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Woolworth’s This Isn’t

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Rendering courtesy of Paul Bennett Architects LLP  

After trying the gallerista thing for a few years after college, now-26-year-old Claire Distenfeld realized her true calling was retail. But her freshman foray into that world won’t be working as a shopgirl. This Thursday, Distenfeld, with her father’s backing, will open a full-on department store on the Upper East Side called Fivestory (18 E. 69th St., nr. Madison Ave.; 212-288-1338). Carrying 150 brands of clothing, accessories, shoes, and home décor for men, women, and kids, the venture is a can’t-miss five-floor townhouse skirted with red awnings. (Don’t go looking for the upper levels, though: The name is something of a misnomer, as all the merchandise is relegated to the bottom two floors and connected by an imposing marble staircase.) Distenfeld’s inspiration for the project was Paris concept shop Colette, and it shows in the impressive international assortment from European runway darlings—Preen, Mark Fast, Balmain—to lesser-known labels like Russian-style blog bait Vika Gazinskaya and Chicago’s Creatures of the Wind. The so-called shoe garden in back stocks more than a dozen designers, including standout cap-toe heels from Tania Spinelli and classic men’s lace-ups by Mark McNairy, while the jewelry selection offers statement collars for pile-it-on types as well as vintage Cartier baubles for the neighborhood’s heirloom-wearing ladies.


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