Actors enter the fashion game all the time, but they don't usually do it like Angelina Jolie. Yesterday, she opened the doors to her first retail space, Atelier Jolie, in New York's Soho. This isn't a mere brand extension, though: As with everything Jolie does, there's a humanitarian angle. "We are a collective that aims to show that an ethical and sustainable lifestyle isn't a lesser life with limitations," she explained over email from the set of her upcoming Maria Callas biopic. "It is better quality of life with personal creativity and community at its center."
The store is set in an art world landmark, 57 Great Jones Street, a carriage house where Jean-Michel Basquiat lived and worked after renting the space from the building's owner, Andy Warhol. The building is recognizable for its front panels, which has been graffitied many times over by local artists and Basquiat fans throughout the years. When they renovated, the Atelier Jolie team took great care to keep the integrity of the architecture alive. The front panels will remain intact, though they will slide back to reveal glass windows during daytime hours of operation.
Continuing the space's artistic sensibility, the store is partly staffed by students and alumni from Parson's School of Art and Design, three of whom gave me a tour earlier this week. The young artists on her team, Jolie said, are "even more inclined to be bold and disruptive, and that thrills me."
There's art-making that takes place on the premises, too, as shoppers can work with the team to customize pieces in the collection. Made with deadstock and vintage materials, the clothes range from beautifully fluid but sturdy trench coats to crisp suiting and transparent Swiss dot dresses. Customers can pick and choose the pieces they'd like, and one of the team members—all of whom have also been trained in cutting and sewing—can help guide their in-house alterations, which can include tailoring, patchwork, embroidery, painting, or screen-printing. Prices vary, but are democratic: The cost of a jacket with three interchangeable collars is $495, a silk A-line skirt is $195, and a smocked maxi dress starts at $575 and goes up $15 to include or swap out novelty fabrics.
There are also simple white t-shirts available for $15 that can be painted, screen-printed, or patched. The sales of the patches will go to charity, and some of the participating artists who've leant their work to the patches include Duke Riley, Chaz Guest, and Swoon. In addition to the Atelier Jolie base collection, there are also collections from sustainable fashion brands Bettter, Mitsugu Sasaki, WE-AR4, Mimi Plang, and Justin Smith, all of which can be tailored or altered to your liking.
Additionally, anyone is welcome to bring in their own vintage or headstock fabrics to the shop and the team members will help you create your own one-of-a-kind piece. As sales associate Peter Damas told me, "We want to be able to help them [customers] get something that feels like it's a quality piece but also something that they created."
"They're the makers, too," added Nora Bensch, another sales associate. "They're part of the creative process."
The back of the ground floor is where the screen printing and patching happens. It's also the only room that isn't painted white: when the team knocked down the outer walls of this area during renovation, they discovered graffiti-covered surfaced beneath with original artwork from Basquiat and others who worked there. Downstairs in the basement is the painting room, which is blank now but which they hope to splash with color in the coming months.
Upstairs is the proper atelier space, used for bespoke cutting and tailoring. It is light and airy with exposed wooden beams, three different hand sewing machines and a back dressing room that is painted entirely in gold. The furniture and fixtures throughout the entire building are all upcycled or vintage, and all of the pieces available for purchase are protected by Fairchain, which, as the Atelier Jolie team explained in a statement, is "a digital blockchain platform for fine art and collectables built to strengthen the connection between creators and the stewards of their work."
Atelier Jolie houses its own cafe, too, run by Eat Offbeat, an organization that empowers refugees through cooking. Within the cafe, visitors can sit at the craft table (an antique desk) to draw on patches or pick out vintage buttons and lace from the old silver filing cabinet at the back center of the room.
It's impossible to walk around the space without noticing the emphasis on creativity and community. As Jolie said, "There is so much happening that divides us, and it's essential that we create and share time together. One aspect of today's world is the push to be like others and follow trends. It doesn't lead to the place where one feels most alive."
She added, "Discovery and mistakes are essential for creativity. The once young punk in me wanted to push against what was normal and paint the walls with the people I love. I hope others do, too."
Below, here's an exclusive look at Atelier Jolie's first collection, now available in the atelier and online, worn by young actors and performers.
“I am thrilled to have the chance to have our first images worn by such brilliant performers as Daryl, Gabby, Sky, Antony, Jason, Tilly and Brody. It’s more a feeling and lifestyle than a clothing line. It’s a choice”- Angelina
Performers: Tilly Evans-Krueger & Daryl Tofa
Pictured: Interior of 57 Great Jones Street
Performers: Daryl Tofa, Jason Schmidt & Sky Lynch
Performer: Anthony Norman
Performer: Gabriella Beans
Performer: Brody Grant
Performer: Sky Lynch
Performers: Tilly Evans-Krueger & Daryl Tofa
Performer: Jason Schmidt
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