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by Ellyn Odell, JOUR 3000

 

In February, when RUEHL No. 925 opens its doors, the black paper will come down, and antique-sectioned windows and a brick apartment storefront will be revealed. Complete with a sidewalk, wrought-iron fence, and planter boxes under the windows, RUEHL No. 925 is the image of a historic New York City, Greenwich Village apartment.

“ The fact that Hawai‘i has been chosen for the placement of a RUEHL is huge,” Store Manager Misty Myers said. “Walking into RUEHL is such a wonderfully intriguing experience. RUEHL has a distinct style and there’s nothing like it in the mall. I can’t wait to share it with the island.”

RUEHL No. 925, pronounced “Rule Number Nine Twenty-five” or just RUEHL for short, is the fourth concept created by lifestyle-branding guru Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch. The store’s dimly-lit interior is cozy; scattered overstuffed furniture, soothing jazz music, and a central art gallery add to the ambiance. The store focuses on casual apparel for men and women, but also has small leather goods such as wallets, handbags, and belts, as well as CDs, magazines, and authentic antique books.

Parent company Abercrombie and Fitch describes RUEHL as “casual style meets Greenwich Village attitude.” According to the company’s Web site, RUEHL offers something unique: it’s an introduction to the New York dream, a chance to feel and dress like a young professional who’s found success in one of the world’s great cities.

In fact, the entire concept of the brand RUEHL can be traced back to the story of a fictional German family, written by Jeffries.

According to Abercrombie.com, the Ruehls’ story goes like this: The Ruehls immigrate to the United States in the late 1800s, move into an apartment in Greenwich Village, and open a leather goods business. The business is operated by the family for years, and the modern store RUEHL is the product of the Ruehls’ grandson, who opened an apparel and leather goods store 100 years later.

Although this story isn’t posted in the store, nor is it spelled out to the customer, the store’s atmosphere and apparel have been created in line with it, right down to the jean styles, which are named after popular Greenwich Village streets.

The Ala Moana store will be the ninth RUEHL to open nationwide, said Myers. Over the next few years the brand is expected to mature into a 100-store operation, said Myers.

RUEHL’s grand opening, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 11, will be a catered gala featuring live jazz music, according to Abercrombie and Fitch District Manager, Joe Bolton. Before the store opens, the 10,000-square-foot space must be completed, furnished, and merchandised. Myers and the other four store managers will spend the next two months recruiting 500 part-time associates and 20 full-time managers.

Bolton said the Hawai‘i district of Abercrombie and Fitch will employ almost 3,000 island residents in five stores: RUEHL, Abercrombie & Fitch Women, Abercrombie & Fitch Men, Hollister Ala Moana, and Hollister Pearl Ridge.

Margaret Sellers, 21, a fashion design student at the University of Hawai‘i, has been anticipating the opening of RUEHL for months. “The clothes are amazing. I could spend all day in the store,” Sellers said. “RUEHL is a store that defies typical fashion rules. Someday I’d love to work for their design department,” she added.

Sellers compares RUEHL’s merchandise to the clothes at Banana Republic; the stores’ apparel is priced similarly, but she thinks RUEHL has an edgier, more fashion-forward approach. RUEHL is also different from other brands in the Abercrombie and Fitch family, Sellers added, because it will carry the color black.

Sellers’ favorite RUEHL outfit happens to be the ladies’ key look this holiday season: fitted jeans paired with a graphic tee shirt and boy tank, layered under a dark-gray, cable-knit, cashmere sweater. According to Sellers, the men’s key looks include slimmer fitted dark jeans, button-up collared shirts, polos, and cashmere sweaters.

“ In order to pull off the RUEHL look as it is meant to be pulled off, you have to layer,” Sellers said. “Like, for girls, maybe a tank top or two under a tee shirt, layered under a sweater. It has to be styled so that each layer peeks out from under the previous layer.”

RUEHL is also trying to break into the specialty leather goods market with handbags and accessories handmade in the same Italian factories used by Louis Vuitton and priced according to Coach’s structure, Myers said. Currently New York is home to the only RUEHL accessories-only store, but Myers thinks that Ala Moana’s RUEHL will be successful enough to consider opening O‘ahu’s very own acces
 
 

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