Best known for its art galleries, nightclubs, luxury condos and High Line elevated park, West Chelsea has long been regarded as one of Manhattan’s under-the-radar, albeit best-dressed neighborhoods. Open since March, Letter J, located at 557 West 23rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, looks poised to make the stylish status of the neighborhood official.
Designed by TZA Architects, the firm behind Baccarat and J. Mendel stores, the brick-and-mortar store brims with modernity, with a polygonal centerpiece, glass display for accessories and denim wall in the back. There’s a lot for the eye to take in, not just because of its fresh mix of casual and edgier contemporary American, Italian and Japanese designer brands, but also because of the way brands are displayed so you can easily scan, feel and compare product.
Yet however eclectic the assortment may be, Letter J feels refreshingly unpretentious and of the moment. Founder Jason Somerfeld, a retail veteran, explains he wanted to create a store “with the vision of a relaxed guy who appreciates unique novelty dressing that’s chic.”
Six months later, Letter J seems to be hitting the customer on the nail, attracting not only gallery crowds but newer residents to the neighborhood and tourists rambling around the High Line—at all hours of the day.
The store has also become something of a destination, by filling the void left by Barneys New York after that retailer vacated its 17th Street premises several years ago. Promising exciting new deliveries each month, Somerfeld clarifies that there’s a “buy now, wear now” point of view to the store, which has its official grand opening this September. To wit, on a warm, typically muggy August day in the city, this editor was grateful to still be able to find summerweight printed tees and loungy shorts and browse a surprisingly chic assortment of brands such as Etro, Band of Outsiders and Lucien Pellat-Finet. (Note to style hounds: Letter J will be the only place in town carrying Z Zegna this season.) As Somerfeld puts it, “We believe in accessibility.”
Brands: Etro, Band of Outsiders, Stone Island, Z Zegna, Ghurka, Lucien Pellat-Finet, Freedom Artists, Aviator Nation, Hartford, Orlebar Brown, YMC, Herschel Supply, amongst countless others.