If you’ve ever been to one of Nili Lotan’s stores in New York City or East Hampton, you’ve probably noticed how gallery-like they feel. Not only because the designer actually handpicks art to display in them, but also because her minimalist approach to the interior—whitewashed walls, concrete floors, and stylish wood furniture—really make you focus on the clothes.
This clean and sophisticated aesthetic also permeates Lotan’s new pop-up on 715 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And if you think that a boutique this chic had been planned for months, think again. The designer put it all together in under three weeks.
“When I saw the store for the first time it felt like the perfect space to showcase my clothes as it would require very little construction to achieve my minimal, clean aesthetic,” she explained. “I poured concrete on the floor, painted and built dressing rooms, and brought in the custom-made racks that are in all of my stores. As for the furniture, I have been collecting mid-century furniture and buying pieces that I find in flea markets in Paris—the knoll daybed is a rare edition with the chrome frame. The sculpture was made by a South African artist and the wooden benches are custom-made.”
The story behind the pop-up is an example of the designer’s creative way to make lemonade out of lemons.
After Lotan found out about the uncertainty surrounding Barneys New York—her biggest account for a very long time—she realized that if the retailer files for bankruptcy—which it eventually did—it could hurt her financially. That’s how the idea for the popup was born (which coincidentally is also located just a few blocks away from Barneys’ flagship store on Madison Avenue).
“I needed to find an outlet to sell the amount of clothes that Barneys had ordered from me, which was pretty substantial,” Lotan said. So the temporary store now carries her Resort 2020 collection as well as pieces from her casual line.
Lotan’s relationship with the iconic retailer lasted for over ten years (the store was her very first client) during which she became one of its best-selling designers. Unfortunately, it all ended after Barneys New York was sold to Authentic Brands Group earlier this month and started liquidating its merchandise.
“The store was the most luxurious, multi-brand store ever in New York City. Unfortunately, they are out of business […] so the opportunity for other people like myself, who are either young designers, new designers, to have that kind of exposure to the world [also ended],” Lotan said.
But Lotan remains optimistic.
“I hope that this is not over yet. Yes, they [Barneys New York] were bought and they’re being liquidated, but the name exists. And hopefully, someone will buy the name at some point and bring it back to what it was because the brand has very strong recognition and respect,” she said.
Nili Lotan’s pop-up at 715 Madison Avenue will be open until mid-January 2020.