Stopping In at No. 6

I arrive at the front door of the quaint No. 6 storefront on Centre Market Place in New York’s Little Italy and am surprised to see that the Novogratz family — of recent 9 by Design fame — live in a strikingly modern, remodeled townhouse directly next door. As I pause on the stoop, Bob Novogratz himself rides up on his bicycle and begins to chat with a neighbor. I ring the doorbell at No. 6 and am welcomed by owners Karin Bereson and Morgan Yakus into a mecca of bright vintage prints, one-of-a-kind indie designer pieces, supple leather bags and the beautifully constructed clogs that sparked the global clog-boot mania that has been gaining steam over the past two years.

I ask Bereson and Yakus, who opened their boutique in September 2005, how they came up with the idea for the clog boots, a line they launched in 2006. “It was an accident, really,” says Yakus. “We stumbled upon the idea of a clog boot and thought other people would like it, too.” Accident or not, the trend has taken off, with major success. No. 6 clog boots and shoes are now sold at trendsetting retailers such as Browns Focus, Journal Standard, Steven Alan and others. “Clog shoes became a really big hit. It felt fresh, new again, something that wasn’t really out there,” Yakus says. Bereson agrees, “There is an obsession, a clog revolution. People are e-mailing us from all over the world and they arrive at the store hyperventilating.” Yakus corroborates the story: “We had one e-mail from a woman in Istanbul who needed a pair overnighted. We thought, ‘What are you doing in Turkey that you need these tomorrow?’”

The relationship between the two collaborators is extremely comfortable, as they finish each other’s sentences. When asked how they met, Bereson answers, “Fate brought us together.” Yakus elaborates, “We met through work 15 years ago.” And Bereson finishes, “Yakus was working for a designer and I was a stylist, so she let me borrow clothes.” As for who does what, it’s clear that both are involved in every aspect of the business. “It’s all collaborative. We really do everything together,” Yakus says. I inquire into the size of their staff and the girls laugh. “It’s really just us and the little fashion elves,” Bereson jokes. Yakus adds, “And we have a great team that works with us and supports us at every level: retail, wholesale. Our vendors are great.”

Regarding their hopes for the future, Bereson responds, “We have lots of dreams; too many to list.” Yakus answers, “We’d like to open more stores — a clog shoe store — and expand into other accessories.” But for the immediate future, the pair is busy with plans to recreate the No. 6 store in the Hamptons for the Scope art fair, from July 22-25; and is working with Urban Outfitters on a capsule holiday collection to be sold at the retail chain.

Bereson and Yakus also are focused on an ongoing series of six art projects, created with artists and musicians they admire. They’ve already debuted a set of drawings by musician Devendra Banhart and a book of collages by artist Jim Drain. An art portfolio of Kim Gordon’s prints will launch in September and will contain the Sonic Youth leading lady’s “noise paintings.” In addition, Bereson and Yakus are teaming with Baggu to create an eco-conscious shopping bag incorporating their prints.

September also marks the duo’s fifth anniversary, which the pair says demands a big celebration. Throughout the summer, they’ll be using the art gallery space in their shop’s basement for events. “Yes, it’s a very busy summer,” says Bereson. “We’ll take a vacation at our 10-year anniversary.”

As for their product line, the designers plan to launch handbags next spring. Yakus describes the look as “things we like that are easy and serve as hold-alls, but also small bags that you can use all the time and take out with you.” Bereson adds, “Every since the whole designer craze, it’s hard to find something that’s not a gazillion dollars. It’s hard to find something more casual, but also fashionable.”

Another exciting development is the decision to offer all No. 6 products in vegan leather. “Some of our clients have asked for vegan materials, and now you’ll be able to get anything in vegan leather. There’s definitely a need for vegan products that are both made well and stylish,” says Yakus. And what else is on the horizon for the designing pair? “More collaborations with people we like and admire,” Yakus says. Bereson adds, “We’d like to offer as many special things as possible in the store that you can’t find anywhere else.”

I point out a necklace I am admiring in the jewelry case and Bereson notes that Arielle de Pinto is one of the designers displayed at No. 6 who offers them early access to new product. “Arielle often makes us things way before anyone else gets it,” she says. Aside from their own No. 6 label, other independent designers showcased in the No. 6 store include Bodkin, Stine Goya, Coven, Burfitt, Henrik Vibskov, Electric Feathers and jewelry brands Annie Costello Brown, AESA, Gabriela Artigas and Veronique Renard.

I ask whether the design pair has gotten into the Twitter and Facebook craze and Yakus answers, “Facebook is a useful tool to update our customers, but I’m thinking of going back to before all this social media mania. We should send hand-written cards to our customers.” These two obviously have a knack for making what’s old fresh again, so why not?

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