Center City shoppers let out a collective sob upon hearing that Barneys New York Co-Op had decided not to open on Walnut Street back in 2003. The folks at hip sneaker gallery Ubiq, however, wasted no time on tears. Creative director Mason Warner immediately contacted the Marc Jacobs showroom, ordered the designer’s women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections — and set to work transforming the mansion shop into a hometown take on Los Angeles’s Fred Segal. “We want to be the premium store in Philly, the kind I would go to if I were in New York or L.A.,” says Warner.
The first step to greatness: convincing impossible-to-convince designers to put their trust in a street-smart upstart. “Being a nobody coming out of nowhere, we had to prove ourselves,” says Warner. For example, “We bothered [London label] Silas and Maria for a year. Now we’re the seventh store in the U.S. to carry their line.”
As if by magic, Ubiq’s crisp white second floor has become Takashimaya Lite. A Zen rock path leads to the women’s boutique, with its pristine displays of hammered silver earrings, Earnest Sewn jeans, Eugenia Kim hats and Botkier handbags. Here, displayed like sculpture, are the signature swirls of sandals by Emilio Pucci and silver lamé slingbacks by Christian Lacroix. On the other side of the floor, menswear is maturing, too. Warner has traded in oversized t-shirts for investment pieces by Noah, Maharishi, Levi’s Premium and Marc Jacobs.
Still, the company isn’t entirely abandoning its adolescent core. Artsy books, Vans, and collectible plastic figurines, including “Penny,” a spray-can-wielding doll designed exclusively for Ubiq by Hong Kong artist Tim Tsui, remain shop fundamentals. “The roots of our company are in sneakers,” says buyer Chi Kim. “We’re just taking the next step after that.”
Ubiq, 1509 Walnut Street; 215-988-0194.