Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today

New York has had a few Muji stores for quite some time now, but the new 12,000 square foot, two-level flagship (pictured above) opening today on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library is promising new departments and products that will bring the store much closer to the full Muji experience that customers in its Japanese stores have come to know.
For starters, it will have the biggest assortment of clothing yet seen in any of Muji's U.S. stores, including a full selection of children's clothes for ages 2 to 10. Customers will now be able to create a customized scent at the Aroma Bar, and, for the first time, personalize their purchases with monograms or a selection of other designs at the embroidery machine station. Other additions include a Cafe Grumpy coffee bar, plants sold in partnership with Green Fingers New York, and a book section focusing on Japanese lifestyle topics. Most notably, for a store so intensely focused on Japan and its day-to-day culture, the retailer is introducing Found Muji, a section devoted to merchandise curated by its creative staff from around the world, currently featuring France's Basque region (pictured below).
Muji almost always has a few opening day surprised up its sleeve, so today will definitely be a great day to check out the new store, but it sounds like we are starting to see more of full breadth of the products that has made the chain so popular back home in Japan.

MUJI 475 Fifth Avenue between 40th & 41st Street, Midtown
Muji Unveils Experiential Concept in Fifth Avenue New York Store (WWD)
See some more images of the new store after the jump

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Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today" »


Saks Off 5th Coming To East 57th St.

Saksoff5th Honestly, we didn't plan to be spending so much time on Saks today, but news is news and the New York Post is reporting that Saks Off 5th, the chain's off-price division, has signed a lease to take over the former Daffy's space at 135 East 57th street between Park and Lexington Avenues. This is significant not only because it will be Saks' second Off 5th store in Manhattan, once considered off limits to the luxury department store's discount division, but because it comes perilously close to the midtown luxury shopping district on Fifth and Madison Avenues. In fact, the new store will only be about a 20 minute walk from the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship at 49th and Fifth and a mere two blocks from Bloomingdale's. Saks has already announced its first Off 5th Manhattan store opening next year at 1 Liberty Place in the Financial District.
While the Post has no confirmation on the specific size of the lease, it reports that the former Daffy's store was estimated at 60,000 square feet and the store is expected to open sometime next Spring. The three level space includes some street level selling area with most floor space on two concourse levels below. Landlord Charles S. Cohen reportedly held out for three years to sign a tenant that met his requirements which on the one hand demonstrates a tenacious resolve, but on the other, represents a growing problem in Manhattan and other cities where prominent, high priced retail spaces sit empty for months and years on end while landlords wait for deep pockets tenants which may never materialize, creating rent blighted stretches of storefronts in otherwise upscale and thriving neighborhoods.
Anyway, that's all the Saks news we have today. . . until something else pops up.

Off-price division of Saks to open new shop at pricey NYC digs (NYPost)


Today Is Balmain x H&M Day
Brace Yourselves


In case you haven't heard, there's this Balmain collaboration with H&M that arrives in stores today.
Well, honestly, if you aren't reading this before lunchtime, it has probably mostly departed H&M stores by now.
In a season that has been marked by some pretty impressive collaborations from the likes of Lemaire, Carine Roitfeld and Adam Lippes to name a few, this one is the grand finale.
From what we have been able to gather, the glitzy/sexy designer collaborations like Versace and Roberto Cavalli have been the fastest sellers for H&M, and Balmain is right in that wheelhouse, so the reasonable expectation is pandemonium when the doors open today. Expectations are high all around which is probably why this collection has some of the chain's strictest return rules. Reports from last nights VIP shopping session tell us that the privileged few ransacked the collections, so we can only imagine what the masses who have been waiting outside the stores since yesterday will do. 
This particular collection seems like it has been promoted more heavily than any previous H&M collaborations, so, honestly, we are a little tired of seeing pictures of it by now, but if you are an eager Balmain fan who has been anticipating this for months, we hope you find all the pieces you wanted to get.


Todd Snyder On The Hunt For A New York Store Under New Owner American Eagle

Aeo-todd-snyderEarlier this year, designer Todd Snyder (pictured at right) closed his City Gym extended pop-up store in NoLita with a nice big sale and a hint that a new, permanent boutique was in the works, but no news on that front has appeared until today when it was announced that the designer had sold his company to American Eagle Outfitters.
This was a little bit of a surprise.
While both companies share a classic American-based aesthetic, American Eagle is a mall mainstay, while Snyder's own line, a Shophound favorite, has more luxury designer-level positioning. Even his collaboration with sweatshirt-maker Champion has an exclusive, limited distribution. Would the designer collection get downgraded into more of a moderate priced brand?
It turns out that American Eagle was less interested in Snyder's luxe line than they were in the Tailgate Clothing Co. t-shirt brand that Snyder had started with his family in the early 1990s. While The Shophound and most other consumers had no idea that there was any connection between Snyder and the vintage-inspired t-shirt company, it turns out that it has been helping to fund his designer collection which he started in 2011, and has a strong following among the collegiate customers that AE values so highly. Tailgate will be expanded with its own stores, and Snyder himself will become an executive vice-president of American Eagle while continuing to run his own label independently from the larger chain. Its more exclusive designer status will be maintained with more funding to allow it to expand as well, including a search for a freestanding Todd Snyder boutique in New York as confirmed by American Eagle global brand president, Chad Kessler in WWD today. Now, we just have to sit back and with for him to find a space, which is easy, right?

American Eagle Acquires Todd Snyder in $11 Million Deal (WWD)


Watch Tomorrow's Balmain x H&M Launch Event On Periscope
. . . Of Course

The Balmain x H&M promotional machine will kick into high gear tomorrow night at 23 Wall Street when the chain and designer Olivier Roustieng will throw what is expected to be a glittery, celebrity studded runway show. Of course, it would make sense to live-stream the event on the internet and it will be.
On your phone.
The event will be streaming through Periscope, mainly because it is the new thing that every likes to talk about. Is it better than a regular live-stream on your laptop or tablet? Not really, but the show should be entertaining with all the new supermodels, so it's worth giving it a shot, and perhaps a more polished video will show up online if your tolerance for extended, shaky hand-held video streaming is as low as ours is. If you are unfamiliar with the app, just download it to your phone (it's not available for iPads, unfortunately), follow H&M and wait for the alert sometime tomorrow evening. The line launches on November 5th and, realistically, you should probably start camping out outside the store right about now.


The Balmain x H&M Lookbook Shows Olivier Roustieng's Greatest Hits

The Balmain x H&M lookbook images have officially hit the web a couple of weeks earlier than we would have predicted, probably as a result of an unexpected leak several days ago  that was probably the fault of H&M's webmasters. Anyway, the looks are out, as much like the majority of H&M's previous designer collaborations, the collection is essentially a compilation of designer Olivier Roustieng's strongest signature looks over the past few years.
Graphic black and white? Check.
Jewel toned satin? Check.
Brass buttoned military coats? Check
Embroidery encrusted minidresses? Check..and so on.
That's a good thing for Balmain fans, and generally, it's also a recipe for a sellout launch on November 5th. Maison Margiela proved that H&M's designer collaboration customers prefer glitz and glamor over cerebral intellectual looks, and Balmain is providing sparkle and shine in generous doses.
Though a full price appears not to have been released, some prices have trickled down so we know that the biker pants in faux leather will be $99, the black and gold ankle sandals will be $199 and the thigh-high suede boots will be $349. The most expensive pieces appears to be the black and white embroidered jacket for $549 and the fuchsia beaded dress for $499, which is really pushing the boundaries of H&M's pricing for these lines, but it seems that there is little price resistance for these collaborations.
After the jump, have a look at the complete lookbook for men and women.


The Balmain x H&M Lookbook Shows Olivier Roustieng's Greatest Hits" »


Victoria's Secret Will Put A Flagship Where Forever 21 Skipped Out

The rumors around 640 Fifth Avenue have been swirling for a while. At one point, it was firmly  believed that Niketown would move in after H&M vacated the home of its first U.S. store and its Trump Tower lease on East 57th Street ran out, but we discovered last January that trend driven teen budget chain Forever 21 was to be the next tenant.
Until a few weeks ago.
We aren't sure if it was never meant to be a permanent store but Forever 21 beat a swift retreat from pricey Fifth Avenue last month, leaving a major retail space up for grabs, until lingerie mega-chain Victoria's Secret stepped in to take over the 63,780 square foot store. They won't be hawking bras and panties an the corner of 51st and Fifth right away. The new store is not expected to open until November of 2016, which will give the company plenty of time to transform the space and presumably festoon a remodeled interior in its signature shades of pink.

Victoria’s Secret opening flagship at Vornado’s 640 Fifth (The Real Deal)


Uniqlo And Lemaire Will Be Replenished With Re-Orders For The Holiday Season

The launch of Uniqlo's collaboration line with Lemaire exceeded everyone's expectations last Friday with items selling out within minutes of the store openings and within a few hours online. The lines of shoppers throughout the day (pictured above) even took executives with the highest expectations by surprise.The only disappointment came from customers who might have presumed that the chain would have made enough product to keep stores in stock for at least a few weeks.
At this point, there are only a few pieces left available, but there's hope for customers who missed out. The chain has ordered new production runs of the debut Uniqlo and Lemaire collection to be in stores in time for Holiday shopping.
While a Spring collection in collaboration with designers Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-linh Tran has already been announced —and will hopefully be produced in quantities great enough to avoid instant sell-out— Uniqlo executives clearly recognized that they underestimated the demand for the launch and have moved to correct the situation while desire for the collection still runs high. "It was a global phenomenon," Uniqlo's director of merchandising Justin Kerr told WWD, "We were all very excited and wanted to see, ‘How do we keep the momentum going not only with the next collection but also chasing the fall collection as we move into the holidays?’ That was something we wanted to achieve very quickly and Uniqlo’s fantastic operation allows us to have that flexibility.”
Even hugely popular collections have a few pieces that fail to attract customers, but this collaboration yielded no "dogs" as they are often called in the retail industry. "Usually, you have winners and losers," Kerr reports, "With this one, really the whole collection was well-received. There were no disappointments. There were only pleasant surprises of things that even outpaced our high expectations.” Hopefully, along with replenishment deliveries, this means that we will see more Uniqlo and Lemaire beyond next season. In the meantime, we'll be keeping an eye out in the coming weeks for the collection to make its way back into stores.

Uniqlo and Lemaire Have a Winning Weekend Launch (WWD)


It's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy For American Apparel

American-apparel2In what has been seen as an inevitable move, American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late on Sunday. The move will allow the company to restructure a massive debt load as it continues to transition to new management after the ouster of controversial founder and former CEO Dov Charney.
WWD reports that the filing will allow for $90 million of debtor-in-possession financing, most of which will go toward restructuring the company. It will also cut the chain's debt from $300 million to an estimated $135 million, reducing annual interest by as much as $20 million. Those are big numbers which demonstrate how dire the company's situation has become. While American Apparel's management continues to battle legal challenges from Charney, a great deal of its troubles stem from issues that developed under Charney's management such as enormous amounts of excess inventory that had to be sold at margin destroying clearance sales, as well as expensive investment in operational systems that ultimately functioned poorly.
In a public statement, current American Apparel CEO Paula Schneider stated, “This restructuring will enable American Apparel to become a stronger, more vibrant company. By improving our financial footing, we will be able to refocus our business efforts on the execution of our turnaround strategy as we look to create new and relevant products, launch new design and merchandising initiatives, invest in new stores, grow our e-commerce business and create captivating new marketing campaigns that will help drive our business forward.”
One of the effects of the bankruptcy will also likely be an opportunity to close poorly performing store locations. While a few American Apparel store locations have vanished in recent months —like the recently shuttered Upper West Side unit in the Ansonia building— we may see more locations go dark as the chain has the chance to jettison particularly unprofitable stores.
While a lot of people hear bankruptcy and immediately think "going-out-of-business", what this news means is that the company now has a stronger chance of moving forward successfully and reinventing itself for a post-Charney future. Instead of the slow motion train wreck it has been over the past year, American Apparel just might be a chain we can watch as it evolves into something new.

American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy (WWD)


Did You Get Anything From
Uniqlo and Lemaire?
Too Late Now.

As predicted, eager shoppers were lined up early this morning outside the city's Uniqlo branches to get  first pick of the highly anticipated Uniqlo and Lemaire collaboration line. Whoever they were, they succeeded in denuding the store's shelves and racks of much of the collection.
Because The Shophound had things to do in the early AM (like sleeping) we decided to check things out a few hours later in the early afternoon. We started at one of the only stores in America to have the complete collection, the 34th Street flagship (pictured above and below) where we found not much left for men or women. The only category that seemed to have any breadth of product left was outerwear, but by the time we got to the store. store staff was scrambling to fill in the empty shelves and racks with other merchandise. Some of the sweatpants and cotton chinos were also available, but the standout knitwear was nowhere to be seen, and the disarray caused by ravenous shoppers was only beginning to be tidied up.
Then it was on to the other store slated to carry the full selection, the Fifth Avenue flagship, where we found more stuff, but still some chaos. Customers were no longer waiting outside, but were still lined up around the showcase shop at the top of the escalators that housed the new collection (pictured below). Inside, racks were packed with more outerwear, and some more of the basic separates, Again, much of the knitwear, particularly the cashmeres, were sold out, but the women's sweaters with the concentric square patterns were still available as well as some of the merino styles. As at 34th Street, however, most of the other styles were equally ransacked with maybe one or two odd pieces lingering. Racks set outside the glass enclosed shop featuring the line were also still swarming with shoppers.
So clearly, the line can be called a hit. Don't bother trying to shop online. Most of it is already sold out. The good news is that everyone who missed out will now be able to better prepare for the next season's offerings, as the line has been promised to go for at least a few more seasons. Uniqlo's next collaboration set for launch is the Carine Roitfeld capsule collection, set launch at the end of this month and already getting rave reviews from editors who previewed to this week in Paris. Again, distribution will be limited to only four stores in the U.S. including the Beverly Center unit in Los Angeles, SoHo, Fifth Avenue and select items only at the 34th Street Store. Roitfeld fangirls should be warned. Uniqlo looks like it is on a roll this season.