This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
Arielle Charnas hasn’t had good press lately. The influencer and designer made a series of missteps during the pandemic, including getting a COVID-19 test when they were scarce and fleeing to the Hamptons during the stay-at-home orders. That led to her being eviscerated in the media and leading me in April to write that she had become “the unwitting poster child for what not to do in a pandemic.”
It’s under this cloud of drama that Arielle this week launched one of her most ambitious projects to date — a flagship store for her clothing line, Something Navy, in New York City’s West Village.
I decided to go check it out and walked away with one overwhelming takeaway: Everything in the store, from the items sold to the precautions taken, is perfectly curated for the pandemic. It seems like Arielle wants to signal that she is taking the coronavirus seriously — and wants her store to be a one-stop shop for staying at home.
Unlike every other retail store on the street, which I could stroll into as long as I had a mask on, Something Navy’s requirements to shop are much stricter for, according to its website, the “safety of their employees.” You have to book an appointment in advance online. At first, every spot for the next two weeks was booked, even though I was trying to go in the middle of the day. I checked back later and a spot had opened up for Thursday.
As I rounded the corner and saw what they were displaying, I had to laugh. The mannequin was decked out in a tie-dye sweatsuit, an outfit that became so popular during the pandemic, I dubbed it the “quarantine uniform” in a previous newsletter. It even had a scrunchie on the wrist.
In fact, almost all of the merchandise seems tailored to ~these times~. There were at least four racks of lounge clothes, full of sweat pants, $150 sweat-jumpsuits (this concept is new to me), soft shorts, and simple white and black cotton shirts.
While there were a few blouses and booties, most of the clothing seemed purposefully curated to working from home or staying in. I saw no fancy dresses or even jeans. Even the accessories shelf, full of scrunchies and “#stayhome” pampering kits, fit the mold.
The store also signaled loudly how seriously they are taking safety. While every store I have visited since quarantine has had signage reminding you to wear a mask, that hand sanitizer was available, and that occupancy would be restricted if it got too crowded, Something Navy takes the cake.
Along with a big sign near the front door outlining guidelines, the store is filled with little signs reminding shoppers to be safe. Something Navy-branded sanitizer was available for purchase, along with a pile of paper masks for shoppers.
Of course, it makes good business sense to focus on comfy clothes over fancy outfits right now. But the entire experience made me wonder if I was getting a glimpse of Arielle’s mindset.
By making the rules of her store stricter than most, by selling what realistically most women want to buy right now, and by filling the store with safety reminders, I had an overwhelming sense that Arielle is attempting to signal that she is not the “Covidiot” she has been made out to be.
It’s a tough time to be in any retail business right now, and time will only tell if her efforts will pay off.