There’s a fashion divide in the U.S., according to Marialuisa Garito. High-end clothes, though well-made, are pricey. Fast fashion is trendy, but lacking in longevity.
“That’s why I created Affordable Chic,” said Garito, who emigrated from Italy 15 years ago. There, “you walk through the streets of Rome and you find beautiful, small boutiques that carry unique pieces — high-quality — and they are 50 bucks,” she explained.
On the Upper West Side, her business fills a niche by offering thoughtfully-curated clothing ringing in at under $100 per piece. The key tenets, according to Garito: “High quality, timeless style, affordability.”
Four years after its founding, Affordable Chic now has an equally fashionable home on West 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue aptly named Studio 79, open daily. It’s a spacious showroom that Garito opened quietly over the past few weeks with Virve Deutsch, founder of Virve Jewelry — and which the pair eventually intends to use as a gathering space for art exhibits and cultural events. In the coming months, they’ll host performances from Broadway stars and a book talk with Kelly McMenamin, co-author of “Organize Your Way,” a guide to home organization.
Affordability And The Arts
Carving out a space in the fashion world has, for Garito, always gone hand in hand with supporting the arts. Before launching an online shop for Affordable Chic, she sold clothing at pop-up events, sometimes partnering with the likes of hat makers and yoga instructors. At Studio 79, she and Deutsch will continue mixing mediums, inviting artists and authors to join them in the new space for community events. And they won’t take a cut of their earnings.
“I always thought that also culture needs to be affordable,” Garito said. “And to be affordable, what does that mean? First of all, to give the space to artists to exhibit their work without taking anything away from that.”
Already, Deutsch’s whimsical jewelry line adds warmth. After over a decade of friendship, the pair weathered the pandemic together in the same Upper West Side apartment building, where they both raise their children. Deutsch and Garito knew they wanted to start the brick-and-mortar venture together.
It’s an entirely different experience than what shoppers get online; the showroom, where visitors can make appointments or wander in to shop in person, is bright and spacious, but intimate. Conversation over Italian espresso and chocolates, Garito posed, can’t happen on the internet. “I’m still romantic,” she said.
When a mother-daughter duo visited the showroom, Garito said, it felt like a “special hour.” She posed Studio 79 as a “female-oriented” space.
The concept might have a more stereotypically Downtown feel, Garito said — but bringing the showroom-studio Uptown will help it reach a different crowd.
The influence from Italy, a farther-flung destination, is reflected both in the prices and in the European clothing brands Garito stocks. At the showroom in late September, she wore a dress and velvet jacket that together cost only $65.
“I used to go to gala events at the Met dressed with less than $100 and feeling actually like $1 million,” Garito said with glee.
“I always thought that also culture needs to be affordable.” Marialuisa Garito