Call it just one of the effects of corporately owned fashion. Several weeks ago, we noticed that Fendi had vacated its high-profile spot at the corner of Greene and Spring Streets for a strangely innocuous location down the block with very little street visibility, and now we can see that the space at 122 Greene has been given over to the ever sprawling Louis Vuitton boutique that had been its next-door neighbor (pictured above). It's not Vuitton's first expansion of its SoHo store, and now it controls a substantial portion of the block between Spring and Prince Streets. It's not terribly surprising to see Vuitton move into Fendi's space, as they are sibling brands under the vast LVMH luxury umbrella. Vuitton, along with Dior which also has a boutique on the same block, is one of the group's crown jewels, a cash cow that has few peers in the fashion world. It would appear, at least in their case, that one of the hazards of being a part of such a luxury group is that when Big LV needs more room lesser brands, even ones as celebrated as Fendi, will get out of the way and relinquish their highly desirable corner stores.
For its part, Fendi's new store at no. 104 (pictured below) may be a bit larger than its previous space, but even the brand's outsized chrome robot bear mascot at the doorway may not be enough to alert passers by that the new boutique is now open. Hushed, well-appointed and well stocked with the brand's Bag Bugs festooned accessories though it may be, the new store is strangely tunnel-like and windowless which is particularly unfortunate in a neighborhood so prized in part for its airy loft-like stores. Hopefully, SoHo's tourists and other deep pocketed shoppers will find Fendi's new downtown home, but we have to wonder if the brand's retail executives are really that pleased with the relocation.
Handbag fans with a hankering for the classic Coach bags of the 20th Century will get a break from scouring eBay this Spring when the Coach Vintage project collects some choice models. The signature Penny, Stewardess and Duffle Bag styles from the 1970s and 80s have been sourced from all over the U.S. and will be restored in Coach's workrooms and launched on February 1 including a special group that have been festooned with vintage patches portraying Snoopy and other Peanuts characters (as pictured above). Those bags will debut at exclusively Colette in Paris along with the label's premiere Coach 1941 runway collection.
While Colette will go a long way to burnish the contemporary brand's luxury aspirations, we don't know exactly when the bags will arrive stateside, but we are pretty sure that they won't be selling at typical Coach prices. It is worth noting, however, that for all the brand's ongoing efforts to inject more high fashion into its products, it turns out that it's the ultra-simple and functional designs that first made the brand so popular that seem to hold the most cachet.
Last May, The Shophound stopped by a below street-level bar on Chrystie street for the HERSCHEL SUPPLY Co. Sample sale. There was a modest line, but nothing that seemed like too much of a inconvenience for a Saturday afternoon. There were great bargains inside on products that aren't too expensive to begin with.
Well, things have changed.
Today, we stopped by 250 West 39th Street around noon (doors opened at 11) to check out this season's sale, expecting the same sort of public response, and boy were we surprised. Not really, though. Herschel has only become a more popular brand in the last sixth months outfitting hipsters and school kids alike with well designed, affordable bags and accessories, so it's not that surprising that lots of people would hit the sale. It's just surprising that so many would line up along 39th street all the way to Eighth Avenue, around the corner and halfway to 38th Street (pictured above). We heard that shoppers were being allowed a 15-minute time limit to make their choices, which seemed reasonable, and since the sale was in a street level space, we were able to get a peek inside the dingy windows (pictured below) to see that there looked like a good selection of merch for shoppers.
No, we did not wait in the line mainly because we had a pretty good idea of what would be there and we really weren't up for waiting in line for a hour for things we didn't have a specific need for.
The sale is supposed to run through tomorrow afternoon, so there may be a chance to stop by more conveniently after the rush subsides. See our SALE ROLL at left for details.
Last month, The Shophound discovered that Marc Jacobs had quietly closed one of his colony of stores in the West Vilage (above left) with little sign of who would take over the lovely little shop on the corner of West 4th and Bank Streets. This week the New York Times solved that mystery when it announced that the widely admired cult accessory brand Want Les Essentials de la Vie will open its first standalone boutique next month in the West Village, accompanied by a photograph of the label's founders, identical twins Byron Peart and Dexter Peart standing in front of the unmistakable arched windows of the former Jacobs store (above right).
Now that we know that one of the prettiest storefronts in the neighborhood won't be dark for long, we can look forward to the opening of the Montreal-based brand's new boutique. The label's steady rise over the past nine years is chronicled in the Times article, which indicated that while the shop will stock both men's and women's complete Want collections, including the new men's shoe line, it will also, as is the current vogue among independent designers, carry items from other vendors including apparel from Comme des Garçons Forever and objects by Viennese designer Carl Auböck.
There's no specific opening date announced for the Want store, but as the Jacobs store was previously set up as an accessory shop, and it is not a huge space, an opening in October seems quite reasonable, and it will add to what is turning out to be one of the best seasons of new store opening s that we have seen in some time.
In this week's Thursday Styles, Molly Young is less our Critical Shopper than she is our enthralled one.
Ms. Young has discovered the kind of arcane little store that chain stores and real estate investors have made increasingly rare these days. CW Pencil Enterprise is a tiny shop devoted exclusively to writing implements of graphite wrapped in wood —no fountain pens or magic markers, just pencils. It is clearly a labor of love, and what it lacks in commercial potential it seems to make up for in earnest charm, "as if Captain Ahab opened a boutique of whale trinkets," our shopper writes.
And who really wants to give a critical assessment of a store designed to preserve interest in a slowly dying writing tool? Certainly not our shopper. The merchandise is highly affordable and adds a nice touch to a desk. Our shopper is converted to a pencil believer mainly because they really are still useful despite our current cultural predilection with communicating by keyboard,
Because pencils have a credible use, this single-minded store is able to transcend its novelty status. It’s more like a guitar shop than, say, a place devoted solely to popcorn or ice cream sandwiches (both of which are actual stores that exist within a five-block radius of this one).
We're sold. hope they have good sharpeners.
Critical Shopper A Pencil Shop, for Texting the Old-Fashioned Way By Molly Young (NYTimes)
CW Pencil Enterprise 100a Forsyth Street between Broome & Grand streets, Lower East Side
Elizabeth Street shoppers have noticed that the casual Canadian sportswear brand Roots is setting up shop at no. 228 —opening date to be determined,though the craft paper and stenciled logo suggests that it might not be far off.
Roots, Roots. Where do we know them from?
Oh yeah. It seems so far off now, but this is not the label's first store in New York. Longtime SoHo shoppers will remember there once was a fairly large Roots shop on Lafayette Street sometime during the 90s (?) where G-Star now lives. The Elizabeth Street outpost is part of a new retail strategy for the company which up until last year operated most of its stores through franchise arrangements. This will be the brand's first company owned store in New York and the only one in the U.S at the moment. It looks like it will be somewhat smaller than its last flagship, but it represents a welcome return to the city for fans of the brand's very basic, very casual, comfortable sportswear and, possibly more importantly, well made, reasonably priced leather accessories and shoes.
The Shophound is old enough to remember the days when an Hermès Kelly Bag, once the ultimate statement of taste and luxury, cost just somewhere north of $3,000, which was considered an exorbitant sum of money for a handbag. Back then, even the expensive ones rarely cracked the four figure ceiling, but those days are long gone. Now a basic Kelly is nearly $10,000, but it is no longer the exclusive statement it once was. It is an icon that announces itself. In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young explores two of the more recherché shops that are vying for customers looking for a more discreet expression of status by way of leathergoods.
First up is Goyard, which made the decision a few years ago to raise its profile with in-store shops at Barneys and Bergdorf's that unleashed a slew of widely copied tote bags in Manhattan. So, Goyard is not so much a best-kept secret anymore thanks to its signature geometric-patterned canvas that serves as pricier status alternative to the Louis Vuitton monogram without the crass display of someone else's initials. Once at the lavish new store, where the tote bags are pushed to the sidelines in favor of more elaborate items, our shopper discovers the $675 cat collar, and the $21,290 backgammon set, all customizable and ready for your own monogram. The luxury seems to be less in the products themselves, which are certainly extravagant, but in the way the customers are treated.
Service at Goyard is attentive. A salesclerk stays a cool 48 inches from your side, hands clasped, in case you’d like to see an item that is locked in a case. If you retrieve your phone to send a text, this salesclerk will politely look away, for privacy. When you point out the beauty of this or that item, the salesclerk will say, “Thank you,” a quaint little distinction that sums up the brand’s old-fashioned grace.
Then it's on to Valextra, a formerly little known Italian brand devoid of signature patterns and details save for good design for which you will pay a premium. After flirtations with Bergdorf's and Saks, it is now ensconced at a prominent counter at Barneys and, more recently, its own Madison Avenue boutique which is distinguished by a staff well versed in the understated selling skills needed to move those $1,440 iPad cases.
When I expressed mild interest in a bag, a saleswoman wrote all the information down on a card (price, color, name) and slipped it into my hand, just in case.
That's how it is done where shoppers are looking for more than a status billboard to hang from their wrists.
Critical Shopper: At Goyard and Valextra, Leather Goods That Are Durable, Versatile — and Invisible By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Goyard 20 East 63rd Street between Fifth & Madison Avenues
833 Madison Avenue between 69th & 70th Streets, Upper East Side
Reed Krakoff Suspends Operations And Plans Madison Avenue Closure To Reposition Label
Five years ago designer Reed Krakoff launched his own label in the most lavish way possible with an opulent Madison Avenue boutique and a few others around the world. It was an ambitious kickoff for the designer looking to migrate from the contemporary world, where he had turned Coach into a big-volume department store mainstay, to the more exalted and exclusive designer world, and it was not without its glitches. Critics gave his first runway shows lukewarm responses, and then Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson pulled no punches in her assessment of his store and collection in The New York Times. Deep pocketed backing came from his bosses at Coach, and after a couple of years, Krakoff seemed to settle in more comfortably with in-store shops in stores like Saks, celebrities supporting him on the red carpet and a second New York boutique in SoHo that opened last Fall. Things seemed to be looking up, but now Krakoff is no longer enjoying the backing of his former employer. Several weeks ago, he announced that he would not show ready-to-wear at New York Fashion Week because he was planning on transitioning his designer level accessory collection to the "Affordable Luxury" category, an oxymoronic moniker he actually coined to describe his collections for Coach which is having its own challenges at the moment as well. Retreating back to his commercial comfort zone (at least commercially if not aesthetically) seemed to be a smart move that signaled an end to his attempt to launch a fully formed luxury brand, but yesterday Krakoff announced that he would suspend operations entirely as he repositions his brand and gets his company back on track. To that end, Krakoff will shutter all of his stores including Madison Avenue (pictured above) except for the new SoHo location and the Woodbury Commons outlet. His e-commerce site will remain operational as well. WWD reports that there is still enough merchandise in the company to support the two remaining stores, but the goal at the moment is to find a new investor to invest in the company while it plans new, less expensive lines. So Krakoff is down, but not out just yet. Other designers have come back from worse, and he is smart enough that he is likely to come out just fine, but he may serve as a cautionary example of how not to launch a luxury brand.
Last Summer, The Shophound spied an innocuous little sign indicating that New York would get the first TOMS store on the East Coast by the end of 2014. As often happens, however, New Years came and went with no opening, and no particular signs of progress at the Elizabeth Street storefront in NoLita that the charitable brand had indicated would be its latest outpost. With Fashion Week upon us, the optimum moment to publicize a new retail venture is just around the corner, and it looks like, however tardy it may be, Toms is getting ready to open its doors. Last weekend we spied a new awning and new signage at the store (pictured above), so hopefully, it won't be too much longer before New Yorkers get to browse a comprehensive offering of the brand's exceedingly popular shoes, eyewear and other accessories, and take advantage of the company's now famous policy of donating one individual product to a person in need for every one it sells. So far, no official announcements have been made, but keep an eye on the block of Elizabeth Street between Houston and Prince Streets for any activity.
TOMS To Take Up Residence In NoLita
The month isn't over yet, so there's at least one more bit of retail reorganization to be executed before we pass into February. Kate Spade has announced that it will be closing all of its Jack Spade and Kate Spade Saturday stores in the first half of 2015 as it will be folding the Saturday line back into the flagship collection and focusing Jack Spade on wholesale and online selling. A total of 28 stores will be closed including 16 Saturday and 12 Jack Spade locations, so here in New York we will have to say goodbye to the Saturday store on Spring Street as well as the original Jack Spade on Greene Street in SoHo where the men's brand was launched and the Bleecker Street store which was extensively renovated less than a year ago.
It must be noted that though the Saturday brand, an attempt to launch a more casual, lower priced offshoot, will apparently be discontinued, Jack Spade, the men's counterpart to the Kate Spade label, will remain in operation under a modified business model and available through stores like Saks fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's among others. In fact, the brand is being expanded to include tailored clothing and dress furnishings, categories which, according to Kate Spade & Co. executives, are more favorably grown through wholesale strategies. Closing dates have not yet been announced, but before you get too excited about imminent store closing sales it sounds the stores will operate relatively normally through most of the Spring season before closing sales —if any—begin. Still, keep your ears to the ground. All of the New York stores are in highly desirable locations, particularly Bleecker Street (pictured above), so there may be pressure to turn over those leases to eager new tenants sooner rather than later.
Kate Spade to Wind Down Kate Spade Saturday, Jack Spade Stores (Wall Street Journal)