Brian Bolke, co-founder of legendary Dallas high-fashion boutique Forty Five Ten, knows every nook and cranny of his new Houston store. In the days leading up to the opening, Bolke logged overnights with his team to realize the vision 10 years in the making.
It was an opening Houston’s fashion flock has been yearning for, and once the right space became available, Bolke was only too happy to oblige. The 3,300-square-foot store captures the essence of his new four-story mecca on Main Street in Dallas while melding with the luxe River Oaks District collection of stores.
“It’s open and cozy at the same time,” Bolke said, sitting outside on the community patio space just steps from the store. “We wanted something that we felt was not only interesting for someone that lived here in Houston, but interesting for people from some other place.”
The corner spot was a River Oaks District location that Bolke had eyed for several years, even when the space was not available as another celebrated fashion name had picked it before deciding to open in The Galleria instead. So when it became an option again, Bolke was ready. Perched on the corner and surrounded by famous neighbors like Hermés and Tom Ford, Forty Five Ten had found a Houston home.
Bolke embraced light and transparency, natural materials, mixed with industrial. Slightly rustic wood floors are met with metallic-tinged wallpaper, while black mesh curtains provide light. The design concept was designed to encourage curiosity and browsing,
“A lot of stores are too shut off and a shopping center like this lends itself to browsing,” Bolke said. “You go see a movie, go to a restaurant and go walk around, so you want a store that’s super inviting and open.”
The store is separated into five distinct spaces, with an emphasis on fragrance. The Rare Beauty cosmetics concept and ready-to-wear and accessories assortment for women hold court on one side of the store, while the shoe and handbag salon and menswear sit on the other.
Jewelry, gifts and home accessories round out the store’s selection. A red-lacquered shelf holds an Assouline book assortment. The shelves even offer a Forty Five Ten Diptyque candle.
What shoppers won’t find are big, flashy logos and in-your-face labels. Bolke’s sale sense lays more in the luxuriously understated or eccentric. “That’s never been our niche. We are for someone who is looking for something more elusive. That’s generally where we shine.”
He also isn't concerned about the influx of luxury stores such as The Webster or the newly opened state-of-the-art Saks Fifth Avenue just down the street. Houston was, he said, under-retailed and in a span of time, caught up.
Houston’s influx of international clients is also appealing to Bolke, although from his perspective international is less about a destination and more a state-of-mind. “International can really be a point of view. It doesn’t literally have to be someone that is a tourist. It’s about reference point,” Bolke said.
Forget the (ridiculous) riff between Dallas and Houston too. After almost two decades in retail, Bolke knew to reach within the Houston community for elements of his team that would bring his Dallas concept to life. The Houston team helped open the Dallas store and brought the experience back to River Oaks District.
“You have to have an extraordinary team of people you trust implicitly. In the end everybody needs to speak the same language,” Bolke said.
Bolke is fluent in luxury retail and although he’s rather fond of shopping his own stores, he craves the luxury experience beyond Forty Five Ten.
“I love to shop and I see a million stores. It’s my favorite thing to do and it bores my friends to tears. I want the full experience, the thank you note and the beautiful packaging,” he said.