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August 27 2014

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Warby Parker: To See and Be Seen in Soho

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Web sites come and Web sites go, but digital wunderkind Warby Parker, which built a company on selling glasses online, has laid a cornerstone of the most permanent kind. “After the nuclear war, this’ll still be here,” cofounder Neil Blumenthal laughed last night, touching his toe to the terrazzo floor, inlaid with a silver WARBY PARKER logo, at the brand’s new Soho flagship. The new shop is not technically the first Warby store—that distinction goes to the Meatpacking District space that was meant as a pop-up but, thanks to rampant interest, will now be sticking around—but the 2,000-square-foot Greene Street store is its most ambitious effort. (The location also puts it in good company. As fashion brands have flocked back to Soho, Greene Street in particular has become a central strip: Chloé, Tiffany & Co., Vanessa Bruno, Dior Homme, and Stella McCartney have opened their doors here in the past year, and a major American fashion label is said to have just signed the lease for its second store next door.)

Terrazzo floors notwithstanding—they’re a reference to the floors of New York’s august civic buildings—the new shop, designed in collaboration with Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti of Partners & Spade, mimics a library, with custom eighteen-foot bookcases, rolling library ladders, and a selection of books from fourteen different indie publishers, which are available for sale. “There’s obviously a link between vision and learning,” Blumenthal said, and reading has been closest to the brand’s heart from the start: The Warby Parker name comes from the names of two characters in an unpublished Jack Kerouac manuscript Blumenthal and his cofounder, Dave Gilboa, found at the New York Public Library. (The NYPL itself is a major inspiration for the new space, as well as being the site of WP’s first fashion week presentation, back in 2011.) Blumenthal and Gilboa will continue to sell online, where, they note, the selection is, in fact, even greater than the store’s. But a stone-and-steel location has certain advantages over the Web. Key among them is the full-time on-site optometrist. If there’s a wait for the good doctor’s time, have a look around—your name will eventually flip onto the train-station-style schedule board.

Warby Parker opens this Saturday at 121 Greene Street, NYC; www.warbyparker.com.

Photo: Collin Hughes

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