Mike Amiri can boast being both a successful independent American designer and a savvy businessman.
Just days after being nominated as Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the chief executive officer and creative director of Amiri revealed that he’s diving deeper into retail, opening two stores this month in New York and Las Vegas.
More from WWD
The Los Angeles-based designer opened his first store in his hometown last September: a 2,200-square-foot flagship on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Now he’s making the cross-country trek to New York, where he will open a 2,106-square-foot store at 76 Greene Street in SoHo on Saturday. That will be followed on Sept. 30 with an 1,840-square-foot boutique at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas. He also filmed his spring 2022 runway show in Vegas earlier this month.
In a Zoom interview, Amiri said since opening, the L.A. store has performed “really well — it’s one of the top-performing stores on the street and is exceeding projections.”
Courtesy of Amiri
But even before that store opened, he had been formulating plans for expanding his retail footprint.
“It was always part of the plan,” he said. But he wanted to ensure his wholesale business was firmly established before opening retail stores. Now that his brand is part of the mix at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ssense, Browns, Galeries Lafayette, Harrods, Lane Crawford, The Webster and others, it was time to turn his attention to his own retail.
Courtesy of Amiri
L.A. had to be first, he said, because it’s where he’s headquartered and where he grew up. He went to school at Beverly Hills High and snuck into Sunset Strip music clubs when he was underage to watch Axl Rose and Steven Tyler, two of the rock musicians he dresses 25 years later in skinny jeans and bandanna-buckled boots.
But New York had to be next. “For a brand connected to L.A. and the West Coast, we had to plant our flag here first,” he said. “But our strongest customer base is in New York.”
The New York store will have a similar aesthetic to the L.A. flagship, but tweaked to be appropriate to the neighborhood. “In Beverly Hills, there’s a laid-back West Coast feeling, like you’re in someone’s home,” he said. “New York is more raw. We’ll preserve that but bring in an Amiri touch.”
The entrance on Greene Street will retain the building’s original white brick facade and inside, it will speak to SoHo’s artistic history with a gallery-like atmosphere with fluted concrete walls, brushed stainless-steel rails and solid wood shelving and podiums.
Courtesy of Amiri
The interior designer for New York and Vegas is Katherine Waronker, and Kamp Studios is doing the finishes, plaster and hand-detail work in SoHo.
As with the L.A. location, the collection will be merchandised alongside “unique and collectible” pieces of art and furniture “to make it feel like a gallery,” Amiri said. That will include a commissioned, site-specific artwork by L.A. artist Wes Lang called Blood ‘38.
The store will also be decorated with California flora to bring a bit of a West Coast sensibility to the location.
“I like seeing the collection in that atmosphere, it feels more special,” Amiri said.
The store will also stock limited-edition products exclusive to New York. For example, the store’s address becomes a graphic logo interspersed with Statue of Liberty iconography.
Turning to Vegas, Amiri said during the pandemic, it was the perfect “escapist location” for Californians looking for someplace close to visit, which is why he decided to not only film his digital runway show there, but also lease a spot at the Wynn property.
That store will also be designed specifically for that city with large white marble panels on the facade alongside floor-to-ceiling windows framed in walnut wood. Inside, the store will feature concrete or large-scale ceramic tile floors, concrete wall panels, geometric marble fixtures and carved solid wood tables. The couches and soft furnishings here were also curated by Amiri to create lounge areas and there will be two commissioned, site-specific artworks by L.A. artist Wes Lang titled “The Dream Part 1” and “The Dream Part 2.” The mix will include several Vegas-specific pieces incorporating casino dice and playing cards on limited-edition jersey pieces.
Courtesy of Amiri
Amiri said by tweaking the store design and mix in each unit, fans of the brand can be assured of finding something different when they visit.
“The strength of Amiri as an independent house is [that] we control the assortment vertically,” he said. “So it allows our customers who travel to have a reason to go into each location.”
And it also allows them to find the entire breadth of the brand. By shopping one of Amiri’s wholesale partners, the mix is usually limited and customers pick up one piece or two. But at the store, they can find the “whole range and product you won’t see elsewhere,” he said.
So it’s no surprise that expanding to other cities is also in the cards for Amiri, who took on a minority partner in 2019 when Renzo Rosso’s OTB Holdings invested in the company. “There are key cities globally where we can see ourselves operating stores for the new luxury consumer,” he said. He is “seriously” searching for opportunities in Asia and Europe.
“We’re being a bit pragmatic and conservative with our decisions,” he said. “You really have to understand the foundational elements of your business and what it can provide creatively.” Being successful requires “a mix of ambition, data and creativity,” he said, ingredients not every brand has mastered.
But wearing his CEO hat, Amiri has managed to juggle both.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a struggle to do both, but it’s given us an edge that not a lot of other independent brands have and it’s allowed us to take this brand to the next level.”
Spoken like a true CEO.