The Upper East Side is worlds away from the tourist-centric and ceaselessly packed streets of New York’s SoHo and other downtown destinations, where many designers have sought real estate in recent years. “I wanted a space with a downtown vibe, but on Madison Avenue. This area is known to draw more of a conservative crowd but I think that everything is about to shift back uptown, ” Kroell explained.
Small by downtown standards, but airy by way of cathedral ceilings, sleek glass details and an overall modern design, the second boutique for Devi Kroell (after an East Hampton location), is a lesson in balancing disparate elements seamlessly. Statutory brass, rich silk backsplash, and aged oak floors contrast minimalist lines and gallery white walls. “I wanted to juxtapose stark architectural components with feminine materials,” says Kroell.
The same could be said of Kroell’s designs. Streamlined shapes are done up in shades and textures that leave you pondering their origin, while calculating some mental math to see how many credit cards it would take to bring that hand painted Zurich python shopper ($2,590) home.
“My customer expects great quality and great materials from me,” Kroell said when asked of her price-point in the current economic downswing; “I won’t compromise on luxury.” That level of craftsmanship is maintained by supporting artisans with generations of knowledge behind them. “I source all of my materials in Europe, mostly Italy and France, where there is a tradition of artisanship for centuries. All accessories are created in Europe, and my ready-to-wear is made in New York’s garment district, because I like to support the local economy.”
Devi Kroell’s childhood reads much like a travel almanac; born in Austria, with time spent in Switzerland, Israel, France, Singapore, and Italy amongst other exotic locales. Her eclectic past certainly informs her unique approach to design, but she currently resides in NYC and remarks, “As a designer you cannot not be affected by New York. Mainly about mixing the high with low, the t-shirt from J.Crew, jeans from The Gap, but it’s the bag, the boot, the jacket that make the difference, that give it the glamour factor. People wear high-end luxury pieces for wherever, whenever. It’s that 24/7 mentality that I love so much.”
It’s a testament to the designer’s signature vision that conical heels and oversized hobos spun out of pre-bank bailout-esque materials of metallic python and origami eel are unmistakably Devi Kroell, without so much of a hint of an obnoxious logo. Any girl worth her US Weekly subscription can pinpoint a flat snakeskin boot seen on the likes of Sienna Miller and know it’s a Devi Kroell; quite a feat for a brand that launched just five years ago.
That classic flat boot ($1990) and its over-the-knee cousin ($2190) have been reissued as an exclusive for the boutique, one of many pieces available solely at the location.
An upstairs loft replete with a floor-to-ceiling glass pane, overlooks the CFDA award-winning accessories and houses the designer’s newest endeavor, Ready-To-Wear. Launched three seasons ago, “Ready to wear was always a part of the plan,” Kroell says, ” it felt like the right time personally to venture into the category and it always takes some time to ramp up, so I thought, why wait?”
The clothing, much like the highly touchable exotic skins found below it, are incredibly textural. A thick, dark grey mohair sweater will most likely be worn on Park Avenue for Sunday afternoon brunches, but is easily warm enough for hikes in the Adirondacks. Emerald green on a ruffled satin jacquard blouse and mustard gold on a silk and wool pleated mini are some of the opulent jewel tones found throughout the decidedly uptown collection.
The day I visit the boutique, the designer herself is wearing a black classically cut tweed jacket scattered with tiny gold sequins from the Fall ’09 line. It embodies the vision found repeatedly throughout the shop, a familiar shape turned on its head by the impact of glamour.
Devi Kroell’s advice to young designers trying to make a name for themselves in today’s saturated market is “to be very bold and different; don’t do anything that’s already available on the market.” It’s a business strategy that’s been enacted elegantly at a new boutique on Madison Avenue.
Devi Kroell, 717 Madison Avenue, New York, NY, 10065, (212) 644-4499