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The Return of Alexis Bittar

The New York City–based jeweler returns to his strong brick and mortar roots

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Five years after his eponymous brand was sold to Brooks Brothers, New York City–based jeweler Alexis Bittar re-acquired his brand and relaunched the beloved label this fall. Bittar opened five experiential stores in New York City in which to showcase his artisanal metal and lucite jewelry and forthcoming accessories collections. For this brick-and-mortar undertaking, in a time when other brands are closing stores, Bittar enlisted the help of his friend, Tony award–winning scenic designer Scott Pask. “I started thinking about who I wanted to hire as a designer and loved the idea of going off the typical route of a store designer/architect,” says Bittar. “I wanted to work with someone who understood theater, and I thought who better to work with than Scott, who has such a tremendous knowledge of designing stage sets.” These two collaborators weren’t interested in the status quo and wanted to surprise and delight shoppers with something modern and elevated. “Alexis’ work is always exciting, deeply admired and beloved,” says Pask. “He has always forged an intrepid path with his perpetually intriguing and provocative advertising and media presence, and his vision for the new retail experience was equally unique.” After online shopping dominated so much of the retail business over the last two years, Bittar felt that if he was going to do retail, it had to be unique. “I do think that consumers, having spent so much time online shopping, void of experiential connection, are looking for these experiences,” says the Brooklyn-based Bittar. “I think retail needed to evolve for a more modern society, but I think customer connectivity and customer experience is important for a brand to define who it is.”

The two design mavens enjoyed the process of envisioning these five boutiques in SoHo, Brooklyn, the West Village, Upper West Side and Upper East Side. “We both are intrigued by experiences within, and images of, spaces that have been left or abandoned in a kind of romantic state of decay, whether domestic, institutional or industrial,” says Pask. Bittar wasn’t interested in a store just looking like a white box boutique. “All the stores have the similar feel of an abandoned institution from the 1970s that’s been transported into the future. There is a sense of a building that’s been decayed with chipping paint, but then there’s this very futuristic mirror sculpture beaming down,” says Bittar. “It gives the sense of being somewhat in a store, somewhat on a set or an art gallery, but giving the perfect experience to look at the jewelry as art.”

Having worked primarily in the theater, Pask relished the opportunity to tap theatrical painters and scenic fabricators to create the finishes and unique sculptures seen in the boutiques. “I loved being able to have artists from the world of theater working with me in another context,” says Pask. “I was trained in architecture and completed that professional degree before I became a scenic designer, so the considerations of scale, materials and space are always a part of my work. I’d designed fashion shows before, but it was fun to work within parameters of more permanence.”