It was a quiet but significant move for anyone who's been keeping track of the New York retail scene: KD New York, a fashionable dancewear boutique that stood on the corner of Lafayette and Bleecker Streets in NoHo for more than 20 years and closed in 2016, just re-opened inside the Dance Theatre of Harlem on West 152nd Street.
Located on the ground floor of the legendary dance company's headquarters, the new shop is an extension of the almost-40-year-old knitwear brand co-founded by former dancer David Lee. On the racks is a colorful assortment of KD New York's signature figure-hugging knits, including soft wrap tops, leggings, and leg warmers. (Ballet slippers from Capezio, in a true range of skin tones, round out the shop's offerings.)
Since the downtown location shuttered three years ago–the building that housed it was bought by a real estate developer–Lee has continued to run the business online and sell to dance stores across the country. But as any shopper knows, there's nothing like seeing and touching the real thing.
While the new location is meant to take advantage of the many dancers that pass through the school, it's not a traditional dance store, says Lee. KD New York's knitwear is popular not just with ballet-types but with yogis and those who like the way the clothing makes them feel. "It's always been in that athleisure space," he says. To wit: the brand's flattering, wear-anywhere ballet-neck tops have been best-sellers for years.
What's more, there are plans to keep pushing the brand's popularity beyond the world of dance. A longtime vegetarian, Lee is currently developing something called "vegetable cashmere," a plant-based alternative to animal fiber he hopes will appeal to those searching for sustainable and earth-friendly knits. Expect a crowdfunding campaign soon.
He's also proud to be keeping things local. A Harlem resident since the '80s, Lee runs KD New York's manufacturing out of a small factory right across the river in the South Bronx. In a way, you could say the new uptown boutique has finally come home.
KD New York, 466 W 152nd Street (inside the Dance Theatre of Harlem), is open Mon-Fri 2pm-7pm, Sat 9am-4pm.