderson. It’s meant to be inviting and incite a sense of discovery in frequent and first-time shoppers. Knowledgeable and affable sales associates contribute to the atmosphere.
“Guys can still come hang out and kick it on a Saturday, which is what we always want,” says Breen.
This fall, Carson Street will launch Deveaux, a line the founders don’t necessarily consider an in-house label, since they also plan to wholesale it. Breen describes the collection—which debuted at New York Fashion Week: Men’s last season— as “what we think classic staples of a man’s wardrobe in the 21st Century should be.” It consists of luxurious shearling robe coats, tailored double-breasted jackets, pleated trousers with a roomier fit (which we called out in a recent Design Development report), and oversized knits—all at a high price range that fits well within Carson Street’s upscale offerings.
“While we wouldn’t say that we’ve changed, we’ve certainly evolved from where we began to where we are now,” says Breen. “From what our private label was under Carson Street Clothiers to what we ended up putting out with Deveaux, it’s that same progression.”