When I first read about FIVESTORY in the NY Times I was instantly captivated. A young art-world woman has an ambition to create a destination for shoppers in NYC with exclusive brands from around the world. Sounds like a fashion lovers dream, right? Well not for the young Claire Distenfeld, who convinced her father, Fred, to help her create New York’s answer to Paris’ Collette or Milan’s 10 Corso Como.
Set in an UES townhouse, and occupying two stories (she hopes one day it will occupy more, maybe five), she set out to create a retail haven. A place where fashion insiders, the trendy, discerning shoppers and people looking for something “fresh” would take pleasure in her perfectly manicured location with Italian marble floors. Now, don’t get me wrong, or think that you may be intimidated by the brands, prices or location. Claire made sure to stock FIVESTORY with something for everyone. Carrying menswear, international couture and a selection of mid-priced items, it’s as if Claire thought of everything—and for that we are all grateful. However, enough of my babble, let’s hear what Claire has to say in this exclusive interview about how she did it.
ICON: Tell us about your background! Where did you grow up, where did you go to school and what ignited your passion for shopping and fashion?
CD: I grew up on the upper east side of NY and had always been intrigued by the cultural world that I was surrounded by. I loved art, I loved museums and I loved aesthetics. I think it all came full circle when I first went to the Neue Galerie, which is a museum devoted to the gestalt of german expressionism. I realized that aesthetics doesn’t end with art, or with fashion or design, but can incorporate an entire world or can create an overwhelmingly special experience. I went to NYU to get my bachlors in Fine Arts and continued to Sothebys Institute to get my Masters in Contempoary Art.
ICON: How did you come up with the idea for FIVESTORY?
CD: The idea came from my own personal experiences (or lack of) where I felt unfulfileld by New York retail. I was trying to recreate moments I had in Milan’s 10 Corso Como or Hong Kong’s Joyce, and it wasn’t working. It was personally frusterating but furthermore it was mind boggling that New York, one of the most innovative and exciting cities didn’t have an outlet of this kind.
ICON: What was it like undertaking such a ambitious, glamorous and rigorous task as opening your own brick and mortar store in one of the shopping capitals of the world?
CD: It definitely was not easy. I had not come from a fashion, retail background and really did not have any connections. I had to run on pure addrenaline, I had to hussle and I had to really convince people that this fantastical dream of a 24 year old would become a reality.
ICON: What makes FIVESTORY different than other high-end retailers in NYC?
CD: I think the idea of a store having one voice and one perspective is something very unique. It gives it a sense of intimacy in its vision, but also allows for a constantly evolving and changing environment. As I grow and mature, so to will FIVESTORY and I think that will keep it exciting and keep people interested.
ICON: Describe the eclectic type of merchandise that you carry at Fivestory. What inspired it, and what are some of your favorite brands?
CD: The product in the store is from all over the world and is an amassing of decades of personal exploration of unique merchandise. I really buy what truly excites me and what I find to be different from what you see on an everyday basis. My favorite brands range from couture pieces from Balmain, runways pieces from Thakoon, stingray platforms from Chrissie Morris, Aurelie Bidermann Jewelry, Hermes’ Saint Louis crystal carafes with beautiful honeycomb and plaid designs.
ICON: Who is the girl that shops at FIVESTORY?
CD: The FIVESTORY shopper doesn’t have an age or a demographic, he or she is someone who appreciates well made, well designed products and prides themselves on the power of their individual style; always looking to discover new things and have new experiences.
ICON: Tell us about the store’s physical design. It’s pretty iconic…how did you dream it and see it through?
CD: When Ryan Korban and I started thinking about the store we had several sessions where we just showed each other places, rooms, doorknobs, restaurants, floors…pretty much everything that we ever took a liking to. We found a language in our common design tastes that has a very strong presence throughout the store.
ICON: I know you just opened, but what’s next? Will there be e-commerce for those of us who don’t live in NYC, but want to shop your expertly edited collection of brands?
CD: We just finished designing our website , which will be fantastic and very engaging. While E-commerce will come in time, it’s not happening just yet. However our site will be very shopper friendly and will allow for direct contact with store staff if one was interested in purchasing any product they see on it. We are also launching our children’s section for Fall.
ICON: What is the most exciting part about owning your own store?
CD: Having an outlet for pretty much everything that interests me, whether that be hounding down an artist to see if we can do something together, creating playlists for the store and obviously being able to meet unbelievably talented designers who are constantly inspiring me and exciting me in new ways.
ICON: In your spare time you…
CD: Like to eat well, drink well and spend time with the people I love.
18 EAST 69TH STREET NEW YORK, NY 10065
TEL. 212 288 1338