New York doesn’t need another luxury concept store, but the Webster, the new SoHo outpost of the Miami Beach shop, has a transportive concept of concept.
Since 2009, the Webster has been a shopping destination, and its founder, Laure Hériard Dubreuil, the city’s unlikely fashion purveyor. A Frenchwoman who worked as a merchandiser for Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, Ms. Hériard Dubreuil has said she fell in love with Miami, a quick winter escape from New York, with Art Basel serving as its glinting lure.
After succeeding in Miami, Ms. Hériard Dubreuil took her concept to Bal Harbour, Fla.; Houston; and then Costa Mesa, Calif. Her clientele has always been able to travel, but in New York a visit to the Webster can be preceded or followed by a dip into another luxury concept shop — Opening Ceremony, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, the Apartment by the Line, to name a few close by — within minutes.
A flamingo snow globe and a bronze duck share a shelf near the entryway, the kitsch of Miami settling in with some weighty neighbors. “This one is 150 times better than Miami,” a saleswoman said excitedly. I took in a lit shelf of gorgeous hand-painted Cornet glasses, a special collaboration with the store. Upstairs, I stood in almost the exact same spot and stared at a wall-size video of a waterfall gushing upside down.
The Webster, unsurprisingly, is merchandising-forward. Furniture is for sale (if you’re serious), and designers seem inspired by Ms. Hériard Dubreuil to play. One can buy a Gaetano Pesce bookshelf, or one of his bangles ($800). Clothes are arranged not by designer, as one might expect, but by that pre-algorithm myth: instinct.
For example: Three mini-handbags sit on a shelf. Accessories have a way of telling us when to feel free, and when to slough around burdened by our lives. Evening, accessories tell us, is an hour when women don’t need much. These three bags are understated, so they read as especially carefree.
First, a Simon Miller bucket bag, a soft cylinder with lacquer handles, for $450. Next, a little gray pouch by The Row with scrunched leather straps that, on the wrist, look like two stacked scrunchies. That one’s $1,850. Finally, a blue alligator bag by Stalvey in the shape of a carryall, shrunken down to a carrynothing. Price: $11,500. Very few would be able to Goldilocks this scenario and pick the one that felt just right.
“It makes me glitch a little,” a friend who was along with me said of the way pieces in the shop are arranged. Indeed, most concept stores are arranged by designer, so as shoppers wander between racks or displays, they enter mental spaces to adjust for the expected price range of a particular brand. At the Webster, pieces are grouped more mysteriously. Themes I identified included “hoodie over a gown” and “nautical but not safe to wear on a boat” (Chanel is the only house with a solo rack, which may be a stipulation for those few retailers allowed to carry it.) Each was a poem.
You’ll want to take your time here. If you have someone with you who is humoring your shopping trip, or even resents being along, the Webster has the most beautiful seating imaginable to dissociate while holding an iPhone. There are velvet couches and cool settees on every floor just waiting for the tush of family members dragging their heels.
I shopped at night. But peering up at the glass ceiling in the area I’ll call the “fun aunt solarium” (a $1,295 Loewe panda purse sits on a table next to a fish lamp, and nearby is a felt fruit that prompted my friend to ask, “Is that a bag or just a pineapple?”), I could imagine how beautiful the store is when the tropical leaves and orchids brim with sunlight and the little flecks in the terrazzo floor sparkle.
We headed to the shoe salon (a David Mallett hair salon will be opening soon on the fifth floor), where I was delighted to find that the various knee- and thigh-high boots are displayed lying on their side, like freshly dead marlin on a yacht deck. Boots by Balenciaga, Céline and Chanel all bask. There’s no need to feign uprightness; it’s always weird to see them stood.
I spotted a pair of blocky Jacquemus mules that I can’t say I’ve wanted so much as wondered about. One heel is a cylinder, the other a cuboid. One shoe has a large stony buckle, the other is blank. They’re $865 worth of asymmetrical mystery, especially when I learned that they’re light and a (Miami) breeze to walk in.
By the end, I was ready to buy a Yeezy sweatshirt ($250) with “CALABASAS” across the back as a holiday gift for my partner. The store has so many nooks and floors, I forgot I wasn’t there alone. I left the sweatshirt on its rack and made my way down, asking for it back on the bottom floor.
A salesman went to retrieve it for me but found that the piece was gone. Well, another woman was buying it right then. “Is she cool?” I asked. “You’re cooler,” he said. I didn’t know I had competition so close. “I’m honest,” he assured me. “I would say if she was cooler.”
The Webster 29 Greene Street, 212-226-1260; thewebster.us
Atmosphere A rose-gold mirror, lush painted wallpaper, pink terrazzo floors and tables accented with art with some Miami humor (like a photograph of a gilded avocado, cut open and ready to be made into 24-karat toast) all make the Webster a store to take your time in.
Service It’s a treat to speak to a sales staff that has as much wonder as I do in the store. Pointing to a set of impossibly delicate, inlaid-stone spoons under glass, I was told by a salesperson that they’re from Ms. Hériard Dubreuil’s own collection, and we both stared in silent awe for about a minute.
Merchandise Racks are arranged not by designer (and therefore, price) but with a curator’s touch. You can flip to light your imagination, or simply to wonder at the price discrepancies. Pondering Céline to Yeezy to Chanel to Sies Marjan and Balenciaga, I recommend the former mind-set.
By KATHERINE BERNARD