Greg Armas is the owner of Assembly New York, a Ludlow Street boutique that offers a curated mix of vintage clothing and hard-to-find luxury labels. The former gallerist designed and launched an in-house collection in 2009 and was chosen as a 2012 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist earlier this year.
Having established a retail presence for yourself in L.A. with Scout, what led you to open your New York store, Assembly?
I needed to be part of the New York vernacular to communicate and grow my concepts.
How has your personal style influenced your design aesthetic?
I really live and work in my clothes; they cant be too precious or ornamental. With design, I am constantly editing to simplify the pieces and make them wearable.
Are you still designing Assembly New York as largely a unisex line or has it spawned two separate lines for men and women?
It’s completely separate; there are certain large trench coats and trousers that we cross over in different fabrics to play with gender roles, but the unisex notion is absent.
Do you prefer the role of buyer or designer?
They go hand in hand! What I really like is fabric and technique, so whether it’s my own or another designer’s solutions, I am generally interested.
Did you have a background in design before launching the in house label? What prepared you most for this role?
Industrial design and art only. I had to learn from vintage and observation to build up an idea of how and what I would design. Preparation is a something I think about a lot. It probably sounds cliché, but I feel every decision in the past has prepared me for the present. I couldn’t be doing this if my past was any different. I love people; I want to make beautiful objects for them.
Where else can one purchase Assembly New York? What lines does the collection hang with in your store or others?
We’re in over 50 stores globally now; in the states and the UK, Opening Ceremony has always been a huge support. We’re typically hanging next to brands like Acne, Margiela, Bless, Cosmic Wonder, Dries Van Noten.
There are so many young designers right now; do you think it was easier to break into the market because you already had your own store?
Having an institution in place to communicate and solidify the brand has been imperative, no doubt. I’m not sure if it’s easier though, as it required 12 years of having shops to build to this point.
How has working with stylist Marina Muñoz affected your creative process? Do you have similar approaches to putting a look together and what completes it?
Marina is a blessing. Our intuitions and taste levels are well matched, so when we are finishing looks we have the same vision. We both love ‘characters’…each ensemble has to be a realistic person, something tangible. Every person I work with affects my creative process—an intern’s shoes may end up inspiring a look.
What are some of the most hard to find labels you are stocking right now?
Christophe Lemaire, Vladimir Karaleev, Perfect 69 and Jeremy Scott.
How do you feel about collaborations? Do you have any dream collaborators for your line?
I love collaborations, as long at they are clever. There’s a lot of strange mix and matching with huge conglomerates pairing up with independents and I think the designers lose in the end a little. My dreams are Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela and Patti Smith.
Where is the balance of life between the East Coast and West Coast for you?
Total imbalance. I’m either full steam in Manhattan or disappearing in Mexico.