Encore Exclusive

Assembly’s Greg Armas makes tees (and other wardrobe essentials) for two.

Story by Roger Joseph / Photography by Thomas Lohr

For both savvy marketers and anxious real estate agents, the pop-up shop phenomenon has most of the active ingredients of a retail panacea. It raises the pulse of an empty space, or obscure area, and provides the right infusion of goodwill to any particular product or entity. It is often with optimistic exclamations that one has learned to view its “now you see it, now you don’t” existence. That is, until something else takes foot.

Clients of the old school-moderne aesthetic of Assembly, the Lower East Side shop that sells well-curated vintage and collectible bric-a-brac alongside cultish clothing and accessories, expect this degree of surprise when crossing the threshold.

Those swayed by the moody urban sensibility of Robert Geller, the recent recipient of the GQ Award, a fashion design competition sponsored by the men’s magazine, were, no doubt, doubly enthusiastic as Assembly housed Key Shop, a temporary retail installation of Geller’s Spring ‘10 clothing, next to its own in-house collection, also named Assembly. That this pop-up shop concept closed on April 15 added perhaps another level of anxiety to this date.

Collaborations of this type are in keeping with what Greg Armas, the shop’s owner, has expressed on record. “I’m excited about working with a lot of the designers on projects exclusive to Assembly that reach beyond clothing into objects, music, and the obscure,” he says. However, his latest project is considerably more inclusive, reaching into the psyche of the fairer sex with the expansion of womenswear into Assembly, the collection

The evolution of the clothing follows that of the shop. Essentially established as just for the boys, Assembly’s embrace of womenswear is probably as much about economics as any solidarity with the crotch-grabbing Venuses in our midst.

Armas’ background as a gallerist, and his passion for vintage wear, advises not only the layout of the shop and presentation of the wares, but in his own collection too.

Since its opening, Assembly has attracted those seeking well-designed, well-priced silhouettes of the likes of A Detacher or Henrik Vibskov. Nestled between hand-painted bocce balls and a stunning turn-of-the-century umbrella with 14k accoutrements and a carved ivory handle, Armas’ oversized pullover with detachable sleeves, inspired by French work wear from the early 1900s.  The similar incarnation appears next season.  One can easily imagine John Steinbeck or John Mayer wearing the polished vintage boots, flushed proud against the brick face of this narrow venue.

Being fairly egalitarian in his design process, Armas has simply broadened the size range of trousers, and jackets to afford an increasing number of female clients the same trademarks they merely browsed over before. Why should a cashmere topper, with fur discreetly lining the pockets be limited to Adam only? Or, for that matter, an un-constructed blazer, slightly fey in raw silk?

Armas, who was raised in the heart of Oregon’s logging industry, migrated from Los Angeles to New York to start a clothing line. For chroniclers of retail trends, Armas was instrumental in establishing Scout, a hip fusion of vintage and contemporary clothing, not unlike Assembly, on West 3rd Street, a stretch of the city made popular by its string of progressive boutiques such as Satine and South Willard.

Assembly the collection dovetails nicely into the rest of the shop’s goodies. Retailers from Opening Ceremony to Ships Japan have cottoned onto his menswear and would be ready conduits for the unisex pieces. If one of them decides to erect an Assembly pop-up shop, remember where you first heard it.