Though New York City’s SoHo neighborhood is famous for its cast iron facades and glass sidewalks, the now dormant shopping district for locals and tourists alike remains dark and boarded-up as the COVID-19 crisis in the city continues to force non-essential businesses to close.
The home to brands like Paige, AG Jeans, Naked & Famous and many more, SoHo’s emptied streets send a strong reminder of the long-term financial damage the pandemic will have on denim retail. And when the order to close went into effect more than a month ago, each store took a different approach to locking down for an undetermined amount of time.
American Eagle Outfitters, Levi’s and Madewell are among the retailers that left their storefronts “business as usual.” A video campaign continues to run on loop in Rag & Bone’s windows. And in Lucky Brand’s windows stands a display that promotes 4-way stretch jeans with the tagline, “Out of office, ditch the dress code.”
In contrast, further north by New York University, streetwear purveyor Kith took the opposite approach by removing all of its product from both the Kith and Kith Kids sales floors.
Other brands secured their storefronts with window gates, including A.P.C., Blue In Green, Chanel and Marciano, but most have opted to cover their windows with plywood.
G-Star Raw, Guess, Frame, Naked & Famous, Paige and Reformation either covered or partially covered their doors and windows with plywood or cardboard, while Moncler and Balenciaga took a more formidable approach by painting their window coverings entirely black.
However, business advocates have urged retailers to not board up.
In an interview with real estate news publication The Real Deal, Mark Dicus, the executive director of Soho Broadway Initiative, a neighborhood improvement organization, encouraged retailers to keep storefronts untouched and to keep the lights on at night.
“We want to maintain a sense of normalcy and make sure our neighborhoods are safe,” Dicus told The Real Deal. “We feel there are ways to take care of that without resorting to drastic measures like boarding up storefronts.”
To help with maintenance during the shutdown, the group’s Clean Team continues to empty trash receptacles, pick up litter, remove graffiti, sanitize receptacles and “serve as eyes and ears” of the district.
Some retailers, however, are leaving positive messages and uplifting artwork on their boarded-up storefronts.
On Broadway, Aritzia decorated its boarded windows with drawings of New York-centric hallmarks like slices of pizza and the Chrysler Building. Down the street, Bloomingdale’s decorated its window coverings with a stained glass-inspired mosaic of colors and words like “brave,” “loyal” and “thankful.”
Luxury resale company The Real Real reminded neighbors, “It’s time to take real care of one another” on its windows.
And on the corner of Prince and Greene—where on a regular Saturday in April people would be congregating outside the nearby Apple store with iced coffees and dogs in hand—denim icon Ralph Lauren shares a message of hope on the windows of the picturesque Polo Ralph Lauren store: “It is in the spirit of togetherness that we will rise.”