Clothes As Urban Unity


Preppy Izod clothing (those cotton polo shirts and windbreakers with the open-mouthed alligator logo) can now be found far from the tony Lacoste boutiques that cater to country-club crowds. The label is available downtown at Michael K., the new electronically enhanced, 22,000-square-foot urban-outerwear emporium on Broadway near Spring Street, that opened last weekend.

Part department store, part nightclub, part video arcade, Michael K. is the latest outpost in Haim Kedmi’s street-wear empire, started in the 1980s when the Brooklyn-bred businessman set up a shoe department at the Kings Highway store where his mother worked as a buyer.

"Some people are doctors and lawyers," Kedmi, 35, said as teams at Michael K. installed the merchandise and tested the elaborate audio-visual systems. "I sell sneakers and clothes."

The son of Israeli immigrants, Kedmi today is a go-to guy for big-name brands looking to reach the 16-to-35-year-olds who frequent his 13-branch chain of Transit, Active Wearhouse and Sports Lane stores. At those outfitters, logo-laden brands like ENYCE, Akademiks and Sean Jean are top sellers. At Michael K. (Michael is Kedmi’s middle name), he hopes to raise his clientele’s couture profile by offering more tailored and subtly branded styles by some of those same makers, along with European names like Lacoste and Ben Sherman.

A stocky guy with a gravelly voice, green eyes and a casual style (he met The Jewish Week wearing khaki cargo shorts and a black T-shirt with a portrait of the bluesman Bo Diddley) Kedmi seems to have more in mind than just pushing product.

With better brands and couture clothing, Michael K. is aimed to bring together street style and Avenue attitude. "It’s a unity store," Kedmi said. "Everybody can shop here and be comfortable."

Does he mean to market tikkun olam? "You could say that," he said, sipping from a bottle of peach iced tea. "In the fashion world, you have a black store or a white store or a hip-hop store. We’re mixing it. We’re challenging the system to see what happens."

The $5 million, multilevel shop is outfitted with an in-house DJ booth; 190 video screens running advertisements and special announcements; and touch-screen monitors at check-outs for consumer polling and playing games. In a specially designed wind-and-rain room, customers will be able to test the mettle of extreme weather outerwear. One of two Nike shops will sell several exclusive styles, like the "Michael K." brand shock-soled running shoes in green and gold or orange and gold.