By Mitch Broder
When you see the crowds gathering outside the Alexander Berardi boutique, you figure that either Berardi makes swell clothes or else he has bunnies hopping in the window.
Well, he does. Make swell clothes. And have bunnies hopping in the window. But he’s the first to accept that the crowds are drawn less by the clothes than by the bunnies.
Alexander Berardi is a rising star in fashion. The bunnies are rising stars in downtown window dressing. They are Jack and Miss Cooper, Holland lops, and lately each has been appearing separately. But alone or together they bring a warm wink to Soho, a place that could use more than one.
They live in a 3-by-4-foot pen with glass walls and fake grass, which they share with two headless models wearing the clothes that pay their rent. Throughout the day they get fresh vegetables, water, Sunaturals Timothy Hay, and more attention than a fashion star gets no matter how high he rises.
Their attention comes mostly from people, but their most dedicated admirer is an off-white, wiry labradoodle by the name of Rubio. He shows up each weekday at 4:15, plants himself in front of the window, and stares at the rabbit du jour for fifteen minutes straight.
“It’s like Rubio’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’” said his walker, Wonderly White. “Honestly, he’s in love. That’s all I can say. He wishes no ill will to the bunny. He just wants to make friends and play, but rabbits don’t play with dogs. It’s an unrequited love. But he keeps hoping.”
Less tragically, the rabbits are admired by myriad little girls, many of whom bounce in to do what Rubio can only dream of. Two eight-year-olds arrived on their way home from school with a woman named Michelle Jassem. Michelle noted: “I’ve never bought anything here. We just come to visit the bunnies.”
Alexander Berardi had rabbits before he had a store. So he decided to create a store that was designed to accommodate rabbits. “I just thought it would be a good idea to bring them to work,” he told me. “Otherwise they’d be home alone all day. They’re our store sidekicks.”
Rabbit duty is shared by Christopher Kulukundis, the store manager, who appears to know as much about rabbits as he does about ready-to-wear. He gives them Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, and carrots, along with the hay for their teeth, and regularly vacuums up the tangible evidence with a Dustbuster.
Some fans are disturbed by this. On a recent Jack day, a little girl worried that Miss Cooper might need her. “You get some characters,” Christopher said. “I’ve had some people come in just to sing to the bunnies. One woman couldn’t get Jack out of her mind and wrote him a pop song.”
So far, it’s hard to tell whether the rabbits are selling any clothes. But Alexander and Christopher foresee a payoff from those little girls.
“We have a joke,” Christopher said. “We’re going to be the most popular New York fashion line for Prom Night 2020.”Look into Alexander Berardi, 174 Prince Street, near Sullivan Street, in New York City.