Morgan Yakus and Karin Bereson of No. 6
Seven years ago when Karin Bereson and Morgan Yakus opened the boutique, No. 6 , in Manhattan’s Little Italy, “hot” was still being used as a descriptor for the era’s ubiquitous embellished denim and ruched, lace-up boots. The pair opted to eschew those (and all) trends and set what would be the store’s aesthetic precedent: a scrupulous collection of vintage clothing and independent designer creations that two years on grew to include an in-house, made-in-America womenswear and accessories line comprising the legendary No. 6 clog, which despite its renown still feels like a Soho secret. This same sentiment can be ascribed to the store’s ambiance. Informal and intimate, it imbues every purchase with a sense of personal discovery.
Karin and Morgan can also take a fair bit of credit for transitioning the definition of cool from the aforementioned aggressive fashions of the early aughts to the nonchalant, individualistic, socially conscious style that is, today, known as “hipster.” But it’s not an act; they actually like knitting and Chinese herbs. Moreover, No. 6’s stock list and casual setting have created a oft-duplicated template for the vintage/avant-garde/lifestyle boutiques that have proliferated in lower Manhattan and more recently Brooklyn. Taking imitation as the most sincere form of flattery, Karin and Morgan don’t begrudge theses new arrivals, in fact they embrace them—and the catalyst they provide for No. 6′s evolution, which recently has included multiple collaborations and an expanded seasonal collection.
Erin Dixon: I know you two originally met on a job, but what was it that drew you to the other?
Karin Bereson: I had seen a lot the vintage clothing Morgan worked with and her taste really spoke to me. Each piece was perfect.
Morgan Yakus: And we had the same red pointy flat shoes that not many people had.
Erin: How has your vision for No. 6 changed from when you opened it until now?
Karin: There are so many stores open now that didn’t exist seven years ago, as well as the growth of online shopping, so I believe we try harder to make the in-store experience much more special. Also, we try to have a lot of designers that are found in very few places, or are even making pieces exclusive to us.
Morgan: I feel like our vision changes as our customers go through there changes. I believe change is good and healthy and it’s what keeps a brand alive. Since we opened, our own brand of No.6 clothing and clogs have really expanded and become what we are known for.
Erin: What have you learned about human nature and/or shopping habits since opening the shop?
Karin: People in general just want to be excited by a new purchase; they want something to make them feel good. And even when women shop alone, they still enjoy having some input or validation from one of us or the sales staff.
Morgan: I agree with Karin. Women, just want to feel and look good and be treated with respect. Sometimes even if a item is not their style, we can get them to take a chance on something new and they’re always happy they did, which is exciting.
Erin: You carry primarily independent designers; do you think that the independent New York design scene has changed in the past decade?
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Karin: It is a lot easier to now find these smaller independent designers—between more stores carrying them and the Internet—so it is even harder to find people that no one else has. On the other hand, it is nice because customers are more willing to try a new designer since they see [his or her creations] in more places.
Morgan: Yes, it has expanded more and the customer is much more open to the idea of different kinds of designers.
Erin: Tell us about the origin of No.6 clogs.
Karin: We found something that inspired us to do the clog boots and it kind of grew organically from there. People loved them from the start and that became the jumping off point.
Morgan: We loved the idea of reviving the clog base into a handmade, warm, comfortable and stylish boot.
Erin: What motivated you to design clothing—what did you feel was missing in the market?
Karin and Morgan: We were doing one-of-a-kind pieces that Barneys wanted and we could only produce so many at a time, so we began developing our own prints after that. There seemed to be a hole in the market for easy dresses that could be worn every day or at night and were also affordable.
Erin: Where do you manufacture both the clogs and the clothing?
Karin and Morgan: Everything is manufactured here in the States.
Erin: What keeps you passionate about fashion after all these years?
Karin: I get inspired a lot by what I see on the streets. There are so many interesting style choices made by New York women all the time. Also, any period film I see always leaves me wanting a modern version of something I had just seen in the movie.
Morgan: I am motivated by other people’s personal style… I love people watching, especially on the street or at a party. I am always inspired by people’s choice of color, shapes and texture—especially when there not trying to be fashionable. Mostly of all I am inspired by nature, life and people who are trying to make a difference.
Erin: How do you spend your freetime?
Morgan: It can be hard to find freetime, but it’s important to take time so you can be fresh and stay on your toes. I find things that I do in my freetime end up inspiring my work and creativity. I have been spending time upstate on the weekends, learning how to grow food, work with herbs and commune with nature. I read a lot of books that aren’t related to fashion, but health and healing.
Erin: What is your criteria when selecting vintage clothing?
Morgan: Vintage hunting is a very organic process. It is always based on what you can find. Vintage items are often one-of-a-kind and what you end up buying is the best at that time and place. We look for pieces that are in good condition and that are modern looking and something we would wear ourselves.
Erin: What are you favorite cities or countries to shop for vintage?
Morgan: Anywhere in Europe, especially France and England.
Erin: Do you have an all-time favorite find?
Morgan: They’re all our favorites!
Erin: What has been difficult about running a business with a partner?
Karin and Morgan: Like in any relationship, just having to incorporate another person’s methods, tastes and decisions.
Erin: And what has been rewarding?
Karin and Morgan: Seeing another person’s methods, tastes and decisions!
Erin: What advice would you give to someone wanting to open a boutique in NYC today?
Karin: Maybe to try and look for an area that is untapped. There is so much room for growth in this city and New Yorkers always love new things in their neighborhoods.
Morgan: It may seem glamorous or look easy, but it’s not. It’s hard work. Most people don’t realize this. My advice would be to do something different that no one has already done.
Erin: What makes New York unique stylistically?
Karin and Morgan: The fashion choices are very complex and sophisticated. Half the people I see are artistic in some way— designers, musicians, actors, artists—so they are all bringing a much broader, more creative way of expressing themselves through the way they dress. We have a whole city of style and trendsetters right here at our fingertips. Going to any art, music or fashion event is better than any group of runway shows, in terms of fashion.
Erin: Who is someone you would like to collaborate with?
Karin: In my dream world, I would do anything with [Martin] Margiela, but I would also love to collaborate with a menswear company. I also knit and needlepoint so would love to find a granny somewhere and do more craft things for the store. Maybe that’s just my excuse for wanting to curl up with a ball of yarn.
Morgan: In the fashion world, I would love to collaborate with Dries van Noten, Colette in Paris, Bless… Outside the fashion world, I love to work with artists, architects, musicians and perfumers who are doing something interesting and different. I would have them create something interesting for No.6. This is the most fun for me, to work outside the box. This year we collaborated with artist Paul Wackers. We took his floral painting and put it on silk fabric for our Spring 2013 collection. It looks beautiful!
Erin: How would you like to see No.6 evolve in the next five to 10 years?
Karen and Morgan: We would like to see the company grow, but in a very personal way, to still have customers feel they can come in and hang out for hours. If it meant more stores, then each store would still feel very intimate, and if the collection broadens we would still like the accessibility to be a big part of that growth.