Everyone remembers their first time. For Lauren Amos, it was seeing Junya Watanabe’s Fall 2004 runway show. She went to the mall immediately. She didn’t walk out with any Junya Watanabe, but she did buy her first wool Rick Owens jacket. For Eugene Rabkin, it was walking into Barneys for the first time back in 1998 and seeing pieces from designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester. He credits the experience with teaching him what fashion truly was, beyond the loud and logo-centric Versace and Dolce and Gabbana items that defined the term “fashion” for him beforehand. These types of experiences are what the duo hopes to bring to a new generation of shoppers at Atlanta’s newest luxury fashion destination, ANT/DOTE.
“People have asked before, ‘what store is the model for this?’ And there is no store. But I do think we are trying to recreate that first moment when you walked into Barneys 25 years ago to see what’s new. You went for the exposure,” says Rabkin while leaning against a black dresser in the downstairs VIP room of his newly-opened Atlanta boutique next to Amos. “There was an excitement. And now fashion doesn’t really work that way anymore.”
With the opening of ANT/DOTE in Atlanta’s West Midtown neighborhood, Amos and Rabkin aim to give locals that same feeling that made them fall in love with fashion decades ago. Amos has years of retail experience under her belt already as the founder of Wish, another retail hotspot in the city that focuses on sneakers and streetwear. Rabkin, while established in the fashion industry as a critic and founder of StyleZeitgeist, has never operated his own space before. In a blog post for StyleZeitgeist from August 2021, he details why now seemed like the perfect time to take the leap.
“I think that deep down every critic, as a tastemaker–and let’s face it, criticism is in part tastemaking–fantasizes about opening a store. I know I have. In a way a store is another way of testing one’s position, one’s ability, prowess, determination, but also one’s limitations,” reads the post. “We wanted a store where you are not made uncomfortable by the salespeople, one in which a fashion student can walk in and chew our ear off about how amazing Rei Kawakubo is. Because we were these kids, and we remember what it’s like to open that door behind which the most amazing clothes were kept, despite feeling terrified inside.”
No detail was overlooked with ANT/DOTE. The interior design was handled by Chris Benfield, an architect who’s previously designed Rick Owens and Balenciaga stores in North America. He was tasked with converting the space, which previously served as a Kodak lab for secret government projects, into a must-shop destination. Minimal white walls and terrazzo floors keep the focus on the clothes. A jaggedly-shaped, black marble cash wrap is installed at the center of the store. Display cases peppered across the floor house sunglasses and jewelry. One corner of the boutique is dedicated to skincare and fragrances complete with a floor-to-ceiling assortment of Aesop products. A walk down a set of stairs leads to a cave-like basement displaying footwear and handbags on white plaster shelves. A circular seating area and custom made leather bench occupy the floor area and a giant mirror is off in the corner, perfect for photos.
Karlo Steel, founder of famed-boutique Atelier New York, was brought in as the buyer. One thing you will notice immediately from browsing the racks, there are almost no logos in the entire store. Pieces from Marine Serre covered in its signature crescent moon print are perhaps the most noticeable example of graphics along with a handful of Undercover T-shirts. You won’t find a 1017 Alyx 9SM logo hoodie, but you will find this oversized black hoodie with a quarter zip at the front. There’s no CDG Play hearts in sight, but you will be able to shop this great pair of CDG Homme Plus pleated pants. Each member of the sales staff, which Rabkin says has been rigorously trained to know the product like the back of their hand, dons a black smock specially designed by Craig Green for the employees.
ANT/DOTE isn’t the only place in Atlanta catering to luxury fashion. A Ma Maniére offers a variety of brands from Balenciaga to Dior. Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza house department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. And the Buckhead Village District is home to flagships for designers like Hermes and Louis Vuitton. But ANT/DOTE is offering a different assortment of products. It will be the exclusive stockist of names like Comme des Garcons, Craig Green, Jil Sander, Junya Watanabe, and Undercover. Rabkin notes the addition of a techwear space stocking Stone Island, Arc’teryx Veilance, and Acronym will eventually be present on the sales floor as well. But for Amos, the experience goes beyond being transactional, something these larger stores cannot always provide.
“Creating an environment that gives people that luxury experience is so important,” Amos tells Complex. “They walk in and they’re amazed. They want to take their selfie and it makes them even feel better. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, just pampering the customer and giving them the best luxurious experience we can, no matter if it’s a $100 T-shirt or a $35,000 jacket.”
We had a chance to sit down with Amos and Rabkin at the opening night event for ANT/DOTE to discuss their vision for the store, their thoughts on brick and mortar retail, and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.