The common refrain among digitally native brands is that brick-and-mortar stores are a relic. Who needs a lease when you can order everything online? Upon walking into?La Ligne’s first shop, on Madison Avenue, you half expect its founders, Meredith Melling, Valerie Macaulay, and Molly Howard, to say they felt similarly when they launched the elegant essentials line, back in 2016. But a permanent store (or a few!) was always in their plans. Maybe it’s their deep experience in the fashion industry that stopped them from writing off “traditional” retail, like so many of their direct-to-consumer peers: Melling and Macaulay met as?Vogue editors, and Howard led business development at Rag & Bone.
“The great thing about being direct-to-consumer is that you have so much data on your customer—who she is, where she lives, what she buys,” Howard says. “You really get to know them, but it’s still behind a screen. It’s great to get feedback in an e-mail, but it’s different hearing it in person. That’s the gift of having this physical space.”
Their new, 650-square-foot shop is opening today on Madison Avenue (in the same building as the Mark Hotel), and it feels more like a well-decorated studio apartment than an Upper East Side boutique. “We didn’t want it to feel too precious or too sterile, so you can actually sit back and relax,” Macaulay says. That feels-like-home sensibility is something they’ve picked up on through years of hosting trunk shows around the country—from New York to San Diego to Dallas to Chicago—in which the trio arranges panels, lunches, or cocktail parties–slash–shopping events. It’s something of an old-school model, but in an age of digital-everything, it’s resonating for?La?Ligne; as Melling tells it, their label has been “built by their community.”
Longtime members of “la?bande” will be happy to discover pieces debuting exclusively in the store, like the Kate dress in a new, chocolate floral; a big straw beach tote; and a Mini Marin sweater in a sunny shade of daffodil. Melling also pointed out playful, “experiential” touches, like a mirror painted with a Cleo Wade poem that begs for a selfie; an illustration in the window by the Cartorialist’s Carly Kuhn; and a spacious changing room with a glowing pink Ettore Sottsass mirror. “In this day and age, you have to make it feel special and different,” Melling adds.
“People feel they need to connect with a brand,” Macaulay says. “There’s inherent value in having those experiences or getting to know the founders.” On that note, you’ll catch a glimpse of all three of them if you swing by today; they’re celebrating Day One with friends and customers in the neighborhood, plus a few stylists and designers in town for the Met Gala. It’s uncanny timing: After the biggest red carpet of the year, what could be better than kicking off your stilettos and changing into?La?Ligne’s crazy-soft pajamas? Pick yours up today at?996 Madison Avenue.