Uptown Designer to the Stars Opens Harlem Boutique
HARLEM — As an owner of 5001 Flavors, a custom clothing design company, Guy Wood has dressed celebrities ranging from Alicia Keys and Lil' Wayne to the Notorious B.I.G., Queen Latifah and Lebron James.
Even Elmo from Sesame Street has sported a 5001 Flavors creation.
But ask Wood, 48, where his sense of style comes from and he'll tell you the streets of Harlem in the 1970s and '80s.
"I saw everyone's style growing up here," he said.
"I watched the number runners and the pharmaceutical guys and liked their flavor but realized a lime green suit is not the best thing to have on in the middle of the day."
"I also saw the lawyers and the businessmen heading to work. The guys dressed up for church with their hats. Everyone had a pair of alligator shoes, from the bus driver to the numbers man."
Now, after more than 20 years in the design business, Wood, who started 5001 Flavors with his wife Sharene, has opened his first retail location, a boutique on Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street named Harlem Haberdashery.
His goal, he said, is to bring some of the style that inspired him back to the neighborhood where he learned to love fashion while giving young designers a chance to shine.
"I just love Harlem," he said.
"I eat and sleep Harlem. It has such great flavor."
The boutique is located on the garden level of a brownstone and has a style all its own. Even though Wood has designed for some of the biggest names in hip-hop, you are more likely to hear Elvis or Frank Sinatra playing in the store.
Outside, he used a piece of plywood that is part of a construction project to commission a lush mural of Harlem using the shop's logo. Wood sees that as turning a negative into a positive.
"Everyone stops in because of that sign," he said.
Inside, the dark blue walls are decorated with gold-framed black and white photos of African-American heroes like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Interspersed are family photos, like that of Wood's great grandmother who danced at the Cotton Club.
The red chandeliers, a 100 year-old baby carriage and dark wood floors are part of the design vision he took from the hallway leading to the office of one of his mentors and clients, a Baptist minister in Mt. Vernon.
"This could be a coffee shop if it wasn't a boutique," said Wood in describing his laid-back vibe.
"We fought him over the paint color but he's the type of person that has a vision in his mind and that's it," said Wood's daughter Brittny, the store's manager and herself a budding designer.
The entire shop and business is a family affair. Sharene Wood is president and CEO of 5001 Flavors. Wood's daughter Teyana also works at the store and his son, Guy Wood Jr. has a clothing line featured at the shop called Black Billionaire.
"I'm training my kids to take over so I can go somewhere and sit down," said Wood.
That hasn't happened since he started 5001 Flavors two decades ago with his wife. With no formal training, Wood started laying out his visions in fabric and leather.
He says he was also inspired by family members like his uncle and father who were known as sharp dressers and his mother who would make his outfits.
"I looked like the seventh member of the Jacksons going to school," he said.
Wood's designs caught on with stars like the recently deceased rapper and actor Heavy D. From there came connections with hip hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs and others. On a recent visit to the shop, Wood gave instructions to the tailors who were putting together an outfit he designed for hip-hop star Rick Ross.
"I had no formal training, I just know styles," said Wood.
And that's the same attitude he's bringing to the boutique.
Brittny Wood said styles at the boutique would change weekly but they have everything from $20 t-shirts to stylish leather jackets that sell for thousands.
The store carries designers such as Search and Rescue, who find vintage items such as jeans and suitcases and put their own spin on the item. Other new designers include Sophistifunk out of New Jersey.
"We are always open if a young designer has interesting pieces," said Brittny Wood. "Some people have really dope stuff but don't have access to get it in stores. It's always positive to support people in the community."
Wood said he thinks of his customers as being like himself, sophisticated shoppers looking for something different while also wanting a bargain.
"People in Harlem are sophisticated. We just get a bad rap," said Wood. "We go downtown and spend money so why not in our own neighborhood?"
His own Harlem Haberdashery line features everything from crisp, dark denim to a paisley jacket to the "rock star leathers" that he designs for music artists on their video shoots and concerts.
Since the shop opened last week they've had a mix of clientele, people of different races and ages. One of the t-shirt lines from a new designer has sold out.
"This will be here long after I'm gone. We are trying to create a brand," said Wood.