Chelsea T-Room

american Chelsea T RoomChelsea boys with a penchant for slouchy, nerve.com-style workout-wear now have an outlet.

After conquering hipster strongholds such as the Lower East Side, Soho, and Williamsburg, American Apparel recently signed a 10-year lease for a 3,700-square-foot space at 181 Eighth Avenue, their first Chelsea location.

The L.A.-based clothing retailer is notorious both for its socially progressive mantra (“sweatshop free”), and sexually provocative (and porn-friendly) advertising campaigns. Last month, the New York Times Alex Kuczynski got a bit creeped out by the company’s flamboyant founder, Dov Charney.

In November 2003, during less controversial days, the city’s first American Apparel store opened up at 712 Broadway. Six more are now scattered around Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Although stores appear to be popping up at a frantic pace, the company took their time—about two years—in choosing the Chelsea location.

“We’ve been working with them for a couple years, trying to get the right spot,” said Ariel Schuster, Managing Director of Robert K. Futterman and Associates, a leading real estate firm. “They are very smart about the way they get their real estate.”

“The owner himself spends a lot of time in New York, looking into locations,” said Alexandra Spunt, Content Advisor for American Apparel.

“It’s so intuitive [because] it’s about the placement, the space itself, the feel, and the people who live in that area,” said Ms. Spunt about store selection. “All these different factors come together for us.”

In the last year-and-a-half, American Apparel opened up over new 60 stores, with 40 more planned in the next six months, according to Ms. Spunt.

Locally, the company has future designs on Columbus Circle, and Mr. Schuster is helping them search in the Upper West Side.

“There’s endless potential in New York to do slightly more marginal locations and commercial locations,” said Ms. Spunt.

However, in the world of retail hotspots, Chelsea is perfect for attracting their young, target demographic.

“It is really the 50-yard line of Chelsea,” said Mr. Schuster. “There’s a good mix of bars and restaurants which tend to lead the consumer to shop a little later.”

And late hours have been an American Apparel trademark. The Lower East Side store, a block away from twenty-something haunts Max Fish and the Dark Room, remains open until 2:00 A.M. on Saturday nights. It’s accommodating hours are perfect for trapping impetuous (and tipsy) shoppers heading down Houston Street in the wee morning hours, looking for a quick, cheap recovery from a walk of shame.

- Michael Calderone