Why would the owner of a Parisian-styled boutique decide to set up shop on an anonymous, residential stretch of the Upper East Side? ” I don’t want to be where people always shop,” explains Ludivine Grégoire, who recently opened a second branch of her eponymous store on Lexington Avenue. “I want to be where people live. Then people are very relaxed and in the right state of mind. It’s all about relaxing, since when you shop, it should be a good experience.”
That easy sensibility is the key to shopping at Ludivine. Like a Parisian boutique tucked on a Left Bank side street, the store is more about the comfortable feel–;and of course smartly edited–;instead of big designer names. There’s an eclectic selection of items–;chunky Vanessa Bruno boots, slouchy Massimo Alba pants, Golden Goose shirts and Nuxe beauty products–;that somehow feel completely coherent, and instantly covetable. It’s as if you raided Charlotte Gainsbourg’s closet and flew it straight to an inviting space in the East 80’s.
In a sense, the store captures Grégoire’s two main passions: New York and European fashion. Raised in the South of France, she came to America after earning a management degree and quickly changed course, landing a job at Giorgio Armani. She temporarily returned to France and worked at Antik Batik in Paris, but felt drawn to America. “I was really missing New York and the energy, the opportunities that you have, and the people,” she says.
Grégoire’s new store is actually the second Ludivine location; the first, which remains popular, opened in 2003 on a decidedly untrendy stretch of Bleecker Street. “The block reminded me a lot of Europe,” she recalls. “When I was living in Paris, I lived in the Marais. There were a lot of sex shops. I thought it was cool to be in the middle of nowhere in the middle of sex shops. I just thought the street was really nice, and I liked the people, who are very warm and low key.”
Ludivine quickly became a magnet for confident women looking for Parisian labels that aren’t household names, at least outside of the Sixieme Arondissement. Over the years, Grégoire noticed that her customer base had gradually expanded way beyond her West Village neighbors. “A lot of my clients were coming from uptown,” she explains. “These women travel a lot to Europe, and they want to have this kind of shopping experience on a weekend–;they don’t want to have it just when they go to Paris.”
To better reach those customers–;voila;and a few uptown exclusives, like Jerome Dreyfuss bags. In addition to plenty of shoppers, Ludivine pulls in quite a few well-wishers each day. “People just stop by and say hi,” she says. “That’s what I love. I’ve gotten so many congratulations. Here they’re like, ‘You’re part of the neighborhood. You’re part of the family. Welcome!'”
Considering the store’s Parisian feel, it just might be more appropriate to say bienvenue….
Ludivine’s two boutiques are located at 172 West 4th Street and 1216 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York, at boutiqueludivine.com