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New York Times / Life - Entertain

Why Is There No Great Multibrand Men’s Store in New York?

Reign, newly opened in the meatpacking district, aims to be a one-stop men’s wear shop.
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Reign, long and white with a skylight, is newly open in the meatpacking district. Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

Shop enough in this city and you’ll begin to see the holes, the things that are not there but should be.

New York is full of ideas but also empty storefronts. It’s either an arbitrage opportunity in plain sight or a sign that the gap between the cultural haves and the financial haves is so vast here that it’ll take an economic crash to bridge.

In the meantime, there will be missed, or blown, opportunities.

Given how intensely men’s interest in fashion has grown in the last decade, you would expect there to be a bevy of stores catering to them. And yet the quest for a reliable stand-alone multibrand men’s boutique continues. The options, including stores that cater to both men and women, are thin.

You would want something that’s slightly sportier than Carson Street Clothiers (R.I.P.) in its prime, slightly more adventurous than Gentry (also R.I.P.), more adult than Kith, cheaper than Idol, less gallery-opening serious than Totokaelo, less on East 30th Street and Lexington Avenue than Dover Street Market. Opening Ceremony comes close, but it’s too bazaar-like, crammed thick with products that don’t always speak to one another.

No cramming at Reign. Here, winter wear in earth tones. Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

There is no cramming at Reign, which opened a few weeks ago across from the Christian Louboutin store on a relatively chill block in the meatpacking district, and which has its eyes on filling this void.

The space is narrow, long and blindingly white, from the painted brick on the wall to the stone floors. There is a skylight and a door to an outside courtyard, currently unused. When I went in a few days ago, Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” was booming out of the speakers and bounding off the walls unimpeded by customers, of which I was the only one. Near each of the racks was an iPad offering up information about the various brands in stock.

Having passed through extreme tailoring into athleisure and then aristocratic street wear, men’s clothing is in tatters. Or at least, there is a movement toward a very specific kind of distress, which is one of the styles currently advocated at Reign. It was there in a slouchy Kurt Cobain sweatshirt by R13 ($375). I fit into one of the smallest sizes, and I am not small. The material verged on filmy, and the collar looked as if moths had just departed after a long winter.

Hoodies by Mr. Completely, done in the style of Rangers jerseys, with the R removed. Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

You could also see it in hoodies by Mr. Completely, done in the style of Rangers jerseys, with the R and S removed to just read “ANGER,” and with loose strings dangling from the letters ($300). These have been around for a little while — they’re funny — and I appreciated how when you fiddled with the strings, static electricity (I presume) kept them clinging to the fabric.

I didn’t appreciate, though, how the industrial-grade safety pin that gathered the collar together scratched my forehead as I put the hoodie on and again as I took it off. Ouch.

A store like this, one aiming to capture the men’s wear moment, needs to take positions, and also be willing to evolve them. In this way, Reign remains a work in progress. There was an abundance of military-lite Maharishi, some shrug-worthy Kenzo and APC. Of the temperate brands, there was one exciting outlier: Blurhms, from Japan, which had a phenomenal unstructured burgundy sweater coat, a kind of Oliver Twist chic, and also a waterproof down overshirt that made me look like the Stay Puft man.

Footwear options. Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

Which brings me to another movement of the moment: volume, which I generally avoid. I prefer three thin layers to one bulky one, but fashion is conspiring against me this year. Reign had not one but two winter coats that made me rethink my position, though.

Public School had a lovely, curvy earth-tone model that looked as if it were molded of clay, with a collar that came up to my eyeballs ($975). It was late 1990s in the best way, a preposterous proportion that somehow, on the body, landed naturally. Also, the collar had a secondary zipper so you could loosen it and reveal your face without putting your neck at risk of freezing.

That was enough to get me to reconsider my winter coat aversion, but then there was a second option: a blinding lemon-yellow puffer, a collaboration between Martine Rose and the Italian brand Napapijri ($750), which had a detachable vest liner but looked best when all lumped together. It also came in a blue and white combo, but the yellow was absurd, and sublime. I barely resisted it.

Having multiple provocative choices like this, especially in a category I do not care for, indicates that Reign has promise. (A chat with its sales staff indicated that higher-end brands would be coming soon, as were more and better footwear options.) Maybe not a one-stop shop, but at least a stop, a storefront better used than abandoned.

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