Louis Terline is co-owner of Oak, a boutique with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Fire Island. Oak features fashion forward designers such as Comme des Garcons, Rad Hourani and Kai Aackmann.
What was the original concept for OAK? Has it changed at all?
Oak was started to represent how a certain set of New Yorkers were dressing. The styles have definitely changed over the years, going through different “moods” but the core idea of looking at their needs hasn’t.
Can you tell us about the color selection at the store? It seems as if you are concentrating exclusively on black, white and grey’s. Why?
We’re a New York City based store and New Yorkers love black. It’s easy to wear, goes with everything and stays clean the longest. When you live in a big city and a small apartment both time and space are at a premium. It’s easier if everything you own goes together and you don’t have to waste time in the morning making color choices. We tend to like things tonal. If you look at the “blacks” we sell they are rarely all the same shade. We do sell color though — sometimes it’s bright pops and sometimes it’s muted shades, but they always go back to black.
Who does the buy for the store?
We have a buyer named Kimberly who has been with us since our first location. All three of us work together to craft the buy.
How does the merchandise differ from your locations in Manhattan to Brooklyn?
We insist that all of our stores have their own “voice”. Although they all sell mostly the same brands, they will have a different style mix. Manhattan tends to be a bit dressier while Brooklyn is definitely more casual.
Can you measure where most of your online sales ship?
Ironically we have a huge client base in New York. We also ship to Asia and Europe frequently.
How long ago did you launch the Oak label? Does it sell in retail stores other than your own?
We launched our own label about six years ago. Since both of our backgrounds are in design, we’ve had an in-house collection since the beginning. However, we re-launched it about two years ago and began to wholesale last season with an exclusive on Net-A-Porter. We’ll be in some more retailers for fall. We’re definitely trying to grow that part of the business slowly.
Who designs the collection?
Jeff and I design it, but it is a collaborative effort with our staff. We do have a very talented designer named Kristopher who gets the designs out of our heads and makes them real.
Where have you been traveling for fashion week?
In the past we have been all over, but recently we are concentrating on New York. There is so much talent right here at home.
Do you often search for new designers or stick with a core group?
It comes in waves. We have our core and we can’t always buy everything we love, so every few seasons we shake it up. Strange as it seems, we are really looking forward to Spring 2013.
Tell me about your magazine, OAKAZINE. Do you think you’ll ever start a subscription like Style.com and Net-a-Porter are doing?
Oakazine is one of our favorite projects. It allows us to work with some of the most talented people. Its mission is to seasonally represent the things we are looking at, our inspirations and our friends. It gives our customer an insight into our process. I don’t know about subscriptions, but the print copies are available through us and about ten other retailers right now, including Colette in Paris and Restir in Tokyo.
What other retailers do you admire?
We admire any retailer that has strong vision and finds a way to communicate it. Good retail is about way more than who can sell more of a particular item. It’s about who can show their customers a new way of seeing something while also giving them what they need.