Irreverence and British tailoring collide to create a new boys-wear line with big spirit
A member of the niche bespoke community in NYC, men's store Lord Willy's recently upgraded to larger digs from their humble storefront in New York's NoLita neighborhood. As the shop shuffled next door to a 2,500 square foot space, proprietors Alex and Betty Wilcox decided to turn the old space into Little Willy's, a boys'-only retailer full of ready-to-wear options for stylish young lads. While it may sound odd to think of custom-quality childrenswear, the new boys' line bypasses pretension with playful detailing and smart looks.
Little Willy's aims for playtime sophistication in their line, which is targeted at boys between two and ten. Emblazoned on polos and knits is the Little Willy's logo, a cartoon figure in a bowler hat and glasses, the lens of one eye replaced by a colorful star. While the tailors at Lord Willy's keep their embellishments limited to off-color thread and zany lining, the children's line was a chance to get a bit more creative. The experience is meant to appeal to kids and parents alike, and you won't find any Saville Row snobbery in this fun-loving boutique.
Operating the storefront is Will Rojas, who is cleverly referred to as "Mr. Rojas" to avoid confusion with the store's mythic persona. Rojas' tattooed, urban look is in keeping with the store, which is all about promoting individual expression. A gold leaf emblem on the front door reads "Boys Only!", setting a tone for a place of pint-sized masculinity. While little girls have plenty of options when it comes to this kind of high end, specialty shopping, Little Willy's is one of the few boys-only spaces around.
Owners Alex and Betty Wilcox are a husband-and-wife team who—despite not having children themselves—share an affinity for boys clothing. While there is certainly a spirit of refinement in the line, it remains logo-driven. Alex, a trained graphic designer, created the mustachioed icon for the store, which he admits is in the same spirit as A Clockwork Orange, Gangs of New York and the Monopoly Man. Another thoughtful detail, portraits of famous men that decorate the store have been defaced with the Little Willy's star-shaped glasses. To ensure that the experience doesn't stop at the register, each purchase comes along with a sticker sheet and a pair of the signature shades.
"We really want the store to be fun and full of wearable clothing," says Alex of Little Willy's. "Grown men are only little boys with jobs." A bust of Tin Tin decorates the interior, a gift to Alex from his own father, harkening back to the theme of childhood. The statue is appropriate for the space as well, denoting a clientele of well-off, adventure-seeking boys. The "eccentric study" that is Little Willy's promises to pacify kids who dread the shopping experience, catering to the well-heeled gents of tomorrow.
223 Mott Street
New York, NY 10012
Images by Josh Rubin