At the grand opening of Antidote (stylized ANT/DOTE) this month, a new store tucked away in Atlanta's West Midtown neighborhood of Loring Heights, shoppers eagerly perused through racks of clothes more typically carried in fashion capitals like Tokyo, Paris and Milan — not the Southern peach city of ATL.
The designer assortment — Noir by Kei Ninomiya, Craig Green, Y/Project, Comme des Garcons — brings a welcome dose of esoteric fashion to a client that has long had an appetite for luxury clothes that veer toward edgy, conceptual and avant-garde, but would have to travel far and wide to shop in-person.
In many ways, Antidote fills a void left by Jeffrey, the minimalist concept store with a refined edit of high-end designers, which shuttered in 2020. (The city's high-end fashion offerings are largely limited to department stores like Nordstrom and Saks, as well as a few local boutiques.) But Antidote's brand mix is arguably even more discerning and encompassing of an exacting lifestyle thanks to things like Rick Owens home goods, Cire Trudon candles and Aesop grooming products.
The night of the opening, co-founder Lauren Amos held court in a couture look from Glenn Martens' Jean Paul Gaultier collection as she greeted shoppers, locals and close friends that flew in for the occasion — a crowd that included art collectors, gallerists, stylists, curators and other well-to-do tastemakers.
For Amos, who's already a retail success story in Atlanta thanks to her buzzy sneaker and sneaker store Wish (where lines of hypebeasts would regularly form outside), she finds joy in getting someone to discover a designer or a look they wouldn't normally have access to. "I die when people are in those brands and it makes them feel good," she says. "I think some of this is just risking and education."
The concept was also intriguing to the brands themselves, many of whom responded well to the store's requests to buy their more interesting, advanced pieces rather than just their safe, commercial ones — an indication of the city's demand for fashion with a capital F. "When I first started Wish, nobody gave a shit about Atlanta," Amos says. "But that's changed a lot. Dior and Louis Vuitton — some of their biggest markets are down here."
Eugene Rabkin, a vetaran fashion journalist known for his cutting critiques and op-eds, also leveraged his industry know-how and relationships to help build Antidote alongside Amos. While many retailers bank on generic designer logo t-shirts and hoodies that give the masses a false illusion of luxury ("premium mediocre goods," as Rabkin once wrote), Antidote serves a different purpose.
"You're not going to see a lot of most common denominator stuff," Rabkin tells PAPER. "Like, if we bring in a hoodie or t-shirt, it's going to have an element of designer to it." (The core team also includes buyer and creative director Karlo Steel, who co-founded the iconic shop Atelier New York, and store director Jake Walton, who comes from Jeffrey, Prada and Christian Dior.)
Both Amos and Rabkin acknowledge the challenges independent stores and boutiques have faced in the wake of COVID, with numerous once-thriving shops have closed their doors in recent years, but they cite the store's local approach, knowledgable sales staff, US brand exclusives and international assortment as some of the keys that will help Antidote stand out and excel. (Future in-store events are in the works — the store kicked off with a trunk show by Thom Browne.)
"We've seen a lot of stores tank because of overexposure. They've overstretched themselves," Rabkin says. "People are already asking, 'When are you going to open in New York?' and I'm like, 'No, we're going to do it here. We don't have to make all the money in the world. We're going to do it right."
ANT/DOTE is located at 525 Bishop St NW