Three years ago, Brian Trunzo and Matt Breen opened Carson Street Clothiers at 63 Crosby St. in New York's eminently shoppable SoHo neighborhood. It was a precursor to what that particular street would become - a hub for menswear enthusiasts where they could grab a haircut at Fellow Barber, a coffee (and maybe a T-shirt) from Saturdays Surf, some sunglasses from Mykita, and a luxurious suited look from Carson Street Clothiers. The homey vibe of the shop was accented by a wooden interior that complemented the classic menswear spirit the founders originally had in mind, and the CSC in-house line readily provided staples like oxford shirts, tweed trousers, sportcoats and tailored overcoats.
But something happened. Menswear tastes shifted from the conservative to the directional. Trunzo and Breen found themselves falling in love with designer offerings from Jil Sander, Marni, N. HOOLYWOOD, and visvim. Guncheck sportcoats, cropped trousers, and double-monk strap shoes began to seem a bit...boring. Not that classic menswear is ever going the way of the dodo, but in the same way Chopin fans can appreciate the nuances of Miles Davis, the masters of men's style rules began to experiment with which ones could be broken. Soon, the aforementioned designer labels found their way to the racks and store windows of Carson Street Clothiers, which created a bit of sartorial dissonance with the image they had originally presented. It was becoming less of well–a clothier, and more of a high-end boutique.
"We had started talking about reworking the store, doing some renovations and bringing it into line with the brands we were bringing in, and we decided it wasn’t worth it at 63 Crosby," says Matt Breen. "It was a blessing when we were presented with an opportunity to move and reboot what Carson Street was and the image we wanted to present to the consumer and the world at large."
During the bustle of New York Fashion Week: Men's, the store moved to its new space on 20 Greene St., further down in SoHo, nestled near renowned Swiss modular furniture manufacturer USM, the NYC flagship of Swedish label Acne Studios, and purveyors of cult denim and painstakingly-reproduced Americana BlueInGreen and The Real McCoy's. The shop has rebranded itself as the simpler Carson Street, with a revamped website to boot.
"We’ll always miss Crosby Street," says Brian Trunzo. "It was a very collegial, fun, and inviting atmosphere to be a part of. We were harbingers of that block, but it didn’t move with us as we started evolving a little bit more into this elegant, sophisticated area."
Indeed, the new store reflects the upscale attitude of its offerings. High ceilings, abstract art, and Mid-Century Modern furniture convey a sense of a more discerning male consumer. This is the guy who still has a few fully-canvassed suits in his closet, but saves them for special occasions, preferring a casual-yet-elevated wardrobe more often than not. Good thing those kinds of wares are exactly what the new Carson Street offers. "There are a couple of designer brands that we’ve added, easy things like Marni or Neil Barrett that aren’t so out there, to more aspirational and directional brands like Craig Green or Lou Dalton," says buyer James Ralston.
"A lot of guys that have gone with us on this change," he continues. "We’re average guys in the industry, and as our tastes have shifted so have a lot of people’s."
Ralston says a lot of Carson Street's longtime clients - mainly finance types, lawyers, and other white collar professions - still frequent the new store, but the new direction has brought with it a younger, more creative customer base that ranges from artists to architects. Online, the customer is even more diverse, owing to product styling and editorials that speak to how men can actually pull off directional designers like Craig Green or J.W. Anderson.
"On the website we try to show how you can wear a more wild piece with just a white T-shirt or a pair of Spalwart sneakers, just to bring it to the street level," says Justin Dean, Carson Street's e-commerce director.
Visually daunting pieces like say, a blaze orange quilted workwear jacket from Craig Green seem more wearable when paired with light denim and crisp white sneakers. It's still a big style risk for most men to take, but in the context of that outfit, seems like a look you might see on the streets of style capitals like New York, London, or Paris. In that way, it could instill confidence in consumers who don't necessarily live in areas rife with hyper-fashion-conscious men.
"The styling’s very indicative of how we would say you could wear something," adds Ralston. "If you isolate something that’s a little more crazy, you can see how you could wear it out in Kansas, or whatever."
The atmosphere of the store is still meant to be homey. The shop guys are still down to nerd out about products or educate customers about brands and are armed with extensive knowledge about the wares on offer. There's a lounge in the back with a couch, several chairs, and a long table full of art books. In front of the shoe shelf is also a spot where customers can have casual conversations or try on pairs of visvim FBTs or Marni sneakers that harken back to the Nike Air Rift.
"We wanted to keep it inviting, but at the same time we also did want to set the tone that this is a very serious store that has a very serious, elevated product that lives on the racks in a certain way," says Trunzo. "The way that the store is built, we like to think we highlight these collections in the way that they’re meant to be seen."
In addition, Carson Street recently debuted a new menswear label called Deveaux at New York Fashion Week: Men's. It will live in the store, but the plan is to also have it be its own line carried around the world. The Fall 2016 collection featured plenty of statement outerwear from double-breasted peak-lapeled overcoats to stark white shawl-collared shearling jackets. Luxe camel bombers and oversized cardigans add to the upscale vibe, as well as roomy, pleated trousers meant to drape beautifully.
"We really thought the time was right to put forth what our vision was for what men should be wearing," says Breen. "They’re separate companies, but they’re created with the same minds behind them, and the same vision moving forward. You can see that in the clothes, and when they deliver in August, the clothes living in the space looks very natural and very authentic."
While Deveaux operates as a separate entity from the shop, the synergy between the store and the line is evident. It's a luxury label meant to rub shoulders with other luxury labels. Informed by the pragmatic approach as menswear designers who purport to "make things that they would want to wear," that may explain why the line looks as appealing as it does promising.
"It’s really kind of great to be able to have a product that we have control over creatively that can fit seamlessly into the environment that we’ve created," adds Trunzo. "Not only can context be given to the clothes that are already here, but also the entire message behind Carson Street." Carson Street is located at 20 Greene St. New York, NY 10013. It is open Monday-Saturday from 11am - 7pm, and Sunday from 12pm - 6pm.