By Shana Liebman
There are many unique children’s boutiques in the area, but Allegria takes the cake. In fact, their new store window on North 3rd Street is filled with impressive crochet-cakes handmade from wool sweaters; they’re soft, strange, and artfully crafted—a perfect preview of what’s inside.
The shop, which opened in September, is the love-child of Melanie Gomez, a designer who lived in France, and Lula Aldunate, a stylist who has worked for Elle and Barneys, but who found herself doing mostly nurseries and baby showers.
The women met in Argentina (where they are both from originally) and moved to New York five years ago. “We put a lot of ourselves into this store,” Gomez says, meaning they designed and made all the fixtures, including the lamps draped in white fabric and cotton crochet lace, and a large wall-collage of wood planks painted in subtle hues. The process was so much fun that they named the store “Allegria,” which translates as “joy” in Italian and Spanish.
Each of the one-of-a kind designs—they sell clothes, toys, décor, bedding, rugs, etc.—is handpicked from around the world. “We go with our gut,” says Aldunate, a stylist who is used to scouring magazines, blogs, trade shows, and even the Renegade Craft Fair. Allegria’s aesthetic is European (soft, classy, sweet) meets Latin (bright, vibrant colors), like the funky, DIY wall hangings from Japanese company MIHO that includes a paper moosehead made from quaint if unexpectedly paired patterns. The wool sheep made by Mexican artisans belong in a kid’s room but are just a little different from anything you’ve seen before.
“It’s eclectic because we like to mix stuff—culture, patterns, materials,” says Aldunate. “We like to find the twist on everything.” Even if the item is traditional—a down jacket, for example—the color, lemon-lime green, is not. There are no major labels and every item is environmentally friendly; most are handmade. “We loved these clothes from SIAOMIMI, but they are made in China so we didn’t know if we wanted to stock them. But it turns out the designer is from Hong Kong, she lives there. In fact she came here and we met her, and she only uses small factories.” Local designers have stopped by to show their work. One of the Brooklyn picks is Kallio, who makes boxy boys and girls clothes out of men’s flannels without altering the lines of the original shirt.
“The big question for us was, why a store?” says Gomez.“And we realized we didn’t want just a store—we wanted a place for people to gather, for us to have relationships with our customers.” This is why Allegria has a couch and changing area, and soon, classes for kids in the back room. Not surprisingly, the “classes will be a little different.” For example, traditional Columbian music. “We love Brooklyn,” says Aldunate, who lives in Greenpoint. “And really saw this store in Williamsburg.”