There’s no real way to put this delicately: It can be somewhat difficult getting Ross Menuez to focus. Talk to the designer of the fashion label Salvor Projects for an hour, and your conversation might touch upon everything from the migratory patterns of birds to the intricacies of intarsia; ask him about his process, and he’s apt to fret instead about what to do with the signage for his first retail shop, which opened last week on a sleepy stretch of New York’s Lower East Side. His career has been equally hopscotched: He’d built houses for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, designed under Tom Dixon at Habitat, and run a metal shop in Brooklyn before finally, a few years back, committing himself fully to the world of fashion, complete with seasonal presentations and showroom representation.
But as with any talent whose creativity flows faster than the mind can apprehend, it’s the unscripted aspect of Menuez’s work that makes it so compelling — you never know quite what to expect. In the eight years that have passed since Salvor Projects was founded in 2003, its offerings have encompassed Japanese-inspired steel-toe work boots; screen-printed balsa-wood wall hangings; flat-pack, laser-cut metal lampshades; polyurethane-coated roll-top canvas bags; and a cultishly popular line of printed modal jersey dresses, scarves, tees, and tanks that sell at stores like Barneys, Dover Street Market, and Project no. 8.
Menuez, though, was once rightly advised that customers would never fully understand the brand if they couldn’t see it all under one roof, and so the seeds of a store began last fall. Menuez found a co-designer and business partner in Nick Dine — an old friend who’s created retail interiors for Calypso, Stussy, and Kirna Zabête — and a location in a 400-square-foot storefront that’s a block away from New York’s Half Gallery and a few doors up from Menuez’s current Lower East Side studio. “The beauty of the store is that we’re basically going to make shit that we like for the first time,” says Menuez. “With production, once you make a large batch of something, you’re done. By the time something hits the market, you’re already over it. At the store we can make one of something and try it out, and you can perfect a piece as you go. There’s also this unexpected green side to it. It’s kind of like when you’re making a meal and you can use every single thing in your fridge. Don’t have enough fabric to make multiples? Cool, let’s just make one kimono.”
Sight Unseen visited Menuez’s studio last winter, when the designer was just figuring out his plan for the store and its inventory, which includes a new line of jeans sourced from Cone’s Mill in North Carolina and treated with plaster-like effects. You can visit the new Salvor store at 172 Forsyth in New York, and you can tour the designer’s jam-packed, ephemera-filled studio in the slideshow at right.
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