If we’ve learned anything from this year's New York Fashion Week, it’s that now more than ever, pieces are presented as an experience beyond the clothes themselves. The retail world has been operating on this tip for quite some time, particularly in the luxury realm; modern examples include the multi-level, multi-faceted experience that Rei Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market offers, as well as the boutique-cum-café-cum-nightlife spot balance struck by Williamsburg fixture Kinfolk. You may enter a shop looking for a cool jacket, but nowadays, what occurs during and right after your shopping experience matters just as much as leaving with that amazing addition to your wardrobe.
That’s where Residence, a planned retailer-speakeasy-dining-kickback hybrid, comes into play for the city of Atlanta. Spearheaded by 29-year-old Brandon Broadus and partner/co-founder Calvin Green, Residence is comprised of a team of young creative professionals with the collective mission of providing an accessible luxury retail experience for their city, as well a hub for Atlanta’s creatively-inclined youth to learn and grow their talents. Since the city is already a musical stronghold, Residence aims to further elevate and round out Atlanta's cultural appeal and contributions through a focus on design and fashion. Ahead of their next pop-up experience, to be held this Saturday and in collaboration with design festival Modern Atlanta, Broadus spoke over the phone about the birth of Residence, Atlanta’s changing retail scene, and what it means to give back to the city that made him.
Growing up in Atlanta, what was your retail experience like?
I was born in New Jersey, but I had my formative years here. I enjoy the South in terms of pace and quality of life. You learn a lot by being able to take things slow. We didn't have much in terms of notable retail experiences, but I'll never forget that [my friends and I] used to go to The Underground and Walter's to go shop when we were kids. Walter's is a phenomenal store — it's been around for over 50 years on Georgia State campus. They'd always have the best selection of sneakers and Dickies, in every color. The old guy who ran it, Walter, recently died. It was a one-stop-shop — not necessarily the most ornate display, but you walk in and someone helps you find your size on the shoe wall. It had all the best gear — all the rappers shopped there.
As the retail scene changed here — we experienced Wish growing into its own, Stevie Williams's store [Sk8tique] — they all had areas in which they grew into something more. There was Little Five Points for a while. You have the West Side shops now, like A Ma Manier and Sid Mashburn. The scenes and neighborhoods for retail grew as people's palettes developed. There's also West Midtown, where there's a great assortment of contemporary retailers and specialty stores. We have a diverse retail atmosphere now, but initially it wasn't that way.
You recently moved from New York to Atlanta after working in the retail and fashion realms. What was your motivation to move home?
It stemmed from the opportunity to create my own foothold in the retail environment. In New York, I had a range of experiences. I worked for Engineered Garments, and that helped me understand detail and craftsmanship that goes into premium garments. I had an excellent education working for Nepenthes — getting introduced to the Japanese aesthetic in a formal way. That allowed me to branch off into Kinfolk, where I was the production manager for a couple years. That was the best experience for me, because there aren't many places like Kinfolk in the world — to see in real time how retail and nightlife complement each other so well, where you can buy a shirt then wear it out to grab a drink and chill. That's where fashion comes full circle — the night.
The last job I worked in New York was for Proenza Schouler, and it made me realize I'd had an even survey of different facets of fashion in a brief amount of time: contemporary, streetwear, and luxury. It inspired me. There are so many correlations between these different aspects of fashion, and at the base level they involve presenting quality products in a way that resonates with people. I always wanted to come back because Atlanta offers the best quality of life, and the people are more genuine. I saw the opportunity to create a luxury environment that expressed my creative vision, with craftsmanship being at the forefront. I wanted to be able to present to where I'm from, for the people of where I'm from. We don't have a fashion industry here, but we can develop a community if people do more outreach and provide more examples of great retail.
Tell me about Residence.
It's a mixed-use luxury retail concept store that's pretty much for everyone, but specifically people who appreciate fashion. We wanted to make the luxury experience accessible for all, which is almost a contradiction because luxury is exclusive. We want to challenge that notion and open up that essence to everybody so it becomes more inclusive and more representative of the luxury consumer now: diverse, not an old white person like it was in the past. Luxury is now the most prevalent form of fashion in terms of popular culture. This is the era of its continued growth, due to the amount of information that is available. We want to offer a wide variety of experiences for the community to enjoy.
We're building the brick and mortar from the ground up, and are slated to open at the end of the year in 2019. The experience will be diverse — we'll have a cafe, a lounge area, a speakeasy area, and a retail floor that is unmatched. You won't know whether you're in a house or a retail store. We want people to be able to kick back and learn about new products — the way it should be.
How will Residence fit into Atlanta's retail experience? What are you hoping to accomplish with it?
We still don't have this full retail experience that many world-class cities have, and we hope to be that store that offers customers an entire experience. We're doing everything we can to understand at a ground level what people here actually want. We're trying to collect all the data and analytics before opening to create the best experience. We're having a series of day-party events leading up to the store opening that will be in Atlanta and, next year, around the country to give us real-time feedback as we test innovations like our proprietary software that tracks and guides your retail experience. We want to bring the world to Atlanta.
Parts of Atlanta are changing rapidly. How can you make sure this will be something positive for the city and its intended audience?
Music is our largest commodity in terms of the arts, but everything around that also makes a culture. Outside of music, our culture is not at the forefront, and music is the catalyst for all other elements of the culture. They should all be in alignment, at the same level of importance. Being able to provide infrastructure to the city of Atlanta is of the utmost importance, because that's something that was lacking. To provide an example that people can look up to is an aspiration.
Growing up, you'd look at magazines, see New York and L.A., and want to go there to experience fashion — but fashion is what you make of it, your aesthetic and personality. But if you don't have the resources to create things at the same level that drives the conversation as these other world-class cities, your work is pushed to the back. We stand to be a staple in the community by providing mentorship and resources, as well as by creating a whole community surrounding fashion, which will drive all the other elements — art, music, everything. Taste increases when you're able to show how everything works together.
Residence is going to be holding a few events in collaboration with Modern Atlanta in the near future. What is MA, and what can people expect from these events?
MA is a design festival in Atlanta headlined by a tour of modern homes. They create a strong connection between architecture and design at a human level and do a great job of opening up the intricacies of design to the public. We're excited to work with them because they offer so much to the city. To be able to create an event series with them that offers the direct correlation between architecture and fashion in a digestible way through our programming, panels, and installations [is great]. The idea of purposeful fun is a new ideal, and this is what we hope to push to the forefront: education and fun existing in the same sentence.
Who's the team behind Residence?
My partner and co-founder is Calvin Green from Reebok. Brittni Hudson is our art director, formerly of A Ma Maniére. Dylan Warmack, formerly of Dover Street Market, is our creative director. Naomi Ergun is our director of hospitality, is a phenomenal Georgia Tech grad who works for one of the best co-working spaces we have in Atlanta. Rochelle Bennett, who is formerly of Wish and used to be Lil Uzi Vert's assistant, does our displays and will be doing our merchandising in the brick and mortar store. Lastly, we have our executive chef and beverage director Duane Kulers of Octopus Bar, as well as Omar Ferrer, who's formerly the beverage director of Himitsu. The two of them are opening up their restaurant Supremo directly across the street from where our brick and mortar will be. All of these people understand culture at the molecular level, and will be able to provide the best possible experience to Atlantans.
Are most of the people on the team from Atlanta?
Most of them are. Initially, we all started out being Atlanta people who moved to New York, but then we realized that there was an opportunity to make a stake in Atlanta. We all like to travel around, but we're all from here, and we want to be able to provide the best possible experience to Atlantans.