Store opening: BlackBlue

The chic new boutique opens its doors on Selby Ave.

by Kara Nesvig

WHAT: BlackBlue WHERE: 614 Selby Ave. If fashion blogger the Sartorialist ever photographed Steve Kang and Claudette Gacuti, the stylish minds behind new Selby Ave. store BlackBlue, he wouldnâÄôt even have to get them out on the street. Their new store is chic enough. Fred Perry sweaters, sharply folded, sit in stacks on heavy antique tables while a rainbow of Alternative Apparel T-shirts and heathered sweatshirts fill up the shelves of another. And most eye-catching of all, a collection of laid-back sneakers decorate one wall, perched on top of white-painted antique books. Shoes used as installation art is always a innovative decorating choice. Kang officially opened BlackBlueâÄôs doors on Sept. 12, but it wasnâÄôt an impulsive idea. âÄúIt was something IâÄôd always entertained âĦ due to the lack of menâÄôs boutiques and footwear, I decided to try it out,âÄù he says. Kang, who is finishing his MBA at the University of Minnesota in marketing and entrepreneurship, chose BlackBlueâÄôs Selby space in part because of its location, just down the street from co-op Mississippi Market and restaurant Mango Thai. He chose the local because, as he puts it, âÄúSt. Paul is more chill.âÄù After Kang and his best friend and design collaborator Gacuti, an architecture student he met in a furniture design class at MCAD, settled on the space, they set about filling it with lines that best suited their design aesthetic. âÄúWe looked for brands that were effective and not terribly high end,âÄù Kang said. âÄúI knew from the get-go I wanted to include Fred Perry, Original Penguin and a designer I found in Seattle, Hyden Yoo.âÄù Since both Kang and Gacuti are design enthusiasts, laying out their store was a labor of love. Kang designed the bare-bulb light tracking and both scoured local antique stores to find tables, shelves and an ironing board, which leans against a wall. The Tiffany blue couch looks retro but came from a Canadian design studio. âÄúWe like old things, well-made things. ItâÄôs about the craft, whether itâÄôs a print or an ironing board,âÄù said Gacuti. The pieces on BlackBlueâÄôs racks are well-edited, classic garments: blue plaid shirts from Hyden Yoo, cowl neck sweatshirts and gorgeous khaki trench coats from Shades of Greige. âÄúItâÄôs a multifaceted expression of who I am and who Claudette is and how we perceive design,âÄù said Kang. âÄúItâÄôs not so much about fashion as it is about style; not about what people wear but about how they wear it.âÄù Though BlackBlue is primarily a menâÄôs boutique, chicks shop there too. âÄúThe Shades of Greige trench, more women try that on than men,âÄù said Kang. âÄúWe donâÄôt like to say itâÄôs just a menâÄôs store âĦ thereâÄôs a fairly androgynous bent.âÄù The male-female appeal is there: GacutiâÄôs navy blue cardigan, which she paired with a gingham-print miniskirt and sneakers, was from the store and BlackBlueâÄôs blog shows a female Mango Thai restaurant employee dressed in all menswear. âÄúThereâÄôs definitely a crossover appeal because of the fit,âÄù Gacuti said. BlackBlueâÄôs shoe selection is a pet project of KangâÄôs. âÄúI knew I wanted shoes because of the gap in the market here, especially for menâÄôs footwear. And I wanted a cool display. I came up with the art installation of books coming out of the wall.âÄù BlackBlue offers Tretorn, UK brand F-Troupe and the much more local Minnetonka Moccasins. âÄúIf I go to New York or San Francisco, I come back with a pair of shoes,âÄù Kang said. âÄúI wanted to bring that here, to have that available, in the event that people visiting the Twin Cities will come, travel to the Twin Cities to shop here.âÄù Kang and Gacuti sum up their hopes for the store collaboratively. âÄúAs long as we keep doing what we think is cool, weâÄôll be able to [keep] doing what we love and sharing it.âÄù