Walking into Ulla Johnson’s brand new, first-ever boutique at 15 Bleecker Street felt very much like walking into her Fall 2017 runway show last month. (Another first for the native New Yorker, who’s clearly having a landmark year—and it’s barely even begun.) For starters, Johnson’s New York fashion week spectacle, held at the former home of the beloved Pearl River Mart, happened right in the thick of a miserable New York blizzard. Johnson’s catwalk set was fantastic, dreamy, and flower-filled—in other words, a welcome respite from the less-than-ideal situation outside. And while there wasn’t a snowflake in the sky when I met the designer at her new NoHo digs on Monday morning, it was rainy and cold, but Johnson’s sunny aesthetic immediately catapulted me into another life—a sweeter one, which was essentially her motive in opening her store. “That idea of transcending time and space is something we want to do here,” she said. “No matter what’s going on outside, this feels like something very unique.”
And she has created something unique, starting with the location, which took her two years to lock down. “It’s one of the only chill streets in this whole neighborhood,” she said. “And it feels like such an escape from, like, crazy Bowery. So much of New York has turned into this shopping mall feeling.” Johnson added that since bowing up shop (the doors officially opened on March 18), her neighbors have all come by to say hello, from the people next door at Overthrow Boxing Club to fellow designer Maria Cornejo, a friend of Johnson’s, who also has a store on the block. “It all felt really right,” she added.
Upon entering, the store is like an airy, minimalist cloud of bliss. It’ll be a dream come spring; the plant- and light-filled space—the product of architect Elizabeth Roberts and interior designer Alexis Brown—is flanked by massive windows in the front that pop open, something Johnson said she wanted to do to create an inside-outside feeling. “That was the first thing I cared about—creating something that felt like a bit of a haven or a pause or a space between so much chaos that we experience on the streets, but also in general in the world right now,” she said. “It feels like a really crazy time. I wanted this neighborly, connected vibe in the store.”