The ground floor of the unassuming brownstone at 21 West 56 Street, New York City, houses one of the most exclusive ski boutiques in America. It is the only shop of its kind in the country where both parkas and stretch pants are made to measure. The proprietor is Jules Andre, a Russian of Swiss descent who has been skiing since the age of 5. Andre Ski Shop's fabric parkas start at $29.95 and fur ones at $150. Stretch pants are $49.50 for women and $59.50 for men. The store also carries Andre's own ready-made jackets in assorted sizes and a line of imported sweaters.
Andre went into business when he came to this country in 1935. He began by selling skis imported from Finland. He still sells Finnish skis—a beginner can buy a good pair made of laminated wood for $16.95. He also handles the ever-popular Head skis as well as Marker bindings and Henke boots.
Andre's reputation, however, is mainly based on his fine ski wear, and his operation offers several advantages to the affluent shopper. You do not see your outfit duplicated on every ski slope, and your own ideas can be incorporated into the design. Andre says, "We can make clothes for skiers because we ourselves are skiers." The basic Andre parka, which can be modified to suit the customer, is patterned directly on the old original Eskimo parka. It has a drawstring at the neck and the cuffs are closed with Velcro strips. Otherwise, the parka is loose, allowing warm air to accumulate—the secret of keeping warm in the coldest weather. For an additional $10 you can have the neck lined with lynx. The parka sketched at left is made of Somali leopard fur. and costs $250. It has a high turtleneck collar and stretch sleeves; the sleeves can be made to match ski pants.
All fabrics, including the finest silks, are waterproofed, and some are backed with [3/32]-inch-thick Scott foam. Most parkas have a half-an-inch-thick lining of Dacron, nylon and Curon, which keeps one warm even at 20° below. There is not a yard of quilted nylon in the shop, but Andre has an astonishing collection of more than 380 textures and patterns, ranging from a delicate silk-screen print on Egyptian cotton to a bold, geometric-designed drapery fabric by Frank Lloyd Wright, to an English woven tapestry portraying 18th-century ladies, to an awning material with a 20th-century abstraction.
Real fur parkas are becoming increasingly popular, and Andre travels to Labrador and Alaska in search of skins. There are parkas in the perennially popular silver-gray hair seal from $250, and also the newer Lakoda seal, a rich, dyed-black sheared fur that sells for $250. Lynx paws make a glamorous jacket at $150, and an unusually handsome one made from fitchew, a European polecat, is $195. Monkey fur can be dyed to becoming blues, reds and greens and is very popular at $195.
"No tailor who is not a skier can make ski pants," Andre insists. "Pants should follow the contours of the body exactly; they will then ride on the hips, and the legs should be narrow but not skintight." Andre started making ski trousers in 1940 when they were made of gabardine and had to be custom-fitted. "You have to have infinite patience and accumulate knowledge that the ordinary tailor docs not possess." It is essential, he says, to know where and how to compensate for the height and weight of individuals, and only a skiing tailor can make a footpiece that is comfortable and will not slip.
His stretch material, which comes from Switzerland, is a 20-ounce blend of 60% wool and 40% Helanca and feels as good as it looks. By comparison, most stretch fabrics are rough to the touch. There are more than 70 shades from which to choose. Navy blue is this season's favorite. Also very popular this year are the one-piece or two-piece stretch outfits.
"Our customers are our designers," says Andre. He personally takes care of every detail and every client. He is an excellent skier, and he can also cut patterns and sew. Indeed, every time a new idea is suggested for a garment, it is also tried on the slopes, if possible by Andre himself.
Andre has a deep personal interest in the people of Labrador. He will give you an allowance on your old skis, boots and poles (if they are still usable) when you buy new equipment. He sends the used merchandise to the Grenfell and Moravian missions to give to needy Eskimo children.
Ski jackets and pants can be ordered by mail, and Andre will send you photographs of his new styles together with swatches and measuring instructions. An outfit requires two weeks' work.