While some fashion houses might design in a kind of top-down model (“What if we built a million-dollar bra first, to promote our lingerie line?”), Alice + Olivia has long operated in a decidedly bottom-up style. As legend has it, the two friends behind the label got fed up with trying to find pants that actually fit them and decided to construct some of their own. I know, you’re thinking: I’ve always wanted to do that, too! Well, just a couple of years out of the gate, the label was a cult favorite among young women for their flattering fits and delicious fabrics.
So you can imagine my surprise on walking into their brand-spanking-new store on Bryant Park and finding that I was drawn more to their tops than their bottoms. The store is a whimsical mix of elegant Victorian influences and A Clockwork Orange, outfitted entirely in black and white, between ornate black mirrors, chandeliers and curtains, and white walls and tiled floors. The one exception is the fitting rooms, which are playfully outfitted in bathroom fashion, with painted latrines and graffiti on the walls and bright yellow tiled floors. I always find it fascinating to step into the environment of a label’s first major store in Manhattan: Does it feel the way you’d expected? Do the salespeople seem like people you’d be friends with? To be honest, I’d always seen Alice + Olivia more as girly, feminine and casual — this store was punky, edgy and chic, which stood in some contrast to their cozy cashmere sweaters and swinging fall pants. That said, the longer I was in the store, the slightly imperious environment started to grow on me. And so did the tunics.
Alice + Olivia has clearly made the transition from pants to items higher up on the food chain (well, the chain of the body, anyway). Basically, if you’re looking for the perfect sweater dress/cashmere tunic this season, head their way. I found at least four that I wanted, from a chocolate brown long-sleeved dress to a cream-colored tunic with gray polka-dots and a black off-the-shoulder dress with wide ribbing (all around $280). Also dabbling in a bit o’ the ol’ downtown shiny, the label has produced two exquisite empire-waist brocade tops ($440). They are — thank the gods — still offering “old reliable”: some of the best pants money can buy, from tweed to traditional black, at around $260. Alice + Olivia, 80 W 40th St, 212-840-1155