IF is my favorite clothing store in New York. It is not just a store, it is an institution with a deep-rooted history in bringing the most innovative designs to New York. So often, boutiques branch out to more than one location, but IF has remained one store with a singular vision - to present innovation in fashion through their unique lens.
IF was founded in 1978 by three siblings - Jeannette Bird, Johnny Farah and Soha Farah. The shop started in Soho on West Broadway between Prince and Houston Streets. At that time the area south of Houston had not yet been developed and was considered one of the grittiest parts of Manhattan. It was a period when more and more artists and designers moved into the area, putting Soho on the map as a cultural epicenter. With beautiful and historically significant cast-iron buildings and huge loft spaces, more stores and many famous galleries soon followed. IF was known to be the first boutique in New York to sell the collections of Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and Comme des Garçons. These designers can still be found at IF. In the mid-90s, IF relocated to 94 Grand Street between Greene and Mercer, where it still stands today.
Jeanette, Thank you for your time and this opportunity to know more about IF.
Q : Why did you, Soha and Johnny choose Soho to open your store? Many people know Soho as it is now, but it certainly wasn’t like this in the late 70s.
A : Back in 1978 when Johnny was visiting New York for the first time his attention turned to a vacant place in SOHO that was for rent! Bingo! That’s where we need to have the next IF, the first being in Beirut Lebanon! We all agreed that SOHO will be ideal for us, we just loved the area and the way it was back then.
Q : You have had a unique vantage point to observe how the neighborhood has evolved over the years - what would you say have been some of the biggest changes to Soho since IF was founded?
A : Unfortunately it became too commercial and lost it’s charm and most importantly the art galleries as well as the street art.
Q : Who are some of the customers that frequented IF back in the earlier days of your history?
A : People in the arts, music, and film worlds. And people looking for unusual design.
Q : 2020 was a tough year for all business, but in particular for retail. How has it been at IF?
A : We survived! Very tough, but consider ourselves very lucky to have very loyal customers.
Q : You carry the most innovative fashion designers in the world - Comme Des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela - what were you able to see in their clothes that others did not at the time?
A : Different approach to fashion where they expressed their talent and creativity in a way that felt comfortable, simple, and timeless
Q : So much has happened and has been done in the fashion industry since the era when you first opened IF. Do you still find the kind of true innovation in design as you did in the past?
A : It is not easy but there are some new talent that don’t follow the trend but create their own concept.
Q : I know very well that you and your sister, Soha, still do all the buying for your store and that is why IF always has had a singular vision and one which I love so much as a customer. Can you please tell us some of what you look for and hope to see during your buying trips and appointments?
A : Consistent and focused collection! Never shy away from taking a chance on a new collection!