It’s not every day that you find a store that gives you butterflies in your BELLEH. A store that hits you with the element of surprise every time you walk in. A store that just gets it. Well, my dear fashion comrades, today I’ve got a lil sumt’n sumt’n for ya.
Owen is this amazingly edgified boutique on Washington Street in the Meatpacking District that showcases collections from both emerging and established designers like ALC, Kaelen, Sophie Hulme (one of my all time favorites), Ostwald Helgason and Suno. Have you HopStopped it yet? I’m kind of obsessed with everything about the store (if you haven’t noticed) from the paper bag lined walls (whut!) to the incredible service to the impeccable taste level. I wanted to inside scoopify my readers so I decided to interview Phillip Salem, the owner of Owen and my former FIT classmate, hollaaaa.
Edgify Me: Let’s start with the name. Why Owen?
Phillip Salem: Owen is actually my middle name. It pays honor to my mother. It was her maiden name. She used to design all of her own clothes in high school. I kind of inherited my fashion sense from her and I just wanted to keep the tradition. It’s also chic and simple and sounds good when you say, “I’m going to brunch and then I’m going to Owen.”
EM: That could also sound like you’re going to see your hot mysterious boyfriend named Owen after brunch, which works too. Tell me the story of how Owen came to be.
PS: It was always my dream. On my 16th birthday I got a job at American Eagle in Akron, Ohio, my hometown. That’s where my love for working in retail started. After I graduated my dad asked me, “What are you going to do with your life now?” I told him that it’s always been my dream to open my own store. So he said, “Go back to school, write a business plan, hire a great accountant and prove to me that you can do it and I’ll invest in you.” So I did just that.
EM: Your dad sounds awesome. And smart. Was it difficult to break into the retail business at such a young age?
PS: Extremely difficult. I kind of wish sometimes that people could just come into my shoes and have the same opportunity that I had. It’s push and shove. This industry, it looks like its all fun and games…its not at all. It’s very cut throat. It was tough, especially with some of the bigger designers. “We don’t know who you are, you’re 22 and your going to open a store in the meatpacking district…NEXT.” So when I showed them the lease and my renderings for the store, they started to see that I was for real and I started to build my street credit and finally get into some of these bigger showrooms.
EM: If you had any advice for a student dreaming to open their own retail store what would it be?
PS: Patience. Nothing is going to come overnight. You have to be confident in yourself and go with your gut. If you make a mistake, leave it in the past. It’s so bad to harp on mistakes. Let it be. You can’t reverse the clocks. You know, I wish I was Charmed (that used to be my favorite TV show) and I could turn back time, but you can’t so you just have to move forward.
EM: How would you describe your aesthetic in 3 words:
PS: Clean, unique and forward.
EM: Describe the Owen girl to me.
PS: She is a confident woman. She is secure with herself. She knows and appreciates the quality of good clothing, good colors and good designers. She’s not afraid to tap into something a bit more unique and forward that’s not carried everywhere but she is also confident and loyal to the brands that she’s know for years.
EM: Sounds like someone I know, Ahem…Who is your dream celebrity client?
PS: It would definitely be Beyonce. Beyonce is my girl for life. Our training manual says everyone that walks through the door should be treated like Beyonce.
EM: That’s brilliant.
EM: Let’s talk about the awesomeness of the paper bags that cover your store.
PS: The interior was designed by Jeremy Barbour who designed the Phillip Lim store on Mercer street. I met with Jeremy and told him I have this space that’s very industrial and I want to bring it back down to earth. I created a brand book that took inspiration from my favorite things like a parking lot in Miami that was all concrete and the highline, which is super industrial with flowers around it. In order to create a floral effect, my architect suggested paper bags. When they are pushed together they create a blossoming effect. “What if we cover the whole store in paper bags?” And I was like absolutely not. He built a mock model and convinced me to trust him. So we did it. 4 weeks, 25,000 paper bags and 100,000 staples later here we are.
You may not notice at first that they’re paper bags. But on closer inspection you realize what they are. It’s the same thing with the clothes, you may look at something and think its just a black plain button up and then you notice that it has a mother of pearl button or an amazing lace detail in the back or a leather collar. Each piece has that type of flair to it.
And that, my friends, is why Owen is all that and a (paper) bag of chips.