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From sculptural staircases to experimental materials, stores have turned into playgrounds for expressing style in a non-wearable form — especially, it seems, in Soho, where the neighborhood’s history as an artist district combines with the economic riches of its current retail clout.
Even if you don’t end up making a purchase, visiting these tricked-out boutiques is well worth the visit.
Feit, 11 Greenwich Avenue
This luxe shoe store — the company’s second location in Manhattan — is dominated by a visually dazzling installation of floating birch panels created by the Australian artist Jordana Maisie. Each piece of wood was precisely cut by a CNC machine, so that the horizontally stacked slabs form openings for displaying Feit’s handmade leather footwear.
Strategically placed mirrors give the illusion of a more expansive space, and a custom lighting system also designed by Maisie adjusts the store’s brightness and color temperature to compliment the season and time of day.
Totokaelo, 54 Crosby Street
Totokaelo’s airy, 8,400-square-foot space was where artist Arturo Di Modica created the famous Charging Bull sculpture on Wall Street. Years after Di Modica packed up his sculpting studio, Totokaelo’s founder, Jill Wenger, transformed the building into the clean-lined, light-filled store it is today.
The natural wood grain of the chevron-patterned floor and built-in cabinets adds a warm undertone to the sharp geometries of the central staircase, square marble stools, and the series of angled vintage chairs collected from European flea markets and eBay dealers. Don’t be afraid to explore the store’s many floors — two gardens are tucked into its rooftop terraces.
Prada, 575 Broadway
Designed more than 15 years ago by architecture great Rem Koolhaas, the Soho Prada store is still a destination for design-lovers. The 23,000-square-foot space features an enormous "wave" that dips like a skateboarder’s half pipe from the street level into the basement.
The Broadway side of this zebrawood curve has large steps that occasionally serve as amphitheater seating for events. The store’s curvy theme continues with a massive round glass elevator that fits 20 people. The changing rooms offer another delightful design touch: —they’re made of clear glass that turns opaque at the flip of a switch.
Balenciaga, 148 and 149 Mercer Street
The first Balenciaga store designed after Alexander Wang took the helm in 2012, the Mercer Street men's and women's stores attempt to straddle old and new. Everywhere, you’ll notice a contrast between traditional architectural materials like marble (oh so much marble!) and limestone with edgier materials like cracked resin, concrete, and suede.
Wang and interior designer Ryan Korban selected the stores' inescapable Verde Ramegiatto marble because they felt that its green color conveyed more freshness than traditional black marble. The store’s polished stone tile floor is a nod to the tiles of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original Paris atelier.
Byredo, 62 Wooster Street
Inspired by Japanese interior design trends of the 1980s, the visually textured flagship of this Swedish perfumier features floors and walls covered in decadent Italian terrazzo. Designed by company nose Ben Gorham with architect Christian Halleröd, the sharp-angled space is softened by ceilings covered in warm Canadian Douglas fir.
A wall of frosted glass blocks — the same style used by Le Corbusier in several of his buildings — carve out a lounge at the rear of the store. All but two pieces of furniture were designed by Halleröd, who favored aluminum, black marble, teak, and Brazilian pony upholstery.
Aquazarra, 935 Madison Avenue
Described by creative director Edgardo Osorio as a "church of shoes," Aquazarra’s Madison Avenue flagship features boldly striped arches inspired by the graphic stonework of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The store’s sequence of spaces are cheekily organized like a gothic cathedral — there’s even a domed apse in the back.
Interior designer Ryan Korban balanced the stark bands of black and white with pink-painted walls, gleaming gold accents, and soft gray marble floors. Decadent and feminine, the shop exudes a classic Italian reverence that feels far from fusty.
Gentle Monster, 79 Grand Street
The minimalist foyer of this sleek Korean eyewear company contains little more than a concierge desk. But walk through into the main room and you’ll see the brand’s unique line of glasses visually floating on backlit aluminum shelves in the midst of mirrors and blond wood paneling. Designed by architect Rafael de Cárdenas, the space artfully arranges minimal materials — wood, glass, stone — for maximum effect.
The poured concrete floors are inlaid with orthogonal wood slabs that run throughout the 2,000-square-foot shop. Don’t miss the back room—it doubles as gallery space and is completely re-designed by a local artists every three months.