CHAIN GANG:

MUJI Unveils A Major Makeover For Its Original U.S. Store

177A3799
Photo courtesy of MUJI

Has really been over 10 years since the Japanese concept retailer MUJI made its American debut on a slightly offbeat block of Broadway in SoHo? That was way back in November of 2017, and since then, the chain has charmed shoppers in New York, Boston and up and down the coast of California with its deceptively sophisticated mix of minimalistic merchandise ranging from apparel to kitchenware to home furnishings to a plethora of pens and paper goods. It's hard to walk through a Muji store without pondering where one might find a place for a sleek stack of polypropylene drawers just to make things a bit tidier around the house. As the chainlet expanded through a series of increasingly spacious stores throughout the city, its original location began to feel a little bit cramped. Despite the fact that it has remained the highest volume location in the U.S., the past few months have seen the store undergo a dramatic update that added a new shopping floor and a multi-fold expansion of its square footage. With the new expansion unveiled over the weekend, SoHo shoppers now have the full assortment of Muji offerings including fragrances and skin care and extra services like an embroidery station for personalization. Now that Muji's most productive location has been upgraded, the company will turn its attention towards other unexplored U.S. regions. The East and West coasts have discovered and embraced the concept of simple but well designed, useful things, the next Muji stores will start appearing closer to the middle of the country to see if the midwest takes to the stores with the same enthusiasm as the coasts have.

See below to browse a gallery of the newly revamped SoHo store at 455 Broadway (Between Grand and Howard Streets)
Scroll and click each image for a larger view.
Images courtesy of MUJI


FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Nordstrom's First Men's Store Makes The Chain's NYC Debut

NordstromMensOpening
The doors are finally open at Nordstrom's first New York City store. It has been a long wait for the company to finally enter the city, and though it has already opened a series of off-price Nordstrom Rack stores here, this is the first iteration of the retailer's full-price concept to reach NYC, even if it is really an adjunct unit to the grand flagship store still under construction across Broadway. That store is now projected to open in time for the Fall 2019 season.
Of course, this is no ordinary Nordstrom branch. Not only is it the company's first all-menswear store, but it is also the rare unit that has been constructed within an existing building creating some unusual architectural challenges that we will get to later. First, let's get to the important bit: What's in the store? Those New Yorkers who don't get to suburban malls very often may not be familiar with Nordstrom's merchandising strategy. For Manhattanites, it can probably be best compared to Bloomingdale's (minus the furniture, kitchen and home furnishings departments) in the sense that it's merchandise can range, depending on the location, from Misses and Young Men's categories up to the most exclusive international luxury labels. On the whole, it is one of the most important mens retailers in the country, and most of its vendors can reliably count it as its biggest retail client by far, so a separate men's store makes sense for the chain. It also allows the retailer to open in the city about 18 months ahead of the rest of its splashy main flagship. Nordstrom has traditionally had something of a middle-of-the road fashion image as far as menswear goes, but it has has gone about updating that over the past decade. For this store, the first designer racks you see entering through the doors on Broadway between 57th and 58th streets belong to Gosha Rubchinsky, Loewe and Comme des Garçons Homme Plus. That makes a hard won statement. Nordstrom merchants have made an effort to play down the most popular (and lucrative) brands it carries in favor of labels with more limited distribution or the kind of cult appeal that will excite jaded New York shoppers. So there are Moscot sunglasses mixed in amongst the more ubiquitous Tom Ford and Gucci frames. While Tommy Bahama has been excused from this particular store, high volume producers Theory and Hugo Boss are still there, but pushed toward the back. 
Downstairs, there is a coffee bar, a blander casual sportswear section and the centerpiece of any Nordstrom store: the shoe department. Here is where the store's more egalitarian ethos comes into focus most clearly. It takes up a large section of the block-long floor and features an assortment that ranges from Timberland to Christian Louboutin. There are lavish Gucci sneakers only a few steps away from more prosaic Nikes and Adidas and everything in between arrayed just a few steps further. Up on the second floor, high fashion designer collections share quarters with Tailored clothing. Collections like Dior Homme, Givenchy, Valentino and Calvin Klein 205W39NYC are in the spotlight with distinct mini-shops proving the store's luxury bona fides as more classic upscale sportswear takes shoppers into the suit department. Rather than the extensive banks of suit racks that you may still see in some more traditional Nordstrom locations, the emphasis here is more on fashion as well with patterned shirts and surprisingly few ties on display. In the back corner we found  a full bar for those brave enough to drink and shop with a private shopping are tucked behind it.
As expected the store was operating with a full, beaming sales staff. You can't reasonably be annoyed that every associate goes out of their way to greet you when it is opening day, but , to their credit, they were neither cloying nor overbearing, just generally friendly and available if you needed them.  Also seen was a full complement of Nordstrom executives looking alternately proud and anxious, along with the inevitable scouts from other retailers curious to see what the new entrant is bringing to the game. We spotted Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus Men's Fashion Director Bruce Pask snooping around the shoe department, and you can confidently assume that by now, his counterparts at Saks, Bloomingdale's and Barneys have all been through the place with a fine toothed comb.
As far as the store itself goes, its unorthodox footprint presents it with an unusual challenge, a split main floor, due to the main entrance of the office building above at 300 Columbus Circle. This separate section is accessible from both the upper and lower floors, but not from the rest of the main floor, not unlike the predicament Bergdorf Goodman found itself in when its mens store opened in 1990 while it waited five years for one small store on Fifth Avenue to run out its lease. Nordstrom, however is unlikely to recapture that space like Bergdorf's eventually did, and its side store is currently devoted to jeans, fragrance and grooming and a specialty electronics department. It's the concession they made to get to New York. It seems like everyone has to make one on some level —however real or figurative. We aren't worried that it will hold them back too much. The store was certainly busy with curious shoppers who looked like they were also eagerly buying. Nordstrom has opened the first major men's store in the city since Bergdorf's spun off its men's department into the former FAO Schwarz space 28 years ago. That tells you what a challenging market it is to enter. One thinks one the withering defeat that the much admired Louis, Boston suffered when its ambitious New York store ended its brief tenure in the late 1980s. That unfortunate rejection by locals has scared off some retailers from other cities for decades. Nordstrom has been trying to open a flagship in New York for even longer than that. While they aren't completely done yet, They have made a strong start. Thanks to suburban branches in the New York and New Jersey suburbs, they are not an unknown interloper to proud NYC shoppers, but a well liked mainstay they have been anticipating. So far, it looks like Nordstrom will not disappoint.


COLLABORATION ANTICIPATION:

UNIQLO's Tomas Maier Collection Arrives In 2 Months
—See The Lookbook Now

Uniqlo-tomas-maier
All Images: UNIQLO.com

It's a collection for fans made by a fan. Uniqlo's announcement that it was collaborating with Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier has caused a stir of excitement among the quiet but expansive base of customers who like casual but stylish clothing that may not turn heads like the latest Paris runway confection, but express sophisticated style in subtler ways. Most of these individuals are already Uniqlo customers, drawn in by their well priced basic cashmeres in other prosaic items as well as the erstwhile +J collection that the designer Jil Sander designed between luxury gigs and, more recently, the Lemaire collaboration that morphed into a permanent, premium Uniqlo U "LifeWear" line. It turns out that Maier himself is a Uniqlo fan as well, so who better than he to merge the style of his own signature label with the mind-boggling production capabilities of the Japanese mega-chain. Maier and Uniqlo fans will be waiting and ready when the Tomas Maier x Uniqlo collection arrives online on the evening of May 17th, and in stores on the 18th.
While he is best known for his extravagant Bottega Veneta designs, the collaboration will be done under Maier's own label. While it has been a niche brand, it actually predates his Bottega days, and is now being more heavily supported as a result of the designer's most recent contract renewal with the owners of his day job. This collaboration appears to be part of the program to raise Maier's own profile, and it expresses the casual, beachy look of his brand. The color palette includes recognizable hues from earthy neutrals as a base with shots of vibrant reds, oranges and purples. The military fatigues he has interpreted so many times make an appearance in versions of a multi pocketed jacket for men and women, meant to top swimwear for both. Maier's palm tree insignia is incorporated into prints and discreetly embroidered at the hem of tees and polo shirts, while other military details abound on shorts, and women's skirts. As with other designer collaborations from the chain, the styles will appear familiar to those who have followed Maier's label, but they will come in at Uniqlo prices, so be prepared for multiple purchases to stock up. It will be perfectly timed to provide a smart summer brach wardrobe, giving us two solid months to save up. See the collection in action below with the entire lookbook below, or click HERE to see each item in the complete collection (with prices) online to make your early picks. 


Scroll horizontally & Click each image for a larger view


COLLABORATION ANTICIPATION:

Uniqlo Taps Tomas Maier For Its Next Capsule Collaboration

TomasMaierUniqlo
There as once a moment when it seemed like designer collaborations were everywhere in every chain you saw in the mail. The craze may have cooled, but it hasn't disappeared completely, and for certain chains, it has been an an going tool for creating buzz and generating traffic. One of those chains is Uniqlo, and today the Japanese apparel giant announced that it was joining forces with Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier for a summer capsule collection under his own label. Whether or not this will be a one-off event or the beginning of a series of product drops remains to be seen. One of Uniqlo's current LifeWear collaborators, J.W.Anderson is about to deliver his second (and last?) collection for the chain, though a floor-up season for these projects are usually only announced after the initial collection has been accepted by customers. French model-turned-designer Inès de la Fressange seems to have an ongoing arrangement with Uniqlo, while Christophe Lemaire became the permanent designer of a new sub-brand, Uniqlo U, after two seasons of his collaboration. We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, or Mr. Maier. All we know so far is that the collection will be arriving sometime this summer, and it will reflect the sensibilities of Maier's own signature collection. Unlike the opulent luxury items he creates for Bottega Veneta, Maier's own label features more casual, relaxed sportswear in luxury materials. Call them luxe basics. Now he will be creating affordable versions of his collection for a chain most known for well priced, simple basics in quality materials. This one will be yet another collaboration to save up for. Though it's too early for preview images, we are looking forward to some irresistible clothes and accessories for both men and women to come out of this team up.


COMING SOON:

Trader Joe's Next NYC Store Will Come With 2-Buck Chuck

TJsUWS-1
At this point, a new Trader Joe's is not as unique an event as it used to be, unless it is but a couple of blocks away, as the upcoming Columbus Avenue unit is from Shophound HQ. As we regularly pass breathlessly by the site to gauge progress, we noticed through the recently uncovered front windows that they are starting to install fixtures and registers to the store, suggesting that an opening may be only weeks away. We don't have a firm date yet, but the store at the corner of 93rd Street is listed as 'opening soon' on TJ's website, along with the more unusual news that it will include not just beer but also wine and spirits in its assortment. This will be only the second Trader Joe's liquor store in New York City where it has been notoriously difficult for the chain to navigate the licensing requirements to sell alcohol. Interestingly it will be just down the street from the only Whole Foods around that has a separate liquor store. This may signal fewer obstacles in the future for both chains in adding alcohol to their stores as the Trader Joe's slated for later this year on Spring Street in SoHo is also listed as selling wines and spirits. Perhaps the stores are being more aggressive in achieving their full presentations because, though it's taking a while, and it's going to be all the way in Brooklyn, there's one store on the way that will give both chains a run for their money: Wegmans. Get ready for a grocery way where all New Yorkers might turn out to be the winners.
TJsUWS-2


OPENING SOON:

The Nordstrom Men's Store Is Now Hiring For An April Opening

Nordstrom-HelpWanted
While the immense Mothership across Broadway is at least a year away from opening, the Nordstrom Men's store near Columbus Circle is now prominently posting 'Help Wanted' notices —right in its windows. While the notices are a bit tongue-in-cheek —we don't think that there is actually a position called 'sock svengali' at Nordstrom— their presence indicates that the retailer has set a firm opening date for what is the most significant men's store to to open in New York City since Bergdorf Goodman took advantage of an exceptionally good real estate deal to open its separate mens store in 1990. New York Magazine published a simple floor plan of the store in its current issue with a few highlighted items that don't seem earth shattering, but suggest that Nordstrom is looking to stock up on some cultish, New York-y items like Le Labo beard oil and and Mykita sunglasses which are far removed from the classic but accessible fare that made Nordstrom into a Menswear powerhouse. Little other early info has been released, but it's Nordstrom, so we can safely expect an extensive Mens tailored clothing presentation and an enormous shoe shoe department built to compete in a city now known for its enormous shoe departments. Add competitively pleasing service to that mix, and you should have the menswear staffs of Barneys, Bergdorf's, and Saks on their toes and on notice to see how this new interloper will stand up to the hometown faves. Its only a few months away now, so start the countdown.


COLLABORATION ANTICIPATION:

The Next Uniqlo U Collection Arrives Online Tomorrow & In Stores Friday

UniqloU-ss18
Images via Uniqlo.com

It is a bit of a challenge keeping up with all of Uniqlo's rolling collaboration collections, but the first of the season arrives this week when the next UNIQLO U collection designed by Christophe Lemaire and his exclusive team becomes available. As has been the mega-chain's custom, the collection will be purchasable online tomorrow evening the 25th at 9 PM Eastern Standard time. It will appear in selected stores the next morning for in-person shopping. As usual, the store distribution will be limited, but all three of New York's Flagships, Fifth Avenue, SoHo and 34th Street, will have it along with Chicago's Michigan Avenue store, L.A.'s Beverly Center and San Francisco's Union Square.
And what will select shoppers find in their curated locations? More of what we have come to expect from the chain's "deluxe" label, which, in this case is basics with an advanced Euro-style edge, so the khakis are now full and billowing instead the slim and tapered silhouette that has fully captured the mainstream aesthetic. T-Shirts in heavier-gauge cotton are now also full and boxy in more directional colors, and if the new, edgier silhouettes are too much to carry off all at once there are enough appealing outerwear pieces and clean-lined separates to ease into the new proportions one piece at a time, at a much more affordable price than what comes of Europe's runways. Tees start at $9.90, with special outerwear pieces topping out at $99.90. Typically, some things sell out fast, and others linger, but sometimes it's hard to figure out which will be which, so we usually recommend jumping on the the things that make the strongest impression quickly. See the lookbook HERE, and make your choices accordingly.


SAMPLE FLASH:

Steven Alan Just Announced A Surprise Sample Sale At Industry City Starting Tomorrow

It pays to keep an eye out for special events. New York fave retailer/designer Steven Alan just email blasted the news that he will be holding a Sample Sale at Industry City, in Sunset Park. If that part of Brooklyn seems far away from the Lower Manhattan locations where Alan's sales are usually held, be comforted that it's only a swift trip on the D, R or N trains away. The sale will run from Friday afternoon through Sunday. Get ready for reductions of up to 75% off.

See the flyer after the jump

Continue reading "SAMPLE FLASH:

Steven Alan Just Announced A Surprise Sample Sale At Industry City Starting Tomorrow" »


NOW OPEN:

Face Values Evolves Beyond On The Upper West Side

FVBeyondUWS
It seems that there is no stopping the proliferation of big box stores throughout the city, and yet another permutation of the Bed Bath & Beyond mega-chain has arrived on the Upper West Side. What was once a Food Emporium on Broadway and 90th Street has just re-opened its doors as Face Values & Beyond, a combination of the Harmon Face Values cosmetics and beauty supply chain on the street level with a condensed version of the mother ship downstairs where the deli counter used to be. So far, no sign of Buy Buy Baby or Cost Plus World Market has materialized, but the new store shows how the conglomerated chains are being creatively tweaked and combined to fit various locations as they become available. One would not have thought that the space, empty for many months, would have been considered for a full Bed Bath & Beyond, and so it wasn't, but the Face Values concept should be a hit in the neighborhood, especially with the recent loss of a couple of nearby Ricky's. The lower level, it turns out was just enough space to fill with a "best of" version of the main chain including housewares, bed & bath and just a bit of the basics that the company is known for, situated equidistant from full line stores at Lincoln Square or 125th Street. The best thing here, as at all of the company's outlets, is the coupon game. It may be the 20% Off coupons that fuel this retail behemoth's continued expansion, but as convenient as it now is, one should never go there without at least one or two discounts in hand. Don't have them? They are easy to get, and can be ordered by mail, email, text message or, even better, all three. There are even occasional, limited offers to join as a member (for a small fee) to get a discount on all purchases at all times. Snap these up if you see them. They work across all four of the nameplates, and you will have a new appreciation for the big box stores coming to your neighborhood.


COLLABORATION ANTICIPATION:

UNIQLO x JW Anderson Arrives Next Week With Christophe Lemaire's Next UNIQLO U Delivery On Its Heels

UNIQLO-JWA-FW17
Images via Uniqlo.com

It's a good few weeks coming up for Uniqlo fans as more of the Japanese mega-chain's renowned collaborations will be hitting the sales floor. The long running Ines de la Fressange collaboration arrived in stores last month including her first pieces for men, but next week, fans will be lining up for one of the most anticipated team-ups of the season with editorial darling JW Anderson (pictured above). While designer Jonathan Anderson should have his hands full designing for both his own signature label as well as Spanish luxury brand Loewe, he is no stranger to the high/low collaboration with a couple of Topshop capsules under his belt already. The Uniqlo line takes things to a new level, including a full menswear assortment and a much larger production run to satisfy the chain's vast store count. Look for updated twists on classic British heritage looks like bold tartans, technicolor fair isles and classic trench coats in up-to-the minute proportions. Prices will fall in a wallet-friendly zone ranging from $14.90 to 149.90 for outerwear pieces, and while Anderson is known for some avant-garde runway statements, the capsule collection shows that he equally adept at translating his vision to more accessible looks without losing his special touch. he collection will be available online late Thursday evening on September 21st and in the chain's Flagship stores on the 22nd. That store lineup includes the three New York flagships on Fifth Avenue, 34th Street and Broadway in Soho along with Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Newbury Street in Boston, Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Tyson's Corner in Northern Virginia, Beverly Center in LA, Union Square in San Francisco and a soon to open store in Santa Anita California. See a preview of each item in the collection with prices HERE.

UNIQLOU-W
Images via Uniqlo.com

Thats not all. Faithful customers will be relieved to know that the Fall delivery of the UNIQLO U collection designed by Christophe Lemaire (pictured above and below) will become available only a couple of weeks after the Anderson collection hits. Spun off from the Uniqlo x Lemaire a few seasons ago, the line features more of the chain's advanced basics featuring its most technologically developed materials and designs from its own dedicated design studio in Paris. This season, look for more of the line's expertly engineered knitwear, updated down outerwear, Blocktech trenches and perfectly proportioned tees. Full, billowing trousers will be available for both men and women along with accessories all in an earthy color range. Online availability will start at 9 PM ET on October  5th with select styles hitting all stores the next day, and the complete collection only at Flagship stores. Click HERE for a preview of the line, and then set your alarms, because we all know the best pieces go fast.

UNIQLO-U-M
Images via Uniqlo.com