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Notes taken: Aimé Leon Dore
Field notes from a visit to the brand's physical store in New York.
New York, March 19, 2022 — Aimé Leon Dore
Hi! These are notes from a field expedition to the Aimé Leon Dore brand. This happened a few weeks ago, in two moments: first I made a spontaneous visit, as a client, and a few days later, I came back with my professional lenses and wrote down some ideas that might interest you.
To start, a brief background: Aimé Leon Dore started in 2014, in Queens, New York City. It self describes "with a strong focus on simple yet powerful design, we are driven to create timeless work by portraying an aesthetic that is uniquely our own". A very general proposal, for products so millimetrically curated.
Its range of offers is quite varied, from clothing, accessories, decoration; But always in limited stocks usually made available by long-awaited drops. I can describe its style through its audience: leaning towards the masculine, sporty but never sweaty, heritage but fancier, preppy but low key preppy, and quite New Yorker.
The founder and creative director Teddy Santis was born and raised in Queens by Greek immigrant parents and subsequently built his lifestyle brand in the city he's from. He mentions Ralph Lauren, Supreme, Nom de Guerre as his main references —and so we can infer the influence of his background: that of a son-of-immigrants who lived in the 1990s in New York, whose polished but fashion look was a tool for social integration. The brand is famous for collaborating with other brands: the first with Puma in 2015, followed by countless others with KITH, Clarks, Woolrich, New Balance, Porsche, and so on. Aimé Leon Dore received a hefty investment from the LVMH group earlier this year.
A brief mention about the brand name, which is quite distinctive and has a French air and blends in with the other brands that are also part of the LVMH portfolio. The name has a peculiar structure: it is a composition made by Teddy and his wife, who started by calling the brand Aimé (“love” in French) and later added Leon (his father's nickname), and Dore (short for his own name) for differentiation + trademark availability.
To the field
The physical point of sale is located on the trendy Mulberry Street and is one of the brand's key points. The place is the meeting point for all customers and curious, whose interaction begins on the street. There is always a line waiting to get in, which creates the perfect situation for people watching, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The invitation to stay and hang out is confirmed by the cafe and pastries which is a side addition at Aimé Leon Dore. There are also a few tables to sit outside, something European style. Almost an open-air club is created in that narrow street.
This "club's" area is delineated by the music (in volume and style), with precisely curated sets. It comes from the DJ's table in one of the windows near the entrance. A mix of songs from all over the world, from different periods of time and genres — as if whoever chose them has lived a lot and traveled the world, and now invites you to hear their stories (by the way, they make their playlists available on Spotify).
The queue's rhythm is controlled by a bouncer, and the amount of people inside is comfortable.
The interior space is surprisingly small, which looks more like a living room that someone decided to open to the public rather than a clothing shop. The decor counts with a Persian-style rug, coffee table, and sofas. The materials distributed in the decoration are either warm such as wood or soft as velvet and tapestries.
Clothes are arranged on shelves like a closet, not on typical racks. The pieces are organized as a suggestive guide on how to wear them, with hoodies, t-shirts, pants, coats together in a miscellaneous of colors and styles.
The graphic elements of the brand identity appear in a subtle way, often stylized according to the collection or collaboration. For example, the position of the logo with Aimé Leon Dore in full appears preferentially on the sides and labels of the product, and not in the most visible parts. This is only possible because the brand has a holistic approach to the other senses and meanings (materials, music, smell, lighting, references). The brand is fully communicated even with the discreet logo. Plus, when the logo is noticed, it feels like a secret message has been pulled out. After all, the brand is a kind of tastemakers club, and knowing its language and codes is part of the fun.
The smell of niche perfumes of the customers that circulate through the store mixed with the coffee being brewed: the smell is sexy, and it fixes the idea of an intimate space.
The attendants are very polite, extremely well dressed, and with a casual, calm treatment. This tone of urban casualness is less common in luxury or premium brands’ sales, and I see it as a brand differentiator. I felt comfortable and well taken care of even though I was the only unaccompanied woman at the store on both occasions. I left without buying anything, although I was interested in some pieces. As it was mystery shopping, not being the ideal customer is a more interesting learning experience. The next step would be to buy what I liked online, and see how the experience translates into other contacts.
Last note: the feeling of leaving is that I was able to hang out with the cool kids of New York, the drivers of local culture. It takes a dose of passion to dress so well, and my inspiration was refreshed.
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