I went to the opening of Spiritual America and was struck by how amazingly the store was curated; it is the ultimate in minimalistic chic. Here is an exclusive interview with the boutique’s owner and curator, Claire Lemetais.
Cannon: I love the name of the store and I know it has a history; tell us about how you came up with the name of your store?
Claire Lematais: My husband and I opened our gallery, Thierry Goldberg, in this same space in 2007. The neighborhood was totally different back then. It was quieter and not overly trendy. As soon as we moved here we found out Richard Prince had his exhibition called Spiritual America in this same storefront. In the show, Prince famously appropriated a Gary Gross photograph of an 11-year-old Brooke Shields standing nude in a bathtub. We thought this would be a great name for the boutique as it relates to the space's history but also links our art background with the shop. We display pulp romance nurse novels throughout the store as a reference to Prince's work as they are the same books he used for his Nurses painting series.
C: I love how you curated the store. It's very very chic and minimalist. How do you choose the designers to feature in your store?
CL: I love discovering new talents in both fashion and contemporary art, so I thought I could combine my art curator expertise and retail background to put together a strong and well edited group of emerging designers, while displaying their collections in a minimalist and refreshing setting. I am trying to be innovative and creative in my designer selection. I work on mixing emerging local New York designers, undiscovered at times, with Major European lines as well like Vanessa Bruno, Chalayan, Wood Wood, Surface to Air, and Repetto. Our customer is definitely the art and fashion enthusiast girl, who cultivates trend awareness but appreciates exclusive finds as well.
C: Your store has a very French/Parisian chic feel. Do you find that your French roots influence your style?
CL: That is what we went for. We tried to do something different. We want it to be feminine, while having a sleek aesthetic. As for my style, I don’t actively try to incorporate French fashion. However, because I am French, the influence is definitely there. For fall, I definitely want to go to France and get some more European designers.
C: Do you carry any designer’s pieces exclusive to your store?
CL: I carry some that are not overly distributed in New York like Marie Turnor, a Los Angeles designer who designed this lunch bag purse (pictured). Mischa Lampert makes these fabulous hand-knit hats.
C: Your shop has great jewelry and accessories. What is your favorite jewelry piece?
CL: I like this necklace by designer team Iacoli and McAllister based in Seattle (pictured below, next to shoe). Their jewelry line is one of our customer's favorites. Since we are one of the few boutiques carrying it in New York, they find it quite special.
C: Tell us more about your collaborations with artists?
CL: There is artwork on display at all times. I am curating pop ups and events featuring different artists or designers. For example, I am currently collaborating with artist/jewelry designer Caitlin Mociun who will set up a hand painted canvas tent in our newly expanded space for the month of January, in which she will unveil a pop up shop including hers and other jewelry lines. While designing the store interiors we incorporated design ideas that were inspired by artists we admire. Our unique rammed earth counter was designed and created by artist Brian O'Connel. The light fixture is inspired by an art piece by Martin Boyceand Ugo Rondinone.
C: Do you have any celebrity shoppers and clients?
CL: Susan Sarandon was in here recently. A lot of celebrities live in this area and we get celebrities in the store quite frequently. However, I want to respect their privacy and not give names.
C: Having such an avid art background, do you find other kinds of art an inspiration to your fashion and style?
CL: Art and fashion are very similar in ways. I think my art background helps in having an eye for creativity and with curating a designer roster that makes sense. That is what I do for the gallery as well by selecting artists.
C: Tell us more about your gallery that was formerly housed in this space; The Thierry-Goldberg Gallery?
CL: The name of the gallery is the combination of both our mother’s maiden names. As I mentioned, we just moved it to a much larger space, the ground ﬂoor of BLUE at 103 Norfolk Street designed by architect Bernard Tschumi, which has enabled us to show larger scale artwork. We show many different mediums, and young emerging artists. The artists we show are not just from New York but also from countries all over the world. We’ve had artists from Berlin and Iraq, to name a few. Opening the boutique I wanted to be sure to offer something different, which is why I was excited about opening on this great niche location. The Bowery is one of the few Manhattan neighborhoods that are still evolving so it's exciting to take part of this burgeoning scene by having a boutique amid art galleries and hip restaurants.
5 Rivington St.
New York, NY 10002