Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Photos by Driely S. for Racked
In Support Of, the month-old boutique dreamed up by Aikaz Showroom's Tanya Sheikh and Ivan Gilkes, is aptly named (though difficult to Google) for two reasons. One: It's a Meatpacking District unicorn in that it champions super under-the-radar designers. Two: Starting this fall, a portion of the proceeds from the store's sales will go to charity. (Tanya and Ivan are still nailing down the details, but they plan on rotating organizations each season.)
For now, the co-owners are putting the finishing touches on their space, which Ivan, who studied architecture history, describes as "a deconstructed white picket fence house." There's an AstroTurf-papered wall (the lawn), muted blue paint (the sky), poured concrete floors (the driveway), and empty white frames housing 3D-printed necklaces by Ebony Fleur (the over-the-couch Thomas Kinkade print).
As for the woman who lives in this house, she is, as Tanya says, "not into dressing super sexy, but she appreciates fashion and loves a detail." Which is why her closet is stocked with off-pink Tia Cibani cocoon coats, Louise Amstrup dresses printed with palm trees and marble statues, and delicate Karolyn Pho blouses with rubber embellishments.
Read on to find out what Tanya and Ivan think of Meatpacking District style, their plans for expansion, and the lines they're really excited about right now.
Tell us bit about your backgrounds! Have you always been fashion people?
Ivan: I actually don't have that much of a background in fashion. I went to NYU for architecture history and just sort of got into fashion through friends, and very early on started working with Tanya at her showroom.
Tanya: I was an art major in college. I thought I was going to move to New York City and become a fashion designer. I started off working at a boutique in Brooklyn, and then after that I started working at showrooms. I began at this European, high-volume showroom, and then after that I was a showroom manager at Oak. And then when they closed down I started my showroom, Aikaz. My first client was Bijules jewelry, and then I got Nomia.
And now your showroom is downstairs.
Tanya: Yes, we still have it. We started the store to really show the vision of the showroom.
So are you guys working here around the clock now?
Ivan: Well, it's kind of the off-season right now, with the showroom.
Tanya: Since we work with younger brands, they do only two seasons a year. So the bulk of our selling season is like, September-October and February-March.
Do you mostly showcase brands from your showroom at In Support Of?
Ivan: It's a mix. We wanted the store to be a fuller vision. It's more a representation of our style. We didn't want it to be constricted to the brands that we represent.
Tanya: It's also very strategic, too. Buyers come to the store and they'll see those designers that they're about to see in the showroom sitting alongside your more well-known brands like A Détacher and Louise Amstrup.
Who is the In Support Of woman?
Ivan: We're getting to know her. She's sort of adventurous in her choices and what she wants to wear and how she wants to portray herself. She cares about finding something new and different. A lot of the women who come in here are like, "This is so special. I finally found something that no one else is going to have." They also appreciated the backstories behind every piece that they purchase. We want them to care about their purchases, but also care about the impact that their purchase is making.
Tanya: That's why Ivan and I are here every day. We're getting to know our customer and building that relationship. The dialogue is so important to us. I think our customer is not super conservative, but she's quirky. She's not into dressing super sexy, but she appreciates fashion and loves a detail.
What are your price points?
Ivan: An entry clothing item would be about $250, and it goes up to $2,500 for a dress that has a lot of work in it.
Tanya: But then we have our Louise Amstrup printed dresses that are around $300. There are some pieces in that range. But our dresses are advanced contemporary to pushing designer price points.
Is there ever any push and pull when you're doing your buying?
Tanya: I think the main argument that we have is that I'm very extravagant sometimes. Sometimes he's like, "We can't get that," and I'm like, "But it's so beautiful!"
Ivan: We went to an appointment for Tia Cibani, and he fall collection was incredible, but Tanya pulled like 16 things and I was like, "Oh my god, my head is going to explode."
Tanya: I get so passionate about the brands we carry!
Ivan: Which is good! But we came to a happy medium where we settled on six items with a nice range.
Tanya: I get overly excited when I'm buying. Especially with these brands here. There's so much amazing, special stuff each season. It's hard to choose just six because we are a small store.
Ivan: I get passionate about it, too. I veer towards weird, unwearable things. That's our back and forth. It helps because we sort of ground each other.
Are there any pieces you're really excited about for spring?
Ivan: For me, it's been the Steven Tai pieces that we picked up. He's this British designer who went to Central Saint Martins. I was so happy when somebody bought his long white dress. I was like, "This is the most perfect wedding dress."
Tanya: It's like a tee-shirt.
Ivan: And then he has this brocade top. I'll be interested to see who buys that.
Tanya: I really love pink that Tia jacket.
Ivan: You didn't see my Instagram! I posted myself wearing it.
Cool, multi-brand stores are a rare thing in the Meatpacking District. Do you feel like you stand out from your neighbors?
Tanya: I feel like they're bigger brands. The multi-brand stores still carry more well-known designers than we do. We really hope it's possible to stay true to carrying these indie labels. Finding brands is really important to us. Meatpacking is still run by established designers.
Ivan: The neighborhood is mostly mono-brand stores. And then you have your Jeffrey and your Scoop and your Intermix which are essentially department stores—they carry established, department store brands. Even Owen is getting there, where it's really established brands now.
It would be cool if it could stay this way, where people can come in and find things by designers they haven't heard of before.
How would you describe Meatpacking District style?
Tanya: There are a few different styles.
I picture, like, a bandage dress and heels.
Ivan: Okay, I do appreciate that girls in the area are very willing to dress up, no matter where they're going. It's very much the opposite of me. I would rather not dress up if I'm going out. But they're here every weekend in their heels. That's really incredible. It takes some stamina and fortitude.
Tanya: There's that person, but then there's this cool older woman. She's more established. She actually lives here. You don't see her as often. I think she hangs out in the West Village a little more, and travels a little more. That's who's coming into this store, for the most part, and buying. She's a really cool, fashionable woman.
Ivan: There's the bandage dress woman who doesn't live here. And the older woman who does wears sneaker wedges.
Tanya: But she also shops at Jeffrey. Or if she's not in the neighborhood she shops at Kirna Zabete or Opening Ceremony.
By older woman, you mean…
Tanya: Not older, but 35 to 55. That's the bulk of the women who are spending money and shopping here. And then we have the tourist girl who is super cute and is going to The Standard and The High Line and Chelsea Market. There's a mix.
What does the tourist girl buy?
Tanya: Jewelry does really well. People love the 3D digital printed Ebony Fleur pieces. But it depends. We had this women who came from South Carolina. She's an architect and she has clients here, and she bought a lot of clothes because she doesn't have these labels at home. It depends on what the tourist is looking for.
"In Support Of" has a double meaning! You're supporting young designers, but you also plan on donating a portion of the proceeds from your store to charity.
Tanya: I'm on the board for an organization called the PCRF, the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. They work a lot with Doctors Without Borders to bring aid to children in war-torn countries. Right now it's happening a lot in the Middle East, with Syrian refugees who are in Jordan. The organization also works with children in Africa. I did a fashion show with them in October to raise money for the children's oncology ward in a hospital in Jerusalem.
That's something I plan on doing every year. But in general, I've always loved working with children's organizations.
So you're bringing in the charity aspect next season?
Tanya: Right now, because we're so new, we're still working through the kinks of running everything. We're in the process of nailing down a charity we want to work with this fall, and we're going to rotate every season. A percentage of all sales will go toward that organization.
For our long-term vision, because we work with a lot of designers who produce locally, we want them to choose something they're passionate about. If it's on par with our vision, we'd love to create a special piece where a much larger percentage, like all profits, will go toward it.
I love the AstroTurf on the wall! Who thought of that?
Ivan: Tanya's idea.
Tanya: I just wanted it to be bright and fun in here.
Ivan: It's not 100% done in here, but we're going for a deconstructed white picket fence house type of vibe. So we have the sky blue paint, and the grass, which is the yard, and the concrete floor, which is the driveway. The light fixtures are going to have white picket fence details.
How would you describe the mood in fashion right now?
Tanya: I think it's getting better. I think it's more exciting.
Ivan: People are more aware of where their fashion is coming from. Even with H&M's Conscious Collection, you can see that people want to know where they're getting their clothes from.
Tanya: I think there was a time when fashion was very indicative of what was going on economically. Everything was very dark. There was a certain mood, and now I feel like there's more print and color. People are looking for things that are special.
Ivan: They're less cautious. They're buying things that are unique.
Tanya: It makes buying harder! Walking around the trade shows five years ago, everything was very androgynous and black. Now things are very special and pretty.
Do you have any labels that you can't buy anywhere else in New York?
Tanya: Harare. Everything is hand-embroidered in Guatemala. She used to work for Proenza, and she went to Guatemala for almost a year. She taught the women how to loom in a circle, because everything usually goes to peak. Everything in embroidered there and then assembled in New York.
Ivan: Steven Tai is exclusive to us. He was at VFiles briefly, but not the breadth that we have.
Tanya: Franziska Fox has gotten a lot of celebrity placement, but this is the only actual store in New York where you can buy it. Tia Cibani is exclusive to us this season. And Karolyn Pho used to be a stylist, but now she does all of these pieces with this amazing rubber and netting detailing.
What's next for In Support Of?
Ivan: For fall, I'm really excited about carrying Vivetta. Eventually we may expand into men's.
Tanya: We're tussling with doing some special pieces for the store on our own. And hopefully for fall we'll launch our online store.
Ivan: Maybe more stores down the road, in other parts of the country.
Time for the lightning round!
8am or 8pm?
Beer or wine?
Whiskey or tequila?
Beach or mountains?
Cats or dogs?
Favorite vacation destination?
Favorite happy hour spot?
Rap or country?
Mad Men or Game of Thrones?
Tanya: Game of Thrones
Ivan: This is such heart-wrenching decision! Game of Thrones.
· In Support Of [Official Site]
· All Better Know a Store Owner Posts [Racked NY]
· In Support Of: New Meatpacking Shop Spotlights Indie Labels [Racked NY]