Esaie Lubertus of Cherry Hill believes the borough is the perfect launchpad for his clothing brand and high-end shoe consignment gallery.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 18, 2019
For as long as he can remember, Esaie Lubertus has always had his own take on fashion.
That’s especially tough to pull off when you grow up attending private schools where everyone’s wearing a uniform.
Dress-down days were “my day to step out,” or an opportunity to help friends cement the elements of their looks, Lubertus remembers.
He wasn’t afraid to chop a pair of long-hemmed jeans into distressed denim shorts, or tailor his clothing before a broader trend in slim-fit fashion caught on.
“There’s a lot of ideas I never got paid for,” Lubertus said.
When his 15-year-old daughter Aniyah came across a copy of his senior yearbook, she showed her dad his stated dream in it: to own his own clothing brand. Through the years, that vision has been deferred, or diverted to a longer timeline, but next week, Lubertus opens the doors of his own boutique at 413 N. Haddon Avenue in Haddonfield (just a few doors down from Betsy Cook’s National Picnic fashion boutique).
Introduced as Bellani x Margari, a brand Lubertus hopes will eventually reach major retailers, the name is a hybrid of bella—the Italian word for beautiful, and a nickname of his late mother’s—and Margari, a flight of fancy that stuck in his mind years ago.
“It’s a name that rolls off the tongue,” Lubertus said.
“It sounds high-end, so I definitely have to match the product with the name.”
The shop will carry works from small, independent designers, but a major focus will be its inventory of new and consigned high-end sneakers.
Ranging in price from $100 to $500 a pair, Lubertus describes them as the shoes “that people wait on lines for; that people want to get their hands on.
“Hopefully I have the pair that they want,” he said: “Adidas Yeezys, Virgil Abloh Off-Whites, some Pumas. I don’t know who’s going to pop up; I’m going to have a wide variety of stuff.”
Collectors hawk sites like StockX, Grailed, or Stadium Goods for exclusive brands, monitoring the popularity of clothing like stocks, and speculating accordingly. Discontinued or limited-edition shoes are rife for counterfeiters and scammers, and Lubertus sees his shop as offering a niche for collectors who want to examine the shoes in person, or to sell off their own on consignment.
“A lot of times the classics are very hard to come by, and come at a high cost,” he said.
“Online, you don’t know who you’re buying it from,” he said; “in a brick-and-mortar store, you can feel it.”
That outlook goes along with Lubertus’ philosophy of fashion, which trends more aesthetic than pragmatic.
Whether expressing a mood of the moment or a more deeply held belief, the art of appearance is a mode of personality, he said.
“The way you dress can take you far,” Lubertus said. “Once the right person sees [my brand], I’ve got a strong feeling it’s going to take off.“
Bellani x Margari debuts June 24 ahead of a mid-July grand opening. Hours are noon to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and closed Sunday.
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