Teaneck—Did you know there is a modern, Parisian-style boutique right on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck, where 70 to 80 percent of its hats—works of art and true craftsmanship—are handmade? It’s true, but Solène’s influence extends not just to hats and far beyond Teaneck; nearly 11,000 Instagram followers can’t be wrong.
Omri Amar, Solène’s proprietor, is a milliner (hatmaker) and spent 10 years after receiving his degree in finance from Yeshiva University working in his parents’ business. Sherel’s Hats started as a small hat business when his parents, Israeli-born Moroccans, moved to America. Today Sherel’s has grown to two stores in Brooklyn and one in Cedarhurst. Sherel’s is known for selling extraordinarily well-made hats, fascinators and accessories, with its material sourced from the very best European felt, straw and trimmings-makers. “My parents have highly skilled and experienced hatmakers working with them. Everything is handmade using old-world techniques. They’ve scoured all of Europe for the past 30 years sourcing the best raw materials including straws, felts, trims and hatbodies.”
During his time at Sherel’s, Amar worked to make hats for numerous high-end clients, both private and corporate, including hats and fascinators that were worn on the television shows Gossip Girl and The Carrie Diaries. “I was too creative to work at a big corporation behind a desk,” he said, though he notes that his wife, Rachel, works as a CPA at an NYC accounting firm. They live on the Upper West Side and are considering a move to Bergen County.
After visiting France, Amar conceived of a Parisian-style department store where he could not only make and sell unique, beautiful hats like the ones he made alongside his parents and brother, but also offer well-curated brands and provide specific beauty products and services catered to the Jewish community. These include brow shaping, makeup and skin care that many women use on a regular basis, all in one location. The name he chose for the store, Solène, is a French woman’s name that he felt was evocative of the French tone and stylish energy, the joie de vivre, perhaps, of the concept of his unique, beauty-bar-style boutique.
This has allowed Amar to position Solène as a leader for fashion-forward styles both in the store and online, and his tight editing of the beauty products he sells allows women to feel confident in their purchases, with the reassurance that Solène stands behind all the brands. The paradox of choice, with so many products crowding the marketplace, can make women unsure whether a product is good or not, and Solène’s carrying of a product conveys that the product is tried and true, Amar said.
Walking in and experiencing Solène’s clean, tailored lines and bright white glossy floor tiles, a woman who regularly wears hats will gravitate toward the walls, where bright and muted-color hats, in every shape and style, are arranged on vertical pedestals. She will not only find a chic collection of casual and crushable hats, but customizable and ready-to-wear dress hats and fascinators as well. For those searching for a new lipgloss or a particular skin care product, the black marble island situated in the center of the store beautifully displays cosmetics. Hosiery from Melas, Memoi and Falke (nudes and sheers in the summer, and opaques in the winter), are available toward the back, alongside a small but exquisite collection of beaded clutches and evening bags. On the other side of the store, gorgeous hair accessories and Shabbat socks are available for girls. The store also carries the Smashbox and Girlactik makeup lines, as well as Mario Badescu skin care products, and is working to bring in two more lines that focus more on natural personal care-style products.
Amar employs Delia Gubelmann, a brow specialist and professional makeup artist, who is available for makeup application and demos. She does exacting and painless brow tweezing and trimming (and I should know, as I am one of her clients!). She specifically does not use wax, as she believes repeated hot waxing on a sensitive part of the eyelid can be ageing. “My aesthetic is to follow the natural shape of the eyebrow. I am not going to go too thin or do too much tweezing,” she said. “A lot of people we get say that ‘the last place hacked’ their eyebrows, so we want to say ‘that’s not what is going to happen here,’” said Amar.
Gubelmann is regularly booked to apply makeup for bridal beauty parties, mother-of-the-bride, mother-of-the-groom, or bat mitzvah mothers and daughters. Consultations are always free, and a trial is always available by appointment. “We travel for wedding and group makeup sessions, with a four face minimum,” said Amar. Currently Gubelmann works Thursday, Friday and Sunday. While the store is closed on Shabbat, it is open for business Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Gubelmann does offer brow and makeup services during Sunday hours.
Regarding the gorgeous hats, Amar said there are many items in the store that many women may find to their liking; but he also makes many hats that are custom creations for individual clients. His atelier (craftsman’s workshop located in the store) downstairs is like a Willy Wonka candy-making factory, but for hats. From the 1890s Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine used to sew straw hats, to the steamer, stretcher and oven, all used in the hat-blocking process, these are all amazing things for any hat wearer to have the opportunity to see.
Elegant and simple straws, laces in every texture, beads and trimmings sit at the ready, organized in literally every color of the rainbow. Amar uses vintage wooden hat blocks in various shapes to stretch felt or sew straw. Clients can use a style or block he already has, or create a new design from scratch. “We often custom-make hats for a mother-of-the-groom, or a mother-of-a-bride, and other special occasions to match a dress. The prices for custom work start at $160 and can go up from there,” he said.
Amar gets customers from Monsey, Englewood, Riverdale, New York City and Westchester, and his Instagram following allows him to both set trends and bring people into the store. In addition to selling his own hats, Amar carries a few select brands not available in most places other than high-end specialty stores: Anna Rizzo (Firenze), Tracy Watts, Lola and Céline Robert just to name a few. These companies all provide specialized items such as unique panamas or avant-garde fascinators.
Visit Solène at 1438 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666 or call 201-530-7401. Visit @soleneboutique on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Hours are Sunday, 10 a.m.-
5 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.;
Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Saturday.
By Elizabeth Kratz