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New Year's Resolution Edition


It looks like the Critical Shopper is adopting a "compare and contrast" format, as this week's Thursday Styles brings Alexandra Jacobs's thoughts on the obvious New Year's conern: working out. Our shopper kills the proverbial two birds with one stone at the latest branch of Gap's women's activewear chain Athleta and the recently arrived British workout wear shop Sweaty Betty in SoHo with the thinking that they are well positioned to step in where the dominant but slightly battered Lululemon has misstepped.

Starting with Sweaty Betty, a store name that conjures up all sorts of clammy, exceedingly moist images, she finds that the clever fashion elements ultimately subvert the performance aspects of the merchandise, and the campy décor makes the gym seem like more of a joke: "A cubby was stacked with plastic-weight running bottles recalling Dr. Leonard Schwartz’s Heavyhands. Headbands, legwarmers and leotards abounded. All that was missing was a bathhouse of well-oiled Olivia Newton-John backup dancers." Well, that actually might get all kinds of people enthused for a workout.

On to the more serious-minded Athleta, which clearly has that big Canadian competitor in its commercial cross-hairs. "Compared with the retro and rather hyper Sweaty Betty, Athleta is spa-like, with blond-wood floors, rattan chairs, flattering sconces and generous cuts," she tells us, and yet somehow we aren't convinced that Jacobs has been totally enchanted by either store. It sounds like Lululemon doesn't need to watch its back just yet.

Critical Shopper Refining the Fitness Gear Trend By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
Sweaty Betty 77 Mercer Street between Spring & Broome Streets, SoHo
Athleta 126 Fifth Avenue at 18th Street, Flatiron District


A Brief Sale Respite
—Unless You Want Shoes

The Sample Sale Schedule takes a much needed rest this week, and so should you be. There should be enough department store and designer boutique clearances going on to keep everyone busy enough, but in the event that you are a hopeless addict and constitutionally unable to avoid sample sales, we can enable you with a few events like the continuations of A.P.C.'s clearance and Earnest Sewn's boutique closing sales in the West Village through tomorrow.

Later in the month, there will be more big sales from Max Azria's BCBG and Hervé Léger collections as well as a popular off-site, end-of-season clearance from the Upper East Side's Fivestory that will take place at the Bowery Hotel, so save up and mark your calendars.

The one big event on the schedule for this week is the gigantic bonanza known as the Shoe-Inn Annual Warehouse Sale at Gotham Hall near Macy's Herald Square on Thursday. Yes, here is one more opportunity to claw your way through crowds of other like-minded ladies for deep discounts on designer shoes including popular labels like Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and so many others. Reportedly, there will be over 7,000 pairs of shoes and boots to be snapped up with shoes priced at $25, $50, $75 and $99, and boots similarly staggered from $50 to $199.
Football padding might be in order.

See our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for hours and more details as well as any late-breaking events that cross our desk.

Have a Happy New Year, and The Shophound will see you in January.


Emporio Armani, Valentino, Brunello Cucinelli, Todd Snyder, Paul Smith, Porsche Design, Lanvin, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Ben Sherman, Etro

Here is your weekly sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites this week. You should click over to the sites themselves for a full schedule of events, and be sure to check for the correct start time for each sale. Happy clicking!

Trina Turk/Amy Matto, Soludos Espadrilles, Electric Yoga, Revlon by Marchesa, PLENTY by Tracy Reese, DV/Dolce Vita, Anna Beck Jewelry, Cole Haan, Luca Roda, Herschel Bags, Duchamp, Swear, Emporio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Billy Reid, Paul Smith, Jack Victor Studio, Brown Jordan, EDUN —join HERE
Valentino, Sferra, M Missoni, Antony Morato, AHAVA, Rotary Watches, Llum, Hello Kitty, The Rug Market —join HERE
Pucci/Valentino Sunglasses, Modern Vice, Dartington Crystal, David Lerner, Amrapali Jewelry, Aryn K, Brunello Cucinelli, Surya, Prada, Invicta, Café Bleu, Fendi, Lanvin, A. Testoni, Gorjana, Etro, Vanhi Jewelry, Skagen, Cullen, Scott James, Kenneth Cole —join HERE
Lucky Brand, Segolene, BECCA Cosmetics, Flora Nikrooz, Betsey Johnson, Stitch's, GANT, Matt Bernson, What Goes Around Comes Around, Asics Onitsuga Tiger, Porsche Design, Susana Monaco, Bucco, Parvez Taj, Joie, Fergie, Emporio Armani, Vince Camuto, Giorgio Armani —join HERE
Todd Snyder, Les Copains, Stitch's, Florsheim, Honeydew Intimates, Portolano Accessories, Muse, Ben Sherman, PUMA, Sophie Catalou, B Store, Façonnable, Rogue, Desigual, EDUN, Alpha Industries —join HERE
Zaramella Argenti Silver Accessories, Fendi Watches, Corneliani, House of Baguettes, Diamanta, Antonio Croce —join HERE


Sale Shopping At Saks Is Relaxed...
Until You Get To The Shoes

It has been years since The Shophound went shopping on the day after Christmas —mainly because it can easily top Black Friday insane, aggressive bargain grabbing even in the most exclusive of stores. This year, however, we thought we would give it a shot, just to see if there was enough merchandise left after some pretty heavy pre-Christmas price promoting. In the past few seasons, stores have been extremely tight regarding inventory, so that by the time the Holidays rolled around, there was often only meager selections left for clearance business. This year, there was a bit more confidence in the market, and Holiday business in general has been closer to more optimistic expectations. Rather than making a tour of every store in Manhattan (seriously, how much energy do you think The Shophound has?) we picked Saks Fifth Avenue as our microcosm to see just how the immediate day-after-Christmas sales would pan out this year. 

As in the past, Saks opened at 8 AM this year on December 26th offering extra discounts on marked down goods of up to 50% only until noon, when the discounts mostly reverted to 30% off. This brings savings up to 60% to 70% off, which is generally as good as or sometimes better than waiting for the final clearance sales that will come next month. While we have seen the main floor packed on such days in previous years, we were surprised to see things relatively subdued on the main floor when we entered sometime around 9 AM —possibly because the handbag and accessories departments at Saks are so sprawling and fragmented. Expect this arrangement to change once the chain's new owners start shaking things up, but for now, activity felt key, and as we rose on the escalators, we saw sale racks with a good number of customers, but not the rabid frenzy we were expecting. Then we hit the first men's floor on 6, where the shoe sale racks were swarmed (pictured below). It was a challenge just to get near the section for our size, and one floor up, where the casual and designer men's shoes were racked up, it was equally as crowded. It was one floor up on Saks' vast women's shoe floor where things were really getting crazy —or so we could see from the escalator (pictured above). It seems that the women's shoe department was so crowded and busy that security had to close it to new customers, letting them in one by one as other shoppers left. It turns out that as much as nearly every department store in the city has enlarged its shoe departments, they can never get big enough. New York shoppers' desire for shoes —whether full-price or on sale— seems to know no limits. The other part of the store that seemed to come close in activity was on the Ninth floor where most of the rest of the men's sale merchandise was consolidated in a vast arrangement of racks. Perhaps this set-up is better for daily numbers, but it made for a very tight shopping environment. One might question whether or not a luxury store like Saks should really turn itself into a discount-store environment just because it is sale time, but that is a question for management and new owners to ponder. Now that the immediate, before-noon discounts have expired, things should quiet down a bit, but there's still a big vacation weekend coming up with lots of people and tourists on vacation as well as the possibility of extra New Years Day discounts, so if there's still money burning a hole in your pocket, there will still be some opportunity for savings in the next week or so.


Dover Street Market Opens With An Eclectic Splash

  • DSM-A
  • DSM-B
  • DSM-C
  • DSM-D
  • DSM-E
  • DSM-F
  • DSM-CDG-homme
  • DSM-GoodDesignShopCommeDesGarconsDepartment
  • DSM-MichaelCostiffWorldArchive
  • DSM-SaintLaurent
  • DSM-ThomBrowne
  • DSM-VisVim
  • DSM-Vuitton

We knew it would be an event, but we weren't totally sure that we would see a line stretching all the way around the block of people eagerly awaiting entry when Comme des Garçons' Dover Street Market opened its doors for the first time on Saturday morning. The Shophound groaned, but begrudgingly queued up and felt a little bit better when we noticed that the president of Estée Lauder was a couple of people behind us. At least it was a high-class line, full of Comme des Garçons enthusiasts dressed specially for the occasion. A few minutes after 11 AM opening moment, however, we were relieved when a staffer came down the line to pull out anyone who wasn't waiting for a special Supreme limited edition release, and let us right into the store. So, the line really wasn't as bad as all that, but it made for a dramatic picture (below).

The question was whether or not this store could live up to the full year of anticipation for what was supposed to be New York's most exciting new store in some time? The answer depends on what excites you in a store. If you like a posh, plush shopping environment where things are clearly ordered, categorized easy to find, then you might be flummoxed by Dover Street Market's cerebral and occasionally surreal seeming set-up, but if you are the kind of shopper who likes to explore a store and searches for surprises, then the shop for you has arrived.

The key to enjoying DSM, is not to think too much or have a particular destiniation in mind, at least at first. The store is designed for wandering and discovery. Things start out looking logical and ordered on the first floor with the Rose Bakery, a jewelry and accessory section, and a three-month Louis Vuitton section under a wooden cage that will switch from men's to women's in Fesruary. Venture upstairs, however, and thing begin to take on a more free-form arrangement. There is no distinction between men's and women's designers, though some designers will put their men's and women's collections in different area. Customers are encourage to ignore such arbitrary distinctions, and much of the sales staff happily demonstrate the results of such thinking. If you are concerned about the proper gender requirements for wearing culottes, then keep moving up Lexington Avenue until you get to Bloomingdale's. You'll be happier there.

As promised, wood is the pervasive design element throughout the store, in all its forms, mostly unfinished. Rough wooden shacks placed in the middle of each floor serve as dressing rooms, and the whole place kind of smells faintly of a lumberyard, at least for now, while everything is new. Of course, some designers like Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent and Thom Browne simply adapted their signature retail schemes to their sections, and seemed less exciting for it. Others took the opportunity to have some fun. Even hyper-controlling Prada decorated its intimate space with an unusual mural that seems inspired by the set from the recent Spring 2014 runway show rather than boilerplate Prada store interior. Vuitton's wooden cage resembles nothing found in its own boutiques, and fit in more with the spirit of the store even if its current offerings, a men's Spring collection featuring signature pieces with specially designed badges and appliqués designed by artist Terence Koh, falls on the more conservative side of things.

Odd surprises abound. Tucked into a corner we discovered what almost looked like a storage closet, but was actually the Good Design Shop offering a Muji-like selection of humble and practical items. Nearby, a display for Michael Costiff's World Archive offers a rotating selection of antiques and artifacts from faraway lands. We could go on and on describing each corner, but it won't compare your own visit. we spent about an hour inside, and still feel like there's plenty of stuff we missed, so we are looking forward to a return visit. Luckily, the staff was not terribly discouraging of photography (which will probably change soon), so have a look at the gallery at the top for just a few interesting views of the store, and plan a visit for yourself when you are in an adventurous shopping mood.

Dover Street Market New York 160 Lexington Avenue at 30th Street, Murray Hill/Kips Bay


Kors & DVF Ditching Lincoln Center?

New York's Fashion Show-goers have been griping about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week since long before it moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center, but the choruses of dissatisfaction have grown in volume in recent seasons, and Next year, it looks like the event will finally be losing what's left of its top tier of designer. It has been years since most of America's biggest designers like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs have shown under IMG's tent complexes at either Bryant Park or Lincoln Center (despite being on the schedule as 'off-site' participants), and hotter, young designers like Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung have either never shown there at all, or swiftly disassociated themselves from the location after an initial show or two there.

Now, WWD is reporting that Michael Kors and Diane Von Furstenberg, the two most prominent designers who have faithfully remained at the tents, are expected to show their Fall 2014 collections elsewhere, joining Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera who have already indicated that they will be exploring other venue options when Fashion Week rolls around on February 6th. That makes four major losses for IMG in one season alone, a major blow to MBFW's prestige and without anyone representing America's top luxury brands showing there, it's claim of being New York's official Fashion Week venue ring more hollow than ever. For its part, IMG has already announced changes for the venue to make it less circus-like, but their announcements center around trimming guest lists, and making venues smaller blaming bloggers and attention seeking guests looking to be discovered by street style photographers for Fashion Week's problems. The real reason why designers have been steadily exiting the tents over the past few seasons, however, has been the excessive presence of ever less upscale sponsors, giving the tents a trade-show atmosphere starting with main sponsor Mercedes-Benz's insistence on putting shiny cars where no car should be —in a fashion show tent. It turned out that America's biggest designers do not want to show in the same place that Joan Rivers is taping an episode of "Fashion Police", or where there is a huge booth for yet another questionable fashion reality TV show like Rihanna's "Styled to Rock", but this is how IMG has made money on Fashion Weeks not only in New York but in many cities worldwide. This activity is not likely to slow down.

So what will the next New York Fashion Week mean for what was once New York's prized fashion venue? IMG isn't commenting on the lineup until it is officially announced in a couple of weeks, and many popular designers like Monique LhuillierTory BurchNanette Lepore and BCBG are still expected to show there, but they are mostly not what one would call "Big Tent" designers who can fill the largest show venue to capacity. IMG and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week are in a bit of a transition themselves having just been purchased by William Morris Endeavor and Silver Lake Partners who are expected to take a long look at the feasability of the show complex. The CFDA is finally getting more involed too, joining with The Fashion Calendar to try and impose some order on the hundreds of shows that now take place in New York. The organization originally created the central show location two decades ago to keep designers in one place so attendees wouldn't have to travel all over town. Now, fashion week sprawls more than ever. Most designers and the CFDA are looking forward a few years when the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards will become the official home to New York Fashion Week, but whether or not IMG and Mercedes-benz will be invited —or even be involved at all remains in question. Expect to hear a lot more about the future of Fashion Week between now and February 6th, so stay tuned.

Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors Reportedly Leaving Lincoln Center (WWD)


Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, Charlotte Olympia, Rachel Roy, Vera Wang, Bee Line, Brioni, Calvin Klein, A. Testoni, Camper, Jil Sander

Here is your weekly sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites this week. You should click over to the sites themselves for a full schedule of events, and be sure to check for the correct start time for each sale. Happy clicking!

Casadei, Olivia Harris Handbags, Emilio Cavallini, Piplette by Alice Ritter, L.A.M.B., L'Agence/EDUN, Bounkit Jewelry, Rogue/Comune, Calvin Klein, Mr. Brown by Duckie Brown, A. Testoni, Akribos Watches, Stitch's Denim, Original Penguin, Allegri, Wallcandy, Tegu Magnetic Blocks —join HERE
RED Valentino, Elaine Turner, Duralex, Stitch's Denim, Gevril Watches, Camper, Ariat, Seiko, The Rue Warehouse Sale, Pour La Victoire, Theory, James Jeans, Eyebobs —join HERE
Salvatore Ferragamo, Ella McHugh Handbags, Emilio Pucci Sunglasses, Mélange Home, Baxton Studio Furniture, Rachel Roy, Vanhi Fine Jewelry, Brioni, Charlotte Olympia, Invicta, Kenneth Cole, Ben Sherman, Cullen, Scott James, Amrapali Fine Jewelry —join HERE
Vera Wang, TART, Da-Nang, Kensie, Stuhrling Watches, Alternative Apparel, BLK DNM, Matisse Footwear, PUMA, Billionaire Boys Club Bee Line, Betsey Johnson, Psycho Bunny, Harlyn, Stella & Jamie, Stitch's Denim, J.A.C.H.S, Kiehl's —join HERE
Jil Sander, Alexandre Plokhov, Ann Demeulemeester, With & Wessel, Nat Nast, Head Activewear, Ben Sherman Accessories, Tovar, Façonnable, Moss Mills Handbags, Gorila Shoes —join HERE
ZIRH, Pianegonda Jewelry, Poiray Paris, Watches, Anna Maria Cammilli Watches, Diana M. Jewels, Carrette French Delicacies —join HERE


Franco-Williamsburg Edition

19zCRITICAL1-articleLargeIn today's Critical Shopper column, Jon Caramanica eschews the obvious Holiday shopping, and instead heads for the sales at Sandro, but not at one of its several Manhattan locations. Instead he checks out the French chain's new Willliamsburg outpost. He makes the odd observation that France has the least imaginative clothes of the "fashion-minded" countries (Jean-Paul Gaultier might beg to differ, just for starters, but whatever). He seems to be referring to more prosaic, day-to-day clothes which, as presented at Sandro, are black, black, skinny and skinnier —which actually makes them perfect for Williamsburg, but perhaps not so promising for our Shopper.

And so Sandro presents a challenge of rigor: limited color palette, limited silhouette palette, limited attitude palette. There’s a type of character who would look effortlessly phenomenal in these clothes: Pete Doherty, Jenny Shimizu in her prime, vintage Bryan Ferry, Wiz Khalifa. Call them dismissive ectomorphs. The clean lines serve only to spiff up a bad attitude.

Yet what seems like disenchantment turns to some kind of begrudging admiration, especially at 30% off, and he walks away with shoes and a sweater. Even so, he recognized that the arrival of tony stores like Sandro are further transforming Williamsburg into something apart from the edgy bohemian neighborhood that attracted attention in the first place.

Critical Shopper: The New Skinny on Brooklyn By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Sandro 65 North Sixth Street between Wythe & Kent Avenues, Brooklyn


Barneys To Open A Downtown Flagship At Its Old Downtown Flagship

In an unlikely but totally welcome bit of news, Barneys New York announced that its long rumored downtown flagship store has finally found a home —in its old home.
Barneys will resume residency in the building at Seventh Avenue and Sixteenth street that once housed part of its original men's store. It wasn't current occupant Loehmann's recent Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing that made the move possible. The off-pricer's lease is set to expire in 2017 anyway, but its expected, imminent liquidation will allow Barneys to start constructing its new store (or re-constructing its old one, as the case may be) much earlier, allowing it to open in 2017, 20 years after it left Seventh Avenue as a result of its own bankruptcy at the time and disputes with its former Japanese backers.

That particular Chelsea block has never seemed quite the same without its longtime neighborhood retail anchor. Loehmann's, which took over the space in 1996 while Barneys was still operating in its former women's store and a section of the men's store, certainly never had the same cachet and made an odd next door neighbor while the stores briefly operated side by side. Though there will be some nostalgia in seeing the retailer return to its old stomping grounds, don't expect to see a re-creation of the Barneys of the '80s and '90s that New Yorkers came to love. “We didn’t do this just for nostalgic reasons,” Barneys CEO Mark Lee tells WWD. While he didn't go into detail regarding how the store's offerings would be edited for the smaller space, he was clear about how it would represent the store's current vision. At 57,000 square feet, the new store is only one-fifth the size of Barneys' Madison Avvenue Flagship, and represents about half of the space of the original store. The Rubin Museum of Art occupies the rest of the former space including the original women's store, and will remain in place. There will be both men's and women's apparel at the new Barneys as well as a lower level cosmetics department like the one on Madison Avenue. “Men’s is the history, but women’s is the significant business today,” he says. “That’s a change from the old days. We’re planning it in line with the business today." Barneys' own market research showed that the loyal downtown customers it expected to follow the store to Madison Avenue never really made it uptown, turning instead to smaller stores that opened in its wake like Jeffrey, Kirna Zabête and Opening Ceremony, as well as fulfilling more casual needs at the Chelsea Co-op that closed earlier this year. Rather than a return home, the new store is seen more as an opportunity to attract a now, untapped customer base, which should make both new and old Barneys customers happy to see it return to its old home.

Going Home Again: Barneys Returning to 17th Street (WWD)
Discount Drama: Loehmann's Files Chapter 11... Again