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‘It’s a Lifestyle‘: Why These Entrepreneurs Opened a ’Laboratory’ in SoHo

Experts agree that customer satisfaction in 2023 and beyond will require shopping to be a completely immersive, sensory experience, one where dopamine released equals dollars spent.

Jack Menashe and James Mansour couldn’t agree any more with that take, but where others might be trying to trip consumers’ pleasure wires with augmented, virtual or mixed reality, they’re confident they can do it all right here in the real world.

Last week, the long-time men’s fashion adventurers launched the brick-and-mortar aspect of their newest project, Sartoria Studio, in New York’s fashionable SoHo district, just down the way from the now-closed Lounge SoHo shop they opened in 2012.

Jack Menashe, center and James Mansour, left, at the grand opening of their new shop, Sartoria Studio, in the SoHo district of New York.
Jack Menashe, center and James Mansour, left, at the grand opening of their new shop, Sartoria Studio, in the SoHo district of New York. Onysko Photography

“That had every kind of outrageously cool fashion, and everyone gravitated to that store because it was like a lounge, a place you could hang out and discover new products. It was really fabulous,” Mansour said of the Lounge. “After that we did Limelight Marketplace where we took the old Limelight Church on Sixth Avenue—of course, it had been the notorious Limelight nightclub—and we turned it into a 60-store experience.”

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Their newest project growing out of those is Sartoria Studio, focusing entirely on formal menswear and relying on a storefront facing out to busy—and by Manhattan sidewalk standards, wide—Houston Street.

“This isn’t your normal men’s store,” Mansour said. “Everything you see in this room is actually for sale, because we can just continuously bring in new product, new tables, new everything.”

In addition to suits made-to-measure in Italy, tables, chairs and even artwork, including surrealistic pieces painted by Mansour himself, have a price tag.

“So it’s a lifestyle,” Mansour said. “And this approach is very, you know, it’s closer to the digital experience. With digital you can find all these things curated by an influencer, or whatever, but this is taking the point of view to things and bringing newness in—and then being able to build a lifestyle of your own from it.”

Where Sartoria Studios relies on hints of nostalgia to sell elegance, Mansour and Menashie are, for the first time in their experience, utilizing social media to create buzz, especially around events. The first gathering was the grand opening last Tuesday to a guest list full of who’s who in New York fashion, all to benefit prostate cancer research. As spring arrives, they want to expand these events to inclusive café-style sidewalk celebrations that take advantage of the welcoming storefront allure.

“My father would love this space,” said Menashe, whose father ran the Bang Bang Boutique chain of cheap clubby clothes, where he acquired his taste and talent for men’s fashion. “We have 100 feet of storefront with all the windows—that’s a real store and it’s an open street.”

Collaborations with other brands, such as Birkin, which had two handbags valued at $65,000 apiece during last Tuesday’s event, provide opportunities to piggyback on others’ social media audiences and get them right where Mansour and Menashe know they’ve always had ‘em.

A view of signage on display during the Sartoria Studio Opening at Sartoria Studio on February 07, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Sartoria Studio )

“What we did at the Lounge and Limelight was all about discoveries that were happening in retail that are exciting, right?” Mansour said. “At the Lounge we had a million elements in there; we had a music department with a full-time DJ and we sold the music. We had a memorabilia department and a bar, a hair salon downstairs—it was about discovering and Limelight was the same.”

With multi-store marketplaces not being what they were, Mansour and Menashe are finding potential collaborators around the world to partner with for events. To do a made-to-measure, bespoke, or soon a lower-cost made-to-order suit fitting, Sartoria Studios will do house calls, popup events and trunk shows. Menashe says he’ll even “meet you on the subway” to sell prospects a suit.

The lowest priced item at Sartoria Studio would be a jacket that costs $1,200 and suits, depending on the fabric, start at $1,900 while shirts run $250 and up. After made-to-measure fitting—done either at the store, at the customer’s home or office, or at a popup trunk show—the fabric is manufactured in Italy by Vanni 1818, with whom Mansour and Manashe have partnered in the past. As for brand options, Sartori features Loro Piana, Holland Sherry and Thomas Mason Barry shirts. The made-to-measure suits, which differ from bespoke in that the former starts with an off-the-rack pattern measurements are taken from, as opposed to the latter where a tailor takes a client’s measurements—are shipped back in as little as four to five weeks of total turnaround time.

Mansour and Manashe are working on a line of their own, one that would be more economical.

“We’re working on a private-label line that’s going to be a much different price point and a lot more attractive,” Menashe said. “That could bring us into range with a lot of bar mitzvah boys or fathers who come in with their sons to shop and don’t want to spend $3,000 on a suit, but could get one for $800 that’s still made to measure.”

Menashe and Mansour are increasingly interested in cashmere suiting and at month’s end will be partnering with a Chicago-based manufacturer on a trunk show featuring $4,000 cashmere blazers.

“This is an ever-changing laboratory,” Mansour said. “You know, that’s what it really goes back to, this discovery idea. You’ve got to keep it exciting to keep them coming back.”

James Mansour arranges a garment at Sartoria Studios grand opening. (Onysko Photography)

What you won’t find at Sartoria Studio—at least not yet—is much in the way of AR, VR or AI mirrors.

“I like AR and I think we could do a lot of cool things with that… but the metaverse and shows that take place in the metaverse and all of that are kind of ‘yawn’ as far as we’re concerned,” Mansour said. “It’s at its inception point still. The crudeness of renderings and the way things look, it’s nothing that people who are shopping want.”

Mansour said he could see launching into alt realities with jewelry lines and knows someday soon the technology catch up.

“We used to call mannequins silent salespeople and now you have something that’s not silent,” Mansour said. “And that really is, you know, how you can get inside and tell a lot about your interests as well.”

Coming out of Covid, Menashe said he found a world where there was “nowhere to shop” for quality menswear, and there’s no place like SoHo to try to bring it back.

“Uptown is quiet. A lot of the wealthy Upper East siders are in Palm Beach in the winter and the Hamptons in the summer, so it’s a really funny market,” Menashe said. “Places like Barney’s are gone, you know, so much of what used to make shopping uptown interesting. But the galleries are returning here. The shopping is built into SoHo; somehow it just is.”

Bougie Sadeena, Allan Mala, Zakeyah Ryan, Jack Menashe, and Alexander Allen attend the Sartoria Studio Opening at Sartoria Studio on February 07, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Sartoria Studio )