VK Nagrani

VK Nagrani

The NYC men’s-only fashion concept store you need to know about
By:
Amanda Z
I clamber wearily into the back of a New York cab in the depths of the Bowery, bound for JFK airport, and reflect on an extraordinary fashion experience.
 
About a year before my sojourn to the Big Apple, I met the founder of a men’s-only fashion concept store who had an intriguing tale to tell and a unique approach to high-end fashion. We got to chatting about who he was and what he did, and I was hooked. I promised I’d visit him in New York, and spent the months that followed planning my trip. When I arrived on a fine spring morning in May, I was eager to see him again and to visit his shop – but I was not prepared for the experience, or how it would blow me away.
 
What you need to know first and foremost about Vivek Nagrani is that he doesn’t need you. Rather, you need him. If you are a man with a few quid to spare, and if you want to look good but don’t know how (or even where) to start, then his store on East Houston St on the edge of the East Village is the place to go.
 
87H isn't a traditional storefront operation – but that’s part of the allure. Its entrance is located on a busy street behind a thick layer of glass covered in graffiti, with the capitalised words ‘ALWAYS EVOLVING’ scrolled above the door. Once you pass inside, you are presented with two options.
 
Upstairs you will find Vivek’s stylist, Drew, a walking-talking fashion-bible of a New Yorker, outgoing and quirky and approachable, with a daahling accent that will fool you into believing he’s as English as David Niven (he’s not). Drew will walk you around his latest and greatest creations, showing you his denim jackets with faux-fur collars and his distressed vintage jeans. On the (long, long, wonderfully fun) night I spent at 87H, he was still happily working away at 1am, using a dremel machine to distress a pair of leather trousers he’d spray-painted electric blue.
 
As captivating and theatrical as this is, the only hint that something more lies beyond is the sight of a vending machine filled with Vivek’s patented socks. Think socks are just socks? You’re wrong. Named the "Best Dress Socks in the World" by Esquire magazine, these are peditastic wonders of engineering and style.
 
Ah, but this is a shop of layers. Layers upon layers; layers within layers. For downstairs – invitation by appointment only – is Vivek’s personal land of Narnia, a land where men come to find what it means to look really good. Descending into the deepest recesses of Nagrani’s uber-mancave is an experience in itself. Here is a wall of silk ties, impeccably presented; there is another so richly bedecked with colourful shirts, you half expect to find Jay Gatsby tossing them gaily in the air. The décor is rich and lush and individual, from the burgundy Chesterfield sofa to the decorated floors with illustrations of classic race-cars in one section and a giant Backgammon board in another. And behold the red-brick bar framing a triple row of optics fine enough to impress any proud Bowery bar owner.
 
The overwhelming feeling is that you are in a private members club, complete with split-level nooks and crannies. And, in the capable and almost magical hands of Vivek and stylist-extraordinaire Drew, it feels like a fashion speakeasy – a treasure trove of everything a man needs but doesn’t always know he wants.
 
That isn’t to say that 87H is an elite institution. Far from it. While fashion is in Vivek's blood (his grandfather was a luxury clothing retailer), it was a career the India-born, California-raised entrepreneur came to late. Perhaps that explains his grown-up, and wryly detached, relationship with the industry, if not his clientele.
 
Nagrani loves his customers, who come to see the shop as a home from home. But he didn’t set out just to dress Wall Street money managers, and his influence extends far beyond the city’s wealthy inner sanctum. Yes, his clients include four of the last five US presidents (guess which one is not on his list), but his adherents include everyone from Boston blue-bloods to successful men who made it to the top their way – the hard way. Without doubt, if someone makes it to the top of his industry, he will surely find his way to 87H, sooner or later.
 
And he will come not for the experience of being in Nagrani’s personal Bat-cave, but because the man of the house makes such wonderful clothes, offering classic lines, luxurious fabrics and subtle details, such as a shirtsleeve lined with suede or a jacket constructed with Alcantara, a durable fabric developed in Japan for car upholstery. All the clothing is made to order in Italy and Peru, with full suits starting at a very reasonable $1,800, and shirts ranging from $350 to $695. Nagrani’s clothes are designed with a purpose, and each piece has a function. And his intense sense of layering is also integral to his ethos. Adding this shirt and those trousers to that waistcoat, and this tie to those shoes and socks, creates the ideal ensemble for you – not just for any random fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-numbers man.
 
Above all, the place fizzes with its own electric authenticity. What started life as a project to make the best socks in the world – tick! - has been transformed into a haven for successful men who favour quality and style over big labels and passing trends. It isn’t uncommon for, say, ten of New York’s finest surgeons to book in and enjoy a proper gentleman’s evening, drinking single malts while being quietly being styled for the season to come.
 
This isn’t disposable fashion, nor is it some over-priced trend that bores you before the season is over. It’s delivered in a social club where music fills the air while men play chess or drink cocktails, and it’s friendly - you’ll never feel you don’t fit in. You are invited into this men’s club to relax, meet new people and discover your own style. And have no doubt, you will find your own style here. Most first-time customers will arrive wary but will leave with a spring in their step. You won’t necessarily leave feeling like a better man for shopping at 87H, but you sure as hell will look better.
 
Now Shop the Collection, or if you find yourself  in New York ... Book an Appointment (and don't forget to tell Vivek & Drew that Stylebible sent you).

 

87A East Houston Street, New York NY 10012