Gold chokers and bracelets sit atop a white table at AUrate's jewelry store on a balmy June day in Southampton, N.Y., a high society playground at the eastern tip of Long Island. Shoppers peer through store windows as they stroll by, clad in their typically relaxed Hamptons uniforms—preppy nautical summer dresses, oversize sunglasses, lots of stripes.
The AUrate New York shop will only be open for a few months, a temporary pop-up seeking to test the market. Laid out next to the jewelry lies a selection of handmade belts from a label called Upton. A co-founder is there for the weekend, hawking his leather bands.
It's a pop-up shop inside a pop-up shop.
The Hamptons is a breeding ground of chic pop-up shops during summertime, as brands converge on its various towns to sell their wares. Most are fashion, jewelry, and beauty labels that open around Memorial Day weekend or later. This summer, designer Jenni Kayne takes her minimalist California style across the country to open a Southampton shop. Gurney's Fashion Collective is a rotation of shops on a roof deck in a Montauk hotel. Italian label Aquazzura brings its trendy sandals and espadrilles to the East Hampton main drag. Jewelry maker Miansai is filling up up a shiny Airstream trailer with its baubles and taking it to the beach.
Each June, the area morphs into a sun-soaked wonderland for beachgoers, weekend partiers, and socialites who savor the country club scene. It's a tiny corner of the country that's created an aura of refinement, the epitome of East Coast prep alongside Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Celebrity sightings are frequent, and many own homes there, from Martha Stewart to Sean Combs. The Kardashians based one of their reality shows in the Hamptons, following Kourtney and Khloé as they opened a pop-up for their Dash fashion boutique.
How It Works
Months prior to the summer rush, during the previous fall, reps from national brands hoping to test the Hamptons waters meet with real estate agencies seeking store space in the area. There's been a long fight to get national chains to stay permanently, so that there are fewer vacancies during the quiet winters and less annual turnover. But the stark seasonality of the region still opens up lots of room–16 stores were available in East Hampton this year during the planning months. Southampton had a similar number.
But by the end of spring, every available location on each main shopping street is inevitably filled, either by permanent stores or temporary ones, said Hal Zwick, director of commercial real estate for Town & Country, a firm with offices throughout the area. Commercial rentals shifted to shorter leases during the recession, and some retailers still want no more than a few months, or even weeks, in a space. Although Zwick largely deals with well-known brands as clients, lately he's noticed more smaller labels moving in. This year, with so much space available, many were able to score spots.
AUrate New York co-founder Sophie Kahn put her shop out in the Hamptons because it's a low-risk way expose her label to affluent New Yorkers, a precious trend-aware class that values fine jewelry. Indeed, much of the annual Hamptons exodus comes from New York City, urban dwellers looking to get away from the bustle or the wealthy crowd headed to their summer mansions. The region's various hamlets have been a gathering point for the city's elite for more than a century.
"It has a certain, I would say, elevated feel to it," said Kahn. "It's luxury."