If you’ve visited the much-talked-about Hudson Yards in New York City, you’re familiar with its shops, which very well rival SoHo’s and the Upper East Side’s. One of the stores that immediately caught our eye is Forty Five Ten. Located on the fifth floor, it occupies five spaces housing everything from menswear to emerging designers to vintage clothing and accessories – but that alone is not what makes it hard to miss.
The store combines fashion, art, and design, which creates a unique aesthetic and point of view. “I think they are three kind of visual arts that all speak to culture in different ways,” Kristen Cole, Forty Five Ten’s president and chief creative officer told us. We spoke to Cole to get a better understanding of the ethos behind the brand and its beautiful stores, and to probe into the relationship between fashion, art, and design.
What inspired Forty Five Ten?
Forty Five Ten started in Dallas almost 20 years ago as a small luxury boutique. Over the years, it naturally expanded and—in this current iteration—is all about edit and experience. We pride ourselves on honing a great edit of designer luxury, emerging design, and a little bit of art, too.
Your stores go beyond the typical retail experience – talk to us about the Forty Five Ten stores.
Fashion is our focus, of course, but we strive to integrate design and art components throughout all of our stores. ”Experiential retail” is definitely a buzz term these days, but for us, it has been something we’ve lived by.
We want people to visit our stores and experience the traditional elements of retail, like good service, beautiful design, and dining. But there’s also a more futuristic approach, which brings new and exciting elements, such as contemporary art integrated in a way that’s not only transactional, but additive to the experience.
Who are some of the most memorable artists you’ve worked with?
We’ve collaborated with New York-based artist Katherine Bernhardt. She created an immersive, colorful work of art in our café, No Aloha, at our Dallas store. We then took elements of the commissioned painting, with Katherine’s direction, and used them for a line of ceramics produced by Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara, Mexico. Those pieces are available for purchase, and also used in the café to further the art experience. Recently, we took Bernhardt’s print and transformed it again, using it on an exclusive jacket with Rachel Comey. Every time we do something with an artist, we take it one step further to make it dimensional.
We did something similar with Caitlin Keogh, who is a really great feminist, New York-based, contemporary artist. We worked with her during the Whitney Art Party, which I co-chaired last year, and produced a silk tee featuring her work. That tee just released in our New York store—displayed next to the painting that inspired it.
Who designs your stores?
The stores are a personal expression of my vision and there’s a strong connective thread through all seven locations. The downtown Dallas and New York stores are the largest representation of the vision and the smaller stores take their cues from those. New York really is the boldest and clearest iteration. The glass-brick storefront was designed in collaboration with Daniel Arsham’s renowned firm, Snarkitecture. I love the effect it gives.
What was the approach to the Hudson Yards store?
We use a lot of the same colors, materials, fixtures, and elements throughout all of the stores. In New York, we had a lease with four different spaces, we took a layered approach. I wanted it to be a little ’60s sci-fi. There’s also a kind of low-fi element to everything, but with expressions that relate to different design movements. One area is very Italian Superstudio inspired, so it has these big, white matte tiles. In the vintage store, we went for a ’70s glam point of view, mostly just because that’s the environment I want to be in when I’m shopping vintage. We used all of this amazing black Marmoreal, in the vintage space, which is a really beautiful composite material—almost like an updated terrazzo—that I’ve been wanting to work with for a while.
In your opinion, what is the relationship between fashion, art, and design?
I think they are three kind of visual arts that all speak to culture in different ways, so there’s always a strong connection between them. And when they’re interacting, there’s a lot of interesting synergy. These artistic expressions are best when having the same conversation, instead of existing in siloed industries.
What are your customers responding to the most these days in terms of fashion, art, and design?
Fashion is the driver of our business and while we do have a roster of global luxury designers, the emerging design category is personally compelling to me and my team. We’re finding more and more customers responding to the designers who are really up and coming, which is exciting.
What’s your advice for the fashion customer who’s only starting to explore art and design?
I went to fashion school in New York and used to be all about fashion. Then my interests grew into design and from there, even further into art. My advice to people who are starting off collecting is to see as much as you can see. I think especially these days, with everything online, it’s super easy. Also, there are art fairs, public art, galleries, and museums in almost every city. A lot of people think art is a little exclusive or intimidating, but that’s not how it’s meant to be. Art is there for everyone to enjoy.
Visit FortyFiveTen.com to learn more. And check out our latest episode of Itemized, where hosts Corey Stokes and Noah Thomas build unisex ‘fits with the help of Forty Five Ten.
This interview was conducted by Daniel So.