Jack's Mixed Bag

Andy Spade's new Soho store — a case study in subversive branding and calculated undesign — unseats all the conventional wisdom surrounding upscale retailing

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On the walls and shelves of the Jack Spade store on Greene Street in Soho, the branded men's bags and accessories are interspersed with more improbable merchandise: three stuffed white rats, an old Kodak camera, a seemingly huge early Sony Watchman, a collection of miniature Christmas trees sprinkled with fake snow, an Arizona travel sticker, a hunk of coal. Parked outside the store are two heavy vintage Schwinn bicycles, also for sale. It's an inventory that might end up sounding like lyrics from the Tom Waits song "Soldier's Things": "Cuff links and hubcaps/Trophies and paperbacks/It's good transportation/But the brakes aren't so hot."

The 500-square-foot store—recently renovated with the help of architect Steven Sclaroff—is the latest aberration in retailing convention, an experiment in the spirit of Murray Moss's Soho shop or Dave Eggers's 826 Valencia, in San Francisco, a pirate-supply store that doubles as a publishing office and a kids' workshop center. Almost everything in Jack Spade is for sale, but the point is not so much to sell it as to show it, to help create a brand that unseats the conventional wisdom that luxury goods demand an impeccably up-scale retail setting.

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