F rom her perch on a faux-fur settee in the back area of Therapy’s L-shaped boutique—past racks of daring cocktail dresses, classy gowns, comfy-svelte knits and artsy shoes and jewelry and artifacts—Angelina Davydov confirms what’s already clear to see. “I want this place to be like a fun girl’s closet,” she says. “I want it to be your shopping haven.”
She’s sitting next to Thang (pronounced “Tahn”) Dao, co-owner of the store. He’s also Therapy’s buyer; Davydov is the shop’s manager and designer. The two have been friends for 20 years, first meeting in New York City where Dao was a dancer and choreographer and Davydov was working in fashion.
They talk enthusiastically about Therapy and each other, one elaborating on the other’s thoughts as old friends tend to do. “Angelina doesn’t wear outfits,” Dao explains at one point, gesturing in her direction. “She wears ensembles.”
Therapy—so named for the type of experience you’re meant to have there—has been around for almost exactly three years. First it was on York Street, just north of Broadway. Then it relocated to Chapel Street to capitalize on that stretch’s “boutique feel,” Dao says, helped along by Davydov’s whimsical displays.
The shop mainly stocks three designers: Opaline, Dao’s own line, which he describes as “casual, ready to wear,” including pants, shawls and skirts. Yumi Kim, who makes “sweet, classic” numbers, including rich-hued evening gowns perfect for weddings; and Calvin Tran, with the most “innovative and edgy” pieces you’ll find at the store, including bold geometric vests. Opaline is the most moderately priced, starting at around $69; Yumi Kim generally ranges from $169 to $289; and Calvin Tran runs from $200 up.
The store also offers a small array of high heels and clutch handbags—displayed on minimalist platforms extended from the wall or in lush design elements like a vintage-looking suitcase—and a collection of art-object jewelry, some designed by locals. A small sale rack in the back serves bargain hunters, as does a habit of selling smaller items, like leggings and stacks of shiny golden bangles, for very reasonable prices.
Davydov, who also designs her own clothes and says she’s loved dressing people up since she was a young girl, says the confidence that emerges from just the right piece, on just the right person, is what marks a great retail experience. “I love it when the girl loves herself. Fashion can energize you.”
Another crucial factor? “I want to make sure, first of all, that all my associates are kind to everyone,” Dao says. “Kind”—it seems an unusual word in fashion, where competition and judgment seem to pervade, but at Therapy, it fits. A normal, repeat customer myself prior to pursuing this story, I can attest to the kindness that pervades the shopping experience there, down to the sitting areas scattered thoughtfully about, where you can take a load off for a bit.
In rattling off stories about the business, Dao mentions having brunch or drinks with certain shoppers from time to time, edifying the claim that his favorite part of the job is “getting to know his customers, getting to know their stories.” Therapy, I’m told, takes extra-good care of its regular customers by treating them as “V.I.P.s,” who might get special alterations and unusual access to one-of-a-kind designs.
No appointment necessary.
1022 Chapel St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Tues 10am-7pm, Wed-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun noon-6pm
Written by Cara McDonough. Photographed by Dan Mims.