As intensely focused as every retailer is with online sales, it’s pretty ballsy that World of Niché, SoHo’s newest footwear store, has almost entirely shunned the internet. Located on 66 Bleecker Street, the boutique-sized space is available to shop by appointment only (which granted, is booked online) and individuals who visit must not only remove their shoes at the door and change into a pair of posh leather slippers, they have to also leave their phone in a tray, a practice that not only keeps pictures from being snapped but also enables one to focus on the product.
Most of the space is taken up by a giant brass globe that is suspended from the center of the ceiling. After making my appointment I visited the store and was greeted by Bennett, a nattily dressed youth, who, when I cracked a Snapchat joke about Khalid’s sneaker guy, Ben, said he doesn’t use the app because “it’s too chaotic,” noting that his lack of social media obsession is part of the reason he’s a good fit for the store. Speaking of that appointment, aint no NYC 15 minute grace period at W.O.N. bih–if you’re more than five minutes late you forfeit your appointment, plus, no multiple hype buys either, specifically: “There will be a 5 minute grace period for your appointment. After this grace period, your appointment will be cancelled. You may purchase 1 item during your appointment. Only one person may participate per appointment. No exceptions.”
Once you’re settled in sans phone (eke, feels weird!) and put on your slippers, Bennet opens the globe revealing a shelf built into the interior of the globe with a total of three silhouettes, each available in four different colors. One side of the display shows men’s shoes and on the opposite side of the giant sphere are the women’s styles. They are beautifully constructed shoes that look, feel and smell good. Each style is limited to a run of 50 (Bennett wouldn’t provide numbers during my visit but that’s what GQ‘s article said so….) and prices range from $300 for a runner to $450 to a hiker. Should you settle upon a pair to try on, Bennet goes to the back and brings back the shoes served on a silver platter, yes, a silver platter. (If that doesn’t provide some level of delight then it might be time to re-calibrate your cynicism meter.)
The shoes’ main branding takes the form of aforementioned globe, which is stamped on the tongue and in halves on the sole of each shoe. Packaging also includes an alternate pair of laces, plus a cedar shoe horn and dust bag, all of which is contained with a plain white box featuring a magnet closure. It’s all super posh and secret society feeling, which absolutely builds on the shoes’ allure.
Given the non-stop kvetching within sneaker culture over the hypebeast nature of buying and collecting, World of Niché certainly offers a more refined take on the game. Basically it’s sneakerhead 2.0 aka people who want a stud shoe, but are too grown to wear or battle it out for the latest launch-day Jordan. That said, if the brand grows in popularity and status, it will be interesting to see if hype will enter the equation in terms of the resell market. In the meantime, the store is definitely offering a fresh take on sneaker culture consumption, which in and of itself is very dope.
Book your appointment here: worldofniche.com