Style Shopping: What Began With A Leap Is Now Look
In 2001 on a visit to her parents in New Lebanon, Marie Balle bought an orange Yohji Yamamoto shirt at Second Show, a used clothing store in Hudson. “I wore it for a while, then posted it for sale on e-Bay in April 2002.” —typical of the kind of casual transactions she’d been dabbling in since 1997. (Her main business then was Fish Bowl, an antiques and vintage curiosity shop on Stanton Street, in Manhattan.) “I thought it was a man’s shirt because of the buttons, but I was never sure.”
The shirt quickly sold for $32 to a man, one Ian Chambers of Manchester, England, but as Chambers was a novice at e-Bay, he e-mailed the seller to ask for a lesson in procedure. Balle replied from her personal e-mail, and her address (signifier@ etc.) caught Chambers’ eye. At the time he was an Associate Professor of Film Studies and Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, so he quickly wrote back to ask if Balle had done a degree in philosophy, because, “signifier is a big word in both film studies and philosophy.” She answered that she had not, explaining that “signifier” was a favorite word she and her friends liked to toss around in conversation.
Above: Look co-owners Ian Chambers and Marie Balle; (background) blue Yohji Yamamoto jacket, $150; light blue Yohji Yamamoto shirt, $55; Yohji Yamamoto tie, $58
Thus began an e-mail flirtation that, eighteen months later, culminated in a wedding. For the first few years of married life, the couple divided their time between the U.S. and England. When that got old, Chambers applied for a green card and gave up academia to join his wife in a pre-owned fashion and accessories business that had grown too big for one person to manage. “It’s a lot more lucrative than philosophy,” he says, “and not nearly as contentious.”
Costume jewelry $10 - $75; with most pieces in the $25 range; handbags $15 - $175
By the time the couple returned to the States, Balle’s inventory, especially of handbags and costume jewelry, was, as she describes it, “Huge. Eventually both of us were spending all of our time on-line. It was too isolating to keep doing it that way. We wanted to interact with people.”
So they moved to Hudson, “because we thought it would be a good place to start a business eventually,” says Balle. While getting their bearings, they sold on weekends at flea markets in Manhattan. Now, finally, they’ve come in from the cold. Although Look, their shop on Warren Street, has been open just a month, they are encouraged by the reception they’ve received. “People seem to like it,” says Balle.
Shirin Guild sweater, $225, Workers for Freedom skirt, $76; Yohji Yamamoto long-sleeved tee $48; vintage black leather belt $22.
Costume jewelry and handbags, some designer, but mostly not, fill the front on the store; in back, smallish collections of men’s and women’s designer clothing hang on separate racks. “Clothes are more expensive and a lot harder to find,” Balle says. “Right now, we’re experimenting, trying to get a sense of what people want.” Their own taste leans toward Jil Sander, Shirin Guild, an English designer, Eskandar, and what Chambers refers to as “the holy trinity”—Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, and, of course, Yohji Yamamoto. “I have nothing against Asian-made clothing,” he says, “as long as it’s Japanese.”
Naturally, not every garment from Japan turns the couple on; truth be told, neither ever much cared for that orange Yohji Yamamoto shirt.
608 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
Monday & Tuesday noon - 5 p.m.
Thursday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.