Early last month brothers (and co-founders) Emil and Sandy Corsillo transformed a space formerly occupied by housewares retailer The Joinery into a full-fledged expression of The Hill-Side brand. The shop was entirely custom-designed in partnership with Brooklyn-based design firm Studio Tack with fixtures, furniture, and signage manufactured by a great group of local collaborators: Wintercheck Factory, Sultz, Serpentile and Buaisou. Located at 263 South 1st Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the space is filled with The Hill-Side’s expanded range of clothing, accessories, and home goods, plus a tightly edited selection of products from some of their favorite brands: Arpenteur, Tender, Kaptain Sunshine, Warehouse, Phigvel, Howlin, and Woolrich.
We recently caught up with Emil Corsillo for an exclusive store tour and a glimpse into the making of the brand’s first brick-and-mortar location.
Q: How did you pick this location for your first Hill-Side store?
A: This space was actually my girlfriend’s shop, The Joinery. Her lease was up in August and my brother and I decided to take the lease over. As for the neighborhood, the south side of Williamsburg has come to be our home so I think it makes sense for the first Hill-Side store to be here. We have ambitions to open a Manhattan store and other Hill-Side stores eventually, but keeping South Williamsburg as our “home base” is important.
Q: What was the turnaround time from receiving the keys to opening the store?
A: We had keys at the end of August. But we didn’t start working on the shop until late September. It was a bit stop-and-go since we are crazy busy with other stuff all of the time. So with a couple of friends’ help, I got the interior ready for the fixtures to be installed. Everything but the steel fixtures along the walls and the furniture is my work. If you timed us from start to finish and had us do it all in one go, I’d say we got it done in a really concise and compressed period of time.
Q: How has traffic been since you opened?
A: It has been really good. The opening party was massive; we got in trouble with the upstairs neighbors, which we met through the opening party. But to me it still feels like the store isn’t broken in yet. Our only other brick-and-mortar shop that we’ve ran is Hickoree’s, which was on the second floor in a more off-the-beaten path of south Williamsburg than this one. So by definition, Hickoree’s never got foot traffic. People never stumbled upon it. You had to know it was there and seek it out. Here, just in the first few days we have had some customers from Europe who have never heard of the brand wandering in and getting really excited about it.
Q: Can you describe the design process of the space?
A: We have a lot of strong connections to Japan. From the beginning, our ties were made in New York using Japanese fabrics, which really became the hallmark of the brand. We have a partner in Tokyo (who I went to college with), who sources fabrics for us among other things. So we’ve always felt that we have two feet in New York and one foot in Japan. Some of the design ideas for the shop come from that idea. When you first enter, there is this indigo hanging curtain, which is called a Noren. That’s a traditional thing that you will find in the front of a bar or a shop in Japan. And then on the ground is a mosaic that was inspired by the New York subway. The mosaic was actually made by Susan Brown, who restores all of the tiles and mosaics in the New York subway. So it was a really legit New York thing and legit Japan thing coming together. So when you enter the shop, you sort of walk through our Japan and New York vibes.
Q: So what about the pottery and distinctive back wall?
A: We have this large vase that was commissioned by our business partner in Japan from a pottery village called Onta. It’s an incredibly laborious and delicate thing to make this type of vase in this scale. A Japanese TV station came to New York to do a whole piece on the making of this vase and came to see it in our shop when it used to be at Hickorees. So there are bits of Japan around the shop. The incense that we burn in the shop comes from a temple in Kyoto that we discovered on a trip there and loved. You can only get it at that one temple. Otherwise, the design elements of the shop, the burnt wood on the back wall and ceiling comes from Joinery, so Angela did that when she was building out the shop. We love it and would never think of changing that. Then we added our logo to the wall and lit it up with a neon sign. We didn’t change anything of the physical bones of the shop. It’s nice for us to have the space to spread out just one season’s collection in the shop and really be able to communicate the design vision for a range to a customer when they walk in.
Q: Any top sellers since you’ve opened your doors?
A: Shirts are doing incredibly well, which is really interesting. Our full AW ’15 shirt collection is on the right hand of the store; it’s sort of the first thing you see as you walk into the shop. We’ve sold more shirts (start at $175 and go up to $225) than anything else so far. We don’t make our own outerwear yet, but we make our tailored jacket which is supposed to be a convertible between a blazer and a light outerwear piece or layering piece and those have been selling pretty well in the shop. Then we just have a few key pieces of outerwear from other brands that I feel really complement our stuff well.