First of all let's just say that C. Wonder, the heavily hyped concept store that officially opens tomorrow, should make a ton of money. After all, how can you fail with expensive-looking merchandise in an expensive-looking setting at inexpensive prices? Well, people have, but anyway...
Though the store's big debut was pushed forward to this Saturday, the big green doors on Spring Street have actually been open at least since Thursday, when The Shophound stopped by. Though it's tucked away on a medium-profile SoHo street, you won't miss the bright entryway, that will presumably become something of a signature for the nascent chain. The coming months will bring more C. Wonder locations in Paramus NJ, White Plains and Garden City, NY. Hope you like bright kelly green, because the inside of the store is a cacophony of color normally associated with a particular style more typically associated with labels like Lilly Pulitzer, Talbots and Brooks Brothers than funky downtown Manhattan. We are guessing that the reason why SoHo was chosen as a launching pad for C. Wonder is a purely result of its high tourist quotient, because this store concept looks like it was made specifically with the Upper East Side, Palm Beach and Greenwich in mind. The store is full of classic items like rubber wellies, driving shoes, belts with interchangeable initial buckles and gold-buttoned cardigans all in bright, clear primary colors. More than anything the store reminds us of Tory Burch, which is not surprising since it has been conceived by her ex-husband Chris Burch. To say that he has done a wholesale lifting of his ex-wife's look for his new venture might be a slight exaggeration, but elements of her success have been "borrowed" from her, like the amped-up preppy look with a dash of glitz, the reliance on the kind of geometric prints and patterns often found on sofas in Darien, or the elaborate initial-based emblem that makes its appearance whenever possible on the store's merchandise. The big, stylized "C" is slapped in a familiar way on handbags, wallets, woven into a snaffle decoration on a pair of loafers, etc.
On the plus side, the prices are way below what one would expect from Tory, with most items retailing for well under $100. The store has been compared to Anthropologie, and like that unstoppable chain, apparel is not necessarily the central focus. C. Wonder has a large section devoted to home furnishings and accessories which range from the obvious, like brightly patterned tableware and knicknacks, to the random, like signature iPhone headphones, mini-cupcake and waffle making appliances (below), slow-cookers and even metal water bottles and cycling helmets, all with that "C" logo (right).
Today's WWD features a questionably flattering profile of Chris Burch which paints him as something of a manic retail P.T. Barnum with a million ideas up his sleeve, a MILLION! —and they're all great! GREAT! New Yorkers can look forward to a pop-up shop for Monika Chiang coming in the next month in the space that formerly housed Victorinox on Prince Street in advance of a permanent location nearby on Wooster Street. The more expensive contemporary lifestyle brand is reportedly designed by Burch's girlfriend, and, funny coincidence, it features a prominent logo fashioned from the designer's initials. There's also Electric Love Army in the pipeline, an apparel line created in collaboration with abrasive PR executive and tenacious reality show figure Kelly Cutrone. Then there's No. 9 Christopher, “the most elegant furniture you’ll ever see,” and Poppin, an online store for colorful office supplies.
The article suggests that though Burch remains on the board of his ex-wife's company, he is moving away from it, and, wandering through C. Wonder, we couldn't help thinking that in co-opting her aesthetic at low prices, he might be kissing her off in a backhanded way. Perhaps we are projecting too much on his intentions, but the spectre of her wildly successful look seems to hover over this particular venture.
Possibly to distract customers form any similarities, C. Wonder will be offering all kings of activities this weekend to celebrate its launch including special appearances by TV stars Kelly Rutherford from "Gossip Girl" and Elisabeth Rohm from "Law & Order". There will be a prize wheel to be spun every 20 minutes with free swag for the winner, and the first 400 women to make a purchase will have the opportunity to send surprise flowers to "a wonderful woman in their life". On top of all that, C. Wonder "mail carriers" will be roaming SoHo with 20,000 postcards that can be redeemed in the store for various dollar amounts. There will be sweepstakes and bloggers and any number of other activities to ensure that everyone in SoHo is aware of the new store. Customers who have already discovered it appear to be eating it up.
C. Wonder 72 Spring Street between Crosby and Lafayette Streets, SoHo
Christopher Burch Plots Slew of Ventures By Sharon Edelson (WWD)
C. Wonder Brings Heavy Hype To Former Kate's Space