Glasswing’s urban surplus is true to the Northwest.

In the world of independent retail, simply selling stuff is no longer a viable business model. The retail space that thrives isn’t filled with things to buy; it’s a repository for experiences, real or potential. It’s a platform for artisans and entrepreneurs. It builds community. It offers story as much as substance.

Eye-roll worthy perhaps, but this new retail paradigm is an earnest approach to conscientious consumption. It’s as much a marketing tack as it is an ideal—but that doesn’t eradicate its altruism.

“People need a compelling reason to go buy something from a store, otherwise you should just go online,” says Forest Eckley, co-owner of Glasswing, a new retail venture opening in the former Sonic Boom space in Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market this month. Eckley hopes that Glasswing’s mix of clothing, housewares and furniture—plus a space available for rotating guest designers and hosted events—will offer that elusive mix of hard goods and intangible experience.

Glasswing has existed for a few years as an occasional pop-up shop around Seattle, a fashion blog and more recently, an online store, but this is its first full-time, brick-and-mortar home. The brand specializes in high-end clothing for men and women that adheres to an au courant urban-woodsman aesthetic: Rugged sweaters, heavy overcoats and sturdy work shirts refined for active city dwellers. Some items are made by American heritage brands like Gant and Filson; others are designed in-house by Eckley and his partners Sean Frazier and Alisa Furoyama.

Pairing expensive clothes alongside practical, outdoorsy items like hatchets, wool blankets and pewter flasks epitomizes Glasswing’s modern-surplus retail approach. In the field or in your apartment, these items look good and function well. This style is popular from Portland to Brooklyn, but it resonates deepest in Seattle, where real wilderness exists mere minutes from city streets.

Clothing, plants and home goods occupy the front third of Glasswing’s storefront. Set in the middle is furniture by Brackish, another one of Eckley’s endeavors. Using reclaimed wood and metal, he and his Brackish design partner Andy Whitcomb design couches, dining tables, bar carts and garment racks. All feature hard angles, heavy materials and muted colors in a hyper-masculine, minimalist style; all are hand-built by Seattle craftsmen. The Brackish showroom area plays a dual role: It allows customers to check out the furniture and provides a lounge area inside the store.

“I wanna give people a reason to feel like they can hang out without having to buy a $4,000 dining table or $200 dress,” Eckley says. “They can just come in and hang out in this cool environment. We’ll have plenty of furniture for people to have meetings or read or just decompress on their way up the hill from downtown.”

Meeting and collaboration space occupies the back third of the space, where Eckley says he’s renting four or five desks to freelance photographers and designers. This area adjoins an area available to rotating pop-up shops that are scheduled throughout the coming year. The first will be Scout, a Seattle retailer and pioneer of urban-woodsman chic, and Ty Ziskis, a musician-about-town who imports vintage workwear from the UK.

The back wall of Glasswing is made of floor-to-ceiling windows that yield gorgeous natural light. The ceiling is beautifully textured unfinished wood bracketed by heavy, wooden beams. Eckley calls the raw, unadorned style of the 100-year-old building “a dream interior.”

“At heart we’re a retail shop, but in order to be a retail shop worth visiting, we have to do something different,” Eckley says. “To get a really cool space we have to have multiple income streams so we’re not just relying on designing and buying and selling clothes. Those two elements lead to a dynamic space that’s fun and interesting and never stagnant.”

Photo by Miguel Edwards

Glasswing opens Nov. 29.
1525 Melrose Ave.