Descending the glossy grey and black marble staircase at 18 East 69th Street on the Upper East Side, you might sense the ghosts of socialites who probably populated the former brownstone, sipping champagne in their Lanvin ballgowns. But the building has a different life now, transformed by a young entrepreneur into Fivestory, a thoughtful department store where fashion is elevated to the level of art. That entrepreneur’s name is Claire Distenfeld, and at 26 years old, she has created and curated a shop that is already drawing comparisons to Paris’s famed Colette, and Milan’s 10 Corso Como.
The interiors of Fivestory were designed Ryan Korban, and are an elegant light gray, accented with black and brushed gold. A revolving cadre of artwork by household names decks the walls. Upon entering, you might be drawn to the bright yellow boxes of Jean-Michel Basquiat candles, or maybe those silky black and gold striped Poplin pajamas. In the expanding men’s space, the bright silken ties, leather iPhone covers, chic sweatshirts, and suede desert boots.
Upstairs you’ll find women’s shoes, which feature Distenfeld’s exclusive collaborations with Del Toro loafers—one pair in navy velvet embroidered with a pair of bright red lips, and another bearing the lush green banana leaves synonymous with the Beverly Hills Hotel. On the next level, more women’s clothing and accessories. There’s an emerald-colored bakelite chain-link Diana Broussard necklace, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice as a book clutch by Olympia Le Tan, and a precisely cut yet feminine white eyelet Cushnie et Ochs dress.
You can learn a lot about Claire Distenfeld just from the space she created. She has an appreciation for art in all its forms, be it the small Basquiat painting plied onto a porcelain candle, or the clean, modern lines of a spring dress. She values the beauty in simplicity. She is not a person of wild excess. She has a quietly whimsical sense of humor. She has roots in refined tradition, but is open-minded and progressive. She is the watercolor palette of Saint-Louis glassware and the futurism of a metal Andrea Neen cage clutch. Simply put, she is Fivestory.
‘Curated’ is a word used often when describing Fivestory, because every facet of the store is carefully selected by Distenfeld, and it shows. Nothing has been left to chance, from the placement of items in the petite alcoves and the apparel (soon to be from Jenni Kayne) of friendly shopgirls, to the angle of the shoes on display. Fivestory has been assembled with a gallerist’s eye for detail.