If there’s one thing that New York is never short on, it’s great boutiques. Even better, it seems a new amazing one opening all the time — and one new shop, in particular, has caught our eye.
Owen was founded by 25 year-old (yes, 25) Phillip Salem. After going to school at Fashion Institute of Technology and getting to meet the many faces involved in the city’s fashion scene (full disclosure: he also landed himself an internship right here at StyleCaster, along the way), Phillip realized that there were more than a handful of talented designers and great brands in the contemporary and designer markets that were barely or not even stocked at all at in Manhattan. As Phillip went back to FIT to finish his business studies, the idea for Owen was born.
Opening just last month, this store boasts some amazing decor — 25,000 opened brown paper lunch bags (thanks to architect Jeremy Barbour, whose designed spaces for the likes of Phillip Lim and Vena Cava) — and is now home to staple pieces from the likes of Ksubi, Cut 25, Dannijo, Rodebjer, Silent by Damir Doma and other labels from New York to Scandinavia.
You might be wondering: How did a 25 year-old manage to open his first store like this, in economy that’s suffering like whoa? Thankfully, his venture capitalist father became Phillip’s main investor — though getting him around to support the start of the store wasn’t as easy one would think.
Recently, we got to talk shop (literally) with Phillip about the store, his time here at StyleCaster and how would he react if a certain Mrs. Jay-Z happened to stroll into Owen one of these days.
StyleCaster: What is Owen and where’s it going in the future?
Phillip Salem: So, the dictionary definition of Owen — in my book, in my dictionary — is a men’s and women’s multi-brand, upper-contemporary beginner designer boutique showcasing established designers also rostered in with great emerging brands. Everybody from Henrik Vibskov, Cheap Monday, mixing the high and the low … All these great designers that we love and all these great designers that we haven’t found yet, but now they’re available at Owen.
And one thing that really separates Owen from the rest is that we do carry designers that you can’t really seem to find anywhere, especially in New York, and New York is the fashion capital of the U.S. and the world, and I wanted to bring something fresh and new to the table.
We don’t want someone to walk into Owen just to get clothes. We’re full-service. We will help you with anything you need: we give restaurant recommendations, I’ve booked hair appointments …
Give us the low-down on how you got started on your business.
It’s so funny that people keep saying, “Oh, you just got this handed.” Not everybody, but some people … but actually I worked my ass off to get where I am.
I had to go back to school, write my business plan, I had to research everything — all these designers that I carry and will carry, I called and e-mailed until they wrote back, until they picked up the phone. I wanted to go to their showroom, I wanted to see their line, sit at their fashion show.
A lot of them were familiar with me because I was the TV correspondent for FIT, and they were a little bit confused. Like, “You were just in college last season and now you’re trying to book a showroom appointment? That doesn’t make sense … You’re 23, that doesn’t happen.”
But I made it happen, I hired a great accountant who helped me write my financial analysis and business plan, and then I hired an inventory manager, so I split up all my inventory by month and by category, so I get new, fresh product in every month. It’s allocated by shirts, knits, tees … everything is down to the wire and everything is budgeted perfectly.
So, in my business plan, we have three stores in about five or six years.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from your time working here that you took away with you?
Patience and hard work. [...] I was a Junior Team Member and then I was doing TV for the site and now I’m being showcased on the site.
It’s just like you have to have that [passionate] mindset. And Ari and David [CEO and President of StyleCaster] have that mindset, they have that drive. And I see that passion in everyone who works at StyleCaster, they have that same passion. So that’s what I took in: forwardness, forward-thinking and hard work.
Ari would bring us into his office and be like, “What suggestions do you have?” And I was like, “Let’s do a celebrity buzz, maybe like a news show.” [He says,] “Okay, let me see your reel. I want to see what you’ve done.” So I showed him my reel.
I had three prepared already to project. He said, “Okay, you’re hired. Let’s start.”
If Beyoncé came into your store, what would you do? What would you dress her in?
I would be dancing and singing with her. I think we would have a blast together … And if I wasn’t there, my staff — we just make everybody feel like Beyoncé. If it’s a random chick from Akron, Ohio, or if it’s Beyoncé , everyone’s going to feel the same.
I would dress her in everything. I think that the Ostwald Helgason that’s coming in would be stunning on her. The print that he did is just ridiculous. It’s so … the fabric is so thick, it’s structured. The print is striped, but it’s in these amazing colors. It’s in this emerald green and blue and brown and tan. It’s just beautiful. I’d put her in the Jen Kao pieces and the Preen pieces. I’d put her in everything. The denim is super soft; it would make her bootylicious. Who doesn’t want to feel bootylicious?