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Where Built by Wendy's Designer Finds Japanese Inspiration

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New York City has more stores than anyone could physically tackle, but somehow we always keep returning to the usual suspects. To break out of the rut, we've asked some local shopping and fashion gurus to provide their hidden retail gems—those unique stores around our fantastic city that we might not all know about. Cue the Beatles: We're about to get a little help from our friends.

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Wendy Mullin, the designer behind her independent label Built by Wendy, founded her company in 1991 while working part time at two record shops in NYC. After a stint selling her goods at shop-in-shops within the music emporiums, she opened her first brick and mortar store in 1998 and since then has counted Sofia Coppola, Zooey Deschanel, Jack Black, Parker Posey, Andy Samberg, and Kirsten Dunst as fans. Heavily influenced by Japanese culture, Mullin got us hooked on Kyotoya, her favorite shop on 19th Street for kimonos.

As a kid, my grandparents did a lot of business in Japan and as such, my room was filled with trinkets from those trips. My clothing designs often have a personal nostalgic feel so Japanese textiles have been huge influence in my creative process. I happened to have a meeting on 19th Street when I noticed this tiny shop with a kimono in the window tucked behind scaffolding. It was closed but I made a mental note to come back ASAP.
When I returned, I was overwhelmed by wanting to buy everything. They have a very tight edited selection of all the best items from my memories—children's Japanese pajamas, hand-cut and painted greeting cards (I just got a card with a miniature hand fan attached to it), blue ink painted tableware, paper balloons shaped like monkeys and elephants, fabric covered eyeglass cases (just like my grandma had), and lots of gorgeous kimonos.
I went in to buy my daughter a little kimono but left with a bag full of inspiration for myself (which you'll find evident when my childrenswear line launches for next spring)—all beautifully wrapped by a very friendly storeowner. It reminded me of old NYC with little shop owners in their quiet stores, possibly living or working in the backspace—just like me!
· Kyotoya [Official Site]
· Built By Wendy [Official Site]
· All Shopping Confidential Posts [Racked NY]


23 W 19th Street New York, NY 10011