Photography by Andy Hur
Earlier this year, we interviewed designer Brendon Babenzien as he took his bow from the house of the box logo to relaunch his own clothing line, Noah. Now, the 43-year-old designer is opening up his own store a stone's throw away from the bustle of Lafayette Street, opting for a low-key corner of SoHo on Mulberry Street. The 800-square-foot space features a freshly painted wooden interior, designed by Babenzien's wife Estelle, is meant to feel equal parts homey, masculine, and inviting. To the attentive shopper, details like a painting denoting sea levels interspersed with vintage Vietnam-era patches, Bruce Springsteen books, and an old Donna Karan tome reflect the eclectic inspiration and interests not just of Babenzien, but the genre-transcending Noah customer.
"The eclectic nature of the clothing had more to do with the fact that individuals are not one-dimensional," says Babenzien. "There are no attempts to create anything. "Everything that you see now, and everything that you see in the future, will be interesting to us."
Hailing from East Islip, NY, Babenzien has a long relationship with SoHo, having come into the city intermittently since he was 14. Far from being one of the old heads always waxing nostalgic about "missing the old New York," he's more focused on the city's modern energy and need for newness, citing new transplants and younger natives always talking about the "new" restaurants to dine at or neighborhoods to hang out in. But still, he acknowledges setting up shop in SoHo is a bit of a homecoming.
The spot was home to the Paul Frank store, and remained dormant for three and a half years until Noah moved in. "It worked out for us, it's in the middle of downtown, and we have friends who live around the corner, so we feel at home," says Babenzien.
In addition to the Noah clothing line, the shop also stocks hardy footwear from Paraboot and rugged shearling toggle coats from Schott. They're the kind of complementary offerings that round out the collection perfectly while aligning with Babenzien's taste level. His customers range in age from teenagers to older guys, but to him, it isn't about catering to demographics, as much as it is about finding common ground with each person who walks into the shop. The value proposition of the gear is that it's stuff that's just well-made and looks fly—it's up to the wearer to inject even more style into each piece. Maybe that's why the appeal is so cross-generational. That, or as Babenzien has observed, the stuff adults and kids dig can be pretty similar.
"I do believe that the gap between young and old has shrunk considerably. I’m 43 years old and I’ve discovered that there are some things I like that a 15-year-old would. I don’t know if that existed today the way that it did before," he notes. "That’s when things get really interesting. I had a kid who came in here the other day, who was 18-years-old and super cool. He had great style and he wasn’t trying to be a grown-up in any way, but he had a Helmut Lang [jacket] from 1995. He looked really comfortable, and that’s what he’s into. He likes clothes from that era and he wears it well. That’s really cool."