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Soho Sensibility

Eclectic retail experience appeals to all of the senses.

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Atelier d’Emotion / Soho, New York

OWNER: Alice Sundbom; URL:atelierdemotion.com; FOUNDED: 2018; AREA: 400 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Hi June Parker, Vitae Ascendere, Fedko, Elena Kriegner, Baharra; BUILDOUT COST: $20,000


PEOPLE WHO REGULARLY stop by Atelier d’ Emotion never know quite what they’ll find on any given day. That’s part of the charm of this tempting Soho spot.

A welcoming vibe, one-of-a-kind jewelry and luxurious perfumes are a given. But there might also be the opportunity to have a portrait drawn on the spot by a guest artist, or to meet the designer of Lady Gaga’s hats.

“Atelier d’Emotion is a great local meeting spot for discovering things you didn’t know you wanted,” says proprietor Alice Sundbom. “I think experience is the way to go in retail. For jewelry, you need to touch it, you need to feel it, and if you add an experience, you will get people out of the house to see it.”

Alice Sundbom has found her niche in Soho.

Alice Sundbom has found her niche in Soho.

Sundbom collaborated with Jewelry Week NYC, Brooklyn Metal Works and R & Company to host a multisensory “dinner,” during which courses served were jewelry and scents, rather than food. Eight jewelers presented an intimate, four-course “meal” of the ingredients behind their work to a small table of guests.

Whatever happens, visitors know it will be an immersive experience, and that if the unidentified resident friendly ghost gets her way, the ambient music will be smooth rather than syncopated. “The ghost is friendly, but if we have an annoying customer, she slams the door. And the ghost hates rap music, so we change it to the Pink Martini Channel and everything is fine,”says Sundbom.

After a visitor has explored the store a couple of times, they are likely to bring their friends and start making plans to meet their favorite designers in person. Sundbom is adept at building a following both for her store and for the artists her store represents.

Customers are invited to develop relationships with the atelier’s featured artists, who take custom requests. “If they like the aesthetic of one of our 30 designers, they can say ‘I want to make it my own’ in the aesthetic of that designer. Now people come to us for wedding pieces that are extraordinary pieces you cannot find anywhere else. That is our niche and that is the future of retail.”

Interactive events at Atelier d’Emotion break the ice and usually spill out onto the Soho sidewalk out front.

Interactive events at Atelier d’Emotion break the ice and usually spill out onto the Soho sidewalk out front.

Like everything else in her Soho atelier, Sundbom is a one-of-a-kind original.

A psychologist born in Sweden, Sundbom came to jewelry officially when asked to help her best friend market her business of 3D-printed jewelry. Before that, though, she had always had difficulty finding jewelry she liked. Nothing she saw was bold enough. So, she began studying jewelry and modifying what she did buy. “Now,” she says, “I would like to buy everything in my store.”

She becomes particularly animated when describing the art and the artists.

Manya & Roumen’s Gold Pink Sapphire Snail in 18K gold and blackened sterling silver; $7,900.

Manya & Roumen’s Gold Pink Sapphire Snail in 18K gold and blackened sterling silver; $7,900.

At Atelier d’Emotion, you can find pieces in solid 22 karat gold handcrafted by Bigio, metal chain crocheted jewelry by La Vie Boheme (where a bracelet may contain 300 miles of chain and painstaking work), hand-carved titanium red carpet diamond pieces by Fedko, jewelry animal pets by Manya and Roumen, futuristic 3D printed metal lace designs by Vitae Ascendere, pearls with salt-and-pepper diamonds by Hi June Parker, and pendants that turn into cocktail rings by Elena Kriegner, just to name a few. Some of the perfume bottles are handmade in Italy; Atelier d’ Emotion is the exclusive dealer for many of them in New York or on the East Coast.

Beyond seeking a certain style of jewelry, Sundbom is also deeply attuned to the emotions tied to the symbolism of the purchase. The fact that she curates her atelier with one-of-a-kind pieces makes each purchase that much more special to her customers, because, as she says, when you’re investing emotionally in jewelry, you don’t want to find 10 million pieces that look exactly the same.

“Jewelry has to be an object of emotion because it’s an emotional purchase.”

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As for the space itself, Sundbom filled the landmark building with interior design treasures she found discarded by businesses that closed, such as tables and ottomans from Lord and Taylor’s and pillows and showcases from Barney’s, creating a casually eclectic look. “Out of the ashes of big retail, here comes Atelier d’Emotion, which is a new form of retail,” she says. “Everything is borrowed, recycled and transformed into something new.”

Although the store is only 400 square feet, high ceilings make it look more expansive. During a typical event, guests wander in and out of the store, spilling onto the sidewalk with glasses of champagne. But the pandemic brought the atelier’s party to a pause, albeit temporarily, in 2020. “Our super vibrant, open, full of people store, became very quiet,” Sundbom says.

Events feature a signature drink, which adds to the sense it’s a special occasion.

Events feature a signature drink, which adds to the sense it’s a special occasion.

The front windows, always a draw, became even more important. She relied on the storytelling power of those windows, showcasing different worlds of art and design, one at a time, changing the art and the displays every week. Passersby began shopping from the sidewalk, and she brought jewelry and art out to them. She also began scheduling virtual appointments that turned into virtual events.

During the early days of the pandemic, Atelier d’Emotion also partnered with Bottomless Closet to help New York City women enter the workforce. During December 2020, 10 percent of every purchase benefited the organization. In November 2020, Atelier d’Emotion helped raise funds for the Global Stress Initiative. The virtual event was designed to raise awareness about a treatment for COVID-19-related post-traumatic stress disorder at a Manhattan Clinic.

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Five Cool Things About Atelier d’Emotion / Soho

1. THE VIRTUAL WORLD. Online, Atelier d’Emotion introduces its designers’ work through short videos, allowing each to tell their story, then follows up with images and videos about the designs and promotes those on Instagram and Facebook. “We have recently introduced the feature of booking a virtual appointment, no purchase necessary, another way to show the work of our designers and answer questions about the different materials used and designs,” says Sundbom. She sends out a newsletter every month introducing the new designers, art and wearable art pieces.

2. THE BRICK AND MORTAR. Built in 1901, the historical, landmarked Soho building still has its original tile floors and silver ceilings, preserving the style and elegance of New York City. Original art by New York artists on the walls is constantly rotating, creating a different vibe with every season.

3. THE WAITING LIST. Artists line up to have their work shown in the space. “The only criteria I have is that it doesn’t compete with other people and that it’s something unique and made in the U.S.,” Sundbom says. “You’d be surprised by how many jewelry artists do not fit into the corporate image of the jewelry world.”

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4. IT’S ON THE MAP. Atelier d’ Emotion is on a SOHO Village Association historical walking map, which draws people to wander by and look at the building. Often, engaging window displays convert sightseers into shoppers. Other local marketing efforts include a display case in the Dominick Hotel and a collaboration with hotel concierges who refer visitors to the store. She also works with stylists who borrow jewelry for magazine photo shoots when they’re looking for distinctive and bold accessories, which is often.

5. PANDEMIC PIVOT. The perfume displayed and sold in the store is unique, unisex and niche, some made in New York, but also from France, Italy and other regions of the U.S. In response to the COVID pandemic, Sundbom added a variety of hydrating hand sanitizers to the scented collection, as well as masks designed and made in the city. The jewelry designers created unique chains for the masks.

PHOTO GALLERY (12 IMAGES)
JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Ruth Mellergaard: “This is a very human, giving store and it’s also a creative hub for staff and customers who love creative people and the jewelry they design and make.”
  • Michael O’Connor:“I love the Bohemian quality of the store and its merchandise mix. It’s exactly what one expects from a chic Soho boutique.”
  • Jeff Prine: “Fantastic merchandise offerings from lesser exposed designers and brands. Smart use of fragrances to augment experiences and keep clients in the store. Unique use of spirituality, etc., to engage customers. Exteriors and interiors harken back to pioneer retailers in Soho who had a point of view, while much of Soho now flounders in big box clones.”
  • Jennifer Shaheen: “Amazing potential. I love the interior of the store. I would love to have stumbled upon this as I walked the city.”

 

Try This

Make sure jewelry artists and designers have a voice in telling their own story in your store. Designers represented at Atelier d’Emotion regularly visit the store to share their experiences and passion for their work with their followers.

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