148 Lafayette: Redefining the Shopping Experience

IMG_5706In a tall building located at 148 Lafayette Street in New York City, I took a curious step forward as the tour guide announced that our next stop would be the stomach. I was touring the secluded and inherently prestigious 148 Lafayette fashion brand headquarters where I had been promised exclusive access to the showroom, the workshop, the store, and ultimately an insider’s peek into its inner workings. However no mention of said stomach was forewarned.

“Next you’re going to see our factory, which is basically like the stomach of the company,” our guide said enthusiastically as her eyes grew wide with encouragement.

And stomach it was. I walked through the hall and into the workshop where on one side of the room stood racks upon racks of sample sizes, pattern sheets, and rolls of fabric. On the other side sat at least 15 women, before sewing machines, making, what our guide would inform us to be, specific cliental alterations. At 148 Lafayette, the fit is simply everything. Samples sizes are an eight to accommodate the average woman, and petite and plus size garments can be custom made to fit each individual. Our guide explained that dresses are cut and altered, despite initial design, in order to best fit the client in question.

148 Lafayette emerged in 1996 as a vertically integrated structure founded by Shun Yen Siu, Deirdre Quinn, and Ida Siu. Its prominent Chinese heritage has influenced not only a stylistic fusion of the East and the West but also a number of small hidden cultural details in the brand and building itself. For example, Chinese culture associates the number eight as well as the color red with good luck. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the 148 Lafayette concept store is located on the eighth floor; upon entering there is an abstract sculpture resembling an eight; and the price of each clothing piece ends in eight. For luck, the color red is highlighted in clothing pieces on mannequins for display and decorative furniture. Moreover, there are various whimsical details hidden in the store that convey and celebrate Chinese culture.

At 148 Lafayette, the incredibly innovative and stylish designer Edward Wilkerson acts as the company’s creative director. Wilkerson expressed his personal desire to create an aura, an environment in which creative energy could be fostered. Such an aura was in fact notable in his vibrant office: shelves lined with thick books, walls covered in hand painted prints and fashion photography, along with a basket filled with fabrics from India. Travel, Wilkerson revealed, is his greatest source of inspiration as he pulled out a rather large sketchbook whose fabrics hung between pages and photos edged past the confines of the book. He opened it to reveal snippets from magazines and brightly colored fabrics fastened to the opposite page. Once inspired by travel and fabric designs, Wilkerson paints what will then make its way to the workshop for pattern creation. Emotion from each painting, he says, is consequently turned into an item of practicality.

The eighth floor concept store at first sight was as pristine as could be imagined from this detail-oriented company. Aside from in store fittings, the company provides seamstresses with original patterns to make custom in between sizes for clients, and alterations can be delivered that day within Manhattan. Clients without means of getting to the shop may receive private cars to pick them up courtesy of 148 Lafayette as well as lunch served while shopping, if need be. The shopping experience at 148 Lafayette is truly unique and geared toward the satisfaction of each client.

Diving into the stomach of 148 Lafayette allowed me to experience the remarkable hands-on approach that the company evokes throughout its production process. Vertical integration has worked to transform the shopping experience at 148 Lafayette and will surely inspire and attract both competitors and shoppers alike.