A major blow to experimental fashion (and the tiny cell phone market): Jeffreys, the iconic boutique whose avant-garde sensibility was parodied on Saturday Night Live and was influential in shaping the wardrobes of Atlanta’s hip-hop stars, will close its three stores in New York, Atlanta, and Palo Alto permanently. Jeffrey Kalinsky, who founded the store’s first outpost in Atlanta in 1990, and later built up the designer offering at Nordstrom, will retire.
A South Carolina native who grew up working at his father’s shoe business, Kalinsky decided to open a store in Atlanta’s ritzy Phipps Plaza shopping center after working as a shoe buyer at Barneys New York. In 1999, he opened a New York branch in the then-remote Meatpacking District, becoming one of the first boutiques to stock out-there designers like Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang, and transforming the Meatpacking District into one of the city’s most cutting-edge neighborhoods.
Jeffreys’ futurist point-of-view, to put it gently, became so much a part of New York’s retail fabric that it was parodied on Saturday Night Live two years after it opened, with Will Ferrell in an insane polka-dot shirt confirming seats at the Dolce & Gabbana show on a spec-sized flip phone, and Jimmy Fallon and guest star Sean Hayes portraying black-clad cyber-goth retail associates who insulted their customers’ middlebrow tastes. “I have Moroccan dental floss that’s more expensive than your entire wardrobe!” Fallon tells one customer. “This is a genuine Looney Tunes jacket!” Horatio Sanz replies.
Ironically, a genuine Looney Tunes jacket is just the kind of bonkers collaboration undertaken more recently by brands like Gucci, whose revival under Tom Ford was supported early on by Jeffreys, and stores like Opening Ceremony, whose former buyer Olivia Kim was introduced by Kalinsky to Nordstrom, where she has championed small designers and gutsy ideas like secondhand retail. Nordstrom bought a majority stake in Jeffreys in 2005, and Kalinsky helped guide the department store towards a more sophisticated vision. (It is Nordstrom, which is also closing 16 of its 116 stores, that officially pulled the trigger on closing Kalinsky’s three doors.)
More recently, Jeffreys was known as a must-stop on any Atlanta rapper’s shopping spree. It is where Gunna picked up his Margiela, and Young Thug slipped into Saint Laurent pants. The store’s menswear business was one of its growth drivers over the past several years. Jeffreys also played a crucial role in the rise of Chanel as a must-have menswear brand: its Chanel shop-within-a-shop became a go-to for men in hunt of rare pieces and elusive items in larger sizes, like chain belts that Future wore as necklaces, handbags (just a handful of which were available in the United States), and pieces from the luxury French brand’s athletic offerings, like ski blades and winter beanies.
Like many of retail’s recently fallen soldiers, such as Barneys New York and Opening Ceremony, Jeffreys rose and fell on its individual sensibility and creatively merchandised offering—two things that many stores have abandoned, often under pressure to expand their businesses into ever-larger empires, to their homogenized detriment. Nordstrom will continue supporting small designers like Sandy Liang, Marine Serre, and Needles, of course. But will anything weird be left after the pandemic?
Originally Appeared on GQ