Every other Thursday, The FADER asks employees and employers at our favorite shops around the world what their most cherished in-store item is for our column Staff Affections. This week, Elizabeth Raiss caught up with Olivia Wolfe, of the downtown NYC boutique and coffee shop American Two Shot, and spoke with her about Khoi Le’s Mini Collegiate Leather Backpack.
Can you tell us about the concept behind American Two Shot being a store, a coffee shop, and a party space? There was definitely some hesitation before we opened. The question was ‘What’s going to make this store different? Why will people shop here?’ We knew we weren’t re-inventing the wheel, we just wanted to create a shop that people wanted to come to and hang out at. It was a little scary because I certainty didn’t have any retail experience and Steph, my partner, didn’t come from a retail background either. But it was kind of nice because we definitely just went at it our own way. We don’t have to abide by traditional retail rules or paradigms anyway. We felt that there was room for a different point of view in the retail landscape.
One of the store’s founding principles is the “City of Friends” concept, the notion of young talented people supporting each other in a reciprocal way. How did that come about? Was it organic? When the idea for the store was hatched, I remember Steph and I looked around and it sort of dawned on us that so many of our friends, and people that we were meeting, were wonderfully talented or launching their own brands. We thought what if we could make a platform that didn’t seem sort of crafty in any way, that it could still seem like a really cool– a luxe place where young brands could be shown. The store started out with 15 brands and we had personal relationships with all of them.
Tell us about the Khoi backpack. How did your relationship with Khoi come about? We’re at the store almost everyday, so we’re constantly meeting new people all the time. A lot of our collaborations have started from a friend of a friend or a designer that we’re working with. Khoi is a prime example of this. A friend said ‘You have to meet a friend of mine who makes these rad backpacks.’ Khoi was one of the first designers to sign on to stock his bags here, and we were the first brick and mortar store to carry his line. He makes the perfect backpack. He’s blown up since then but there’s still a loyalty to us—he’s still down to do collaborations and give American Two Shot exclusives styles. For this backpack, we asked him to experiment with his classic collegiate shape but in a smaller size. I like pieces I can get a lot of wear out of, and a backpack is like that. Even though it’s white leather, to me it’s seasonless.