Robert James is Crowdfunding to Save His Orchard Street Clothing Brand


Robert James, the men’s fashion designer, is fighting to keep his headquarters at 74 Orchard St. He launched a fundraising drive on GoFundMe, right on the heels of celebrating his 10th anniversary on the Lower East Side.

He’s raised almost $14,000 of $25,000 needed by the end of this month. Here are portions of the appeal for By Robert James, his independently operated, American-made brand:

Just 3 weeks from completing our 10th year of making quality New York Made Menswear and bringing them to market in our own independently owned and operated boutiques we find ourselves like so many others in this space fighting to keep our doors open.  We are looking to raise 25K quickly to pay our rental arrears to keep our American Made Brand alive… A walk through Soho shows the carnage of independent retail is on full display.   Where mom and pop, as well as vertical designer brands like mine used to mix with the big box, now there is little left but the mass market and fast fashion. Which means shopping in NYC is no different than shopping in any major city the world over. The forces at play in Soho have come to our door as well and account for much of the arrears that jeopardize our business today. You have the power to make a difference! Please help us keep these American artisans in the garment center and this independent retailer alive.

James says his goal isn’t simply to pay the rent for the next month or two. He’s planning to revamp the brand’s e-commerce and marketing to appeal to an audience beyond New York. James is seeking an equity partner to help fund an upgrade. He’s already been selected a a case study for a new e-commerce platform.

Retail Report: New Day Care, New Nail Spa, Plus Designer Menswear Updates

Ernest Alexander's new menswear store at 9 Clinton St. opened yesterday. Photo via @ernestalexander Twitter feed.

This morning we have some storefront news from around the neighborhood:

  • 118 Ludlow St. (Houston/Stanton): Think Pink Spa signed a 10-year lease for 2,200 square feet of space, also according to The Real Deal.
  • 9 Clinton St. (Houston/Stanton): Ernest Alexander, the NYC-based menswear designer, opened its first retail location yesterday, a pop-up shop we first previewed last month.
  • 74 Orchard St. (Broome/Grand): Work continues to transform the former Hyper Island digital design school into a new home for By Robert James, whose menswear boutique at 72 Orchard will move one door north and make room for incoming jeweler The Great Frog, which had originally planned to open its first NYC store yesterday.

The Great Frog, Maker of Rocker Jewelry, Coming to Orchard

The Great Frog is moving into 72 Orchard, the space currently held by boutique By Robert James, which is taking over 74 Orchard, the former home of Hyper Island.

There is a new development today in the business shuffle along the block of Orchard Street between Grand and Broome. As we reported last week, Hyper Island is moving its digital media school to SoHo. Menswear designer By Robert James is moving from its current spot next door at 72 Orchard to the Hyper Island space. Today, we hear that The Great Frog, an English jewelry designer, plans to make its first New York home in James’ former spot.

“I always thought the Lower East Side would be a natural place for us, being the birthplace of punk,” proprietor Christopher Thompson said in a phone interview this afternoon. “We are really happy to be here; it seems like that little stretch of Orchard Street is just really coming up.”

The Lower East Side location, which has its own Facebook page, is set to open Nov. 1. It will be only the third store for The Great Frog, which claims as its customers “rockers, bikers and those on the edge of the mainstream.” The family-owned business originated in London in 1972, and just last month opened its second store in Los Angeles.

Hyper Island Departing Orchard Street

Hyper Island opened its digital media school at 74 Orchard in July 2010.

The block of Orchard Street between Grand and Broome is brimming with business news this week. In addition to Cafe Katja’s planned expansion we reported yesterday, The Lo-Down has learned that Hyper Island is departing for SoHo while adjacent boutique By Robert James may take over its former storefront.

The Swedish-based digital media school debuted on Orchard Street in July 2010, establishing its first U.S. headquarters here on the Lower East Side. Maria Eriksson, a Hyper Island representative, says the company was outgrowing the space and decided it was a good time to move. The new, larger offices will allow the company to host classes of up to 50 people, rather than the current max of 10, but the move is still a bit bittersweet. “We love Orchard Street,” said Eriksson.