A gray plaid-shirted male mannequin stands inside the 99th Street and Broadway corner storefront, holding a weather-appropriate black, yellow, and red umbrella ringed with Brooklyn Industries’ signature Manhattan skyline. This new outpost of the locally started clothing chain opened four months ago but was just approved for its first Columbia student discount coupon on Wednesday. The store will open a special sidewalk sample sale booth on Sunday, April 17 for the fair from 96th to 105th streets.
A husband-and-wife team, the Funks, created Brooklyn Industries—the clothing line and the store—in 2001 in Williamsburg. Bronx native Ruben Ruiz, Jr., store manager, started at the brand seven months ago at its Union Square flagship.
“What I love about Brooklyn Industries is the brand itself,” Ruiz said. “It’s more of a culture, other than a retail company, where we focus more on artists.”
The Brooklyn Industries motto is “live, work, create,” and in line with the last tenet, they commission local New York designers for their clothing. “They create our own aesthetic, they create our own designs, our concepts, even create our prints,” Ruiz said. Besides its eponymous brand, the store carries jeans from Mavi, as do all Brooklyn Industries outposts.
“It’s a really eclectic mix of style that we have but yet it’s … ready-to-wear, it’s easy-to-wear,” Ruiz said. Certainly a pair of ECO lightweight sweatpants would comfortably fit into a student’s Butler wardrobe. The ECO line, which uses 65 percent recycled cotton, is a new development that Ruiz emphasized.
The 99th Street space is entirely wood-paneled with the half wall behind the register painted bubblegum pink. The atmosphere is decidedly casual: Ruiz set up a makeshift office for the interview with a pair of mismatched plastic chairs in the fitting room area, also all in wood with one wall plastered arts-and-crafts style with pages from National Geographic.
Looking to the racks of newly arrived summer clothes, a yellow, blue, and green plaid dress ($98) is more high school sweetheart than “Bombshell Bustier.” But paired with a kitschy straw hat ($48) and a three-quarter-sleeve yellow cotton cardigan ($58), it could translate into a picnic at Central Park. The overall price range is $34-$118. On the guys’ side, there is the seasonally appropriate “Solstice Short” in toast for $68 and bird-patterned red boxers that mom would be proud of for a slightly pricey $28.
The chain’s signature messenger and tote bags—it started as a bag line—are mostly in canvas, have chunky black plastic clasps, and come in standard solid colors like olive, red, grey, and blue. They sacrifice some aesthetic appeal for durability but could handle any amount of library books necessary for a final research paper.
“With this store specifically, it’s set up to be more of a boutique setting. We’re carrying more of the key items,” Ruiz said, adding that up here “we’re not so Brooklyn driven and Brooklyn branded.” Ruiz keyed in not just on Columbia students but Upper West Side moms as potential clients.
Though few Columbians were likely to stroll by and discover the new outpost during the winter months, Ruiz maintained that the store has seen plenty of students walk through its doors. “We actually had an employee who studied at Columbia, but unfortunately, his availability was too overwhelming,” Ruiz said.
Urban Outfitters, which opened at the end of last summer and is visible kitty-corner through Brooklyn Industries’ front window, has proved a traffic-driver for the Brooklyn Industries store. “We do not consider them our competition,” Ruiz said, “even though we are an urban market we have completely different aesthetics and concepts.”
Ruiz has hopes that the area will continue to blossom into a new Upper West Side shopping hub: “We really want to target this market and … kind of change the whole area.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Mavi had recently come under Brooklyn Industries management.