Neighborhood Shop: By Robert James

by Elise Diamantini

In 2008, Robert James opened his first By Robert James studio/boutique in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After finding a strong neighborhood following, he’s hoping to recreate his formula with two new stores in Brooklyn. James takes pride in offering American-made apparel from knowledgeable salespeople in a community environment. His model: to open stores that are not located on the main shopping streets, but in neighborhoods. He’s found that his customers prefer to shop in a store near where they live and receive a one-on-one experience, rather than travel to a big box or designer store. “We offer a special, premium experience to our customers in the Lower East Side, and I’m looking to bring that experience to other neighborhoods, starting with Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill and Grand Street in Williamsburg. These are places where we have an existing customer base. The other key point is that there’s been massive growth in luxury housing in both locations.”

By Robert James

Private label product will vary slightly from store to store. For example, James believes grooms-to-be in Boerum Hill will want to wear bespoke suits from a local shop. So, he’s placing an emphasis on suiting to mirror the neighboring bridal shops (suiting starts at $1,200 and hand-tailored two-piece suits range from $1,700 to $2,500). As for other categories, denim retails from $175 to $248, shirts from $168 to $248, trousers from $228 to $328, knits from $48 to $228, outerwear from $328 to $1,200, and leather from $1,200 to $2,500.

One of the shop’s best sellers has been a polka dot shirt introduced four years ago. James recalls, “One style had a black background with fifty cent-sized white dots. I was shocked at how many of these shirts I sold to men 50 to 60 years old-plus. Many told me that they remembered wearing this style when they were younger and had always been searching for an updated version. One of these men happened to be Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, who I used as a reference while developing the style. To my surprise I got a call from a stylist that was working with Ronnie and he requested two shirts. It was amazing that one of the originators of this look was wearing it again, and buying it from me!”