Eddy Chai and Paul Birardi founded Odin, their contemporary menswear store, in 2004 with the opening of their first East Village outpost, known for brands such as Comme des Garcons, Bespoken, Robert Geller, Burkman Bros. and Thom Browne. In 2006, the retail duo added a second store on Lafayette, expanded it to include Den (a constantly changing single brand concept store) in 2007, and in 2008 added womenswear to the mix with a sister boutique dubbed Pas De Deux. A year later they opened a third menswear location in the West Village and debuted their line of Odin fragrances. (The name Odin comes from the wise Norse war god who is father to Thor.)
Along with their ever-expanding retail empire, the Odin fragrance collection has since grown to include seven personal fragrances and a selection of home scents, for which they won a 2011 FIFI award for Best Indie Fragrance and were nominated for FIFI's Best Packaging Men's Prestige category in 2012. The most recent scent, the veviter-based 08 Seylon, was released just last month.
Not too shabby for a couple of dudes who claim they only knew they wanted to be in retail "after we signed the lease on our first store" (Chai's words). A former advertising art director, Chai and Birardi (a buyer) had worked at a string of impressive brands—Barneys New York, Levi's, Macy's and Coach (which is where they first met)—before joining forces with Odin. "Retail/fashion wasn’t our first foray into creative expression," Chai told The Fashion Informer. "My background was in writing, music, film and design so those were really the first forms of creative expression for me. But it has come full circle as retail has encompassed all those elements."
Indeed. In addition to their own stores and fragrance line, the Odin for Target collection launched nationwide earlier this fall, and they have several other top secret creative projects brewing (stay tuned for deets).
The Fashion Informer caught up with Chai just after New York Fashion Week to talk dessert, must-have grooming products and his dream of being a professional gamer.
What's your favorite dessert?
A really good apple crumble or cheesecake.
Best book you've read in the past six months (and what made it so great)?
I don’t even remember the name of what I read last—I was just so happy to have the time to crack open a book!
City or country?
New York and Paris.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
What would you like to be doing if you weren't store owners/designers?
Professional gamer (not that I’m skilled at it) or a full time deejay.
What's the one grooming product you cannot live without?
What websites do you read regularly?
Not many. I kind of explore multiple sites haphazardly at any given time. It usually mirrors a stream of consciousness.
What item of clothing will we never see at Odin?
Never say never.
What one piece of advice would you give a young retailer starting out in New York?
Don’t be sucked into the romance of owning your own shop. Be fiscally responsible and realistic.
What made a more lasting impression on you: your first car or your first kiss?
Car. I don’t remember my first kiss.
What's your favorite mode of transportation?
Walking or biking if it’s nice and I have the time, but usually whatever way will get me there the fastest.
What makes your nervous?
Uncertainty. People who are drunk.
When are you happiest?
At the beach or by a fireplace with friends and my dogs.
graphic design by K Sarna