The Shophound hasn't had a stroll down Madison Avenue in a few months, and what did we notice on Monday but a substantial swath of plate glass backed in the unmistakable logo of Balenciaga. It turns out that Manhattan did not really need three Gucci boutiques. As the new Alessandro Michele-era Gucci store opened in Brookfield Place, the Tom Ford/Frida Giannini version in the former Westbury Hotel was shut down in preparation to be ceded to its sister brand. Balenciaga has only ever had one New York store at a time, but its expansion to tony Madison Avenue and 69th Street is a signal that even directional "downtown" brands can benefit from uptown exposure. This will also be first U.S. store for Balenciaga under its still new creative director Demna Gvasalia. While the current, lavish SoHo flagship opened under the brief tenure of creative director Alexander Wang, it was planned under Nicolas Ghesqiuere, who spearheaded the once sleepy label back to prominence. This new shop is expected to have a radically different ambiance given Vêtements designer Gvesalia's more avant-garde point of view. The store is slated to open in June, and will be patterned after the Balenciaga boutique that recently opened in Paris which features a Warehouse style decor with industrial fixtures, foil covered ceilings, cast concrete walls and furniture upholstered in synthetic leather. It's a far cry from the dramatic marble floored opulence found in SoHo. In fact, it's almost as if the two stores will each have an interior more typically suited to the other one, with an elegant uptown ambiance in SoHo, and a downtown industrial look on Madison Avenue. Look for the new boutique's publicity blitz to begin in a couple of months as the store opens just in time to stock the pre-fall collection.
If Japan's largest retailer seems to be at a bit of an impasse on how to expand it's U.S. business, it remains committed to its strategy of bridging the exclusive designer world with the mass market. The announcement of this fall's designer collaboration at Uniqlo should please fashion fans, as J.W.Anderson's Jonathan Anderson (pictured at right) will be creating a special capsule collection for men and women exclusively for the chain. As designer for both his own label as well as the Spanish luxury leather goods label Loewe, Anderson has caught the attention of fashion insiders even if his public profile has yet to rise to superstar status. That doesn't matter as much to the chain, as it's collaboration with lesser known label Lemaire sold out anyway and led to an ongoing collection with Christophe Lemaire for the Uniqlo U label.
“When I think of Uniqlo, I think of things that are perfectly made, that people have spent a lot of time considering; it’s a difficult job, and I think Uniqlo does it very well,” said Anderson in a statement regarding the upcoming collection. “Working with Uniqlo is probably the most incredible template of democracy in fashion, and it’s nice that my design can be accessible to anyone, on all different levels.”
As of yet, we don't yet know if the exclusive line will extend beyond the fall season (Lemaire's initial collaboration spanned two seasons), but for now we can look forward to a potentially intriguing line from a designer whose aesthetic can range from classic to avant-garde, often in the same collection.
After leading a nomadic existence for the past several years, Fendi's residency in SoHo will finally become permanent when it moves into its mew location for the foreseeable future at 99 Greene Street. The fabled Roman luxury brand has taken out 6,000 square feet where it will be able to spread out and present its full offerings after occupying a series of pop-up along the same road. Joining Fendi will be Italian outer and casual wear brand Herno which has also taken space in the building. As far as we can tell, this will be Herno's first U.S. store, designed to raise the European brand's status in the U.S. from cult label to mainstay. Both stores are expected to debut sometime this spring, and they will join a host of tony brands on the block including Dior, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo among others.
The Meatpacking District may be entering its fourth phase (or fifth —who can keep track anymore?) as the most exclusive of luxury brands, Hermès, has announced its fourth New York City boutique will open at 46-48 Gansevoort Street (pictured above). The three level 10,000 square foot boutique will be only a short stroll away from the recently relocated Whitney Museum which may be beginning to live up to the expectations that it would revive the neighborhood as a destination for major shopping. While a decade ago, the neighborhood boasted Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Moschino boutiques, much of the neighborhood's luxury gloss faded when those stores moved either to SoHo or Madison Avenue. Last year's shuttering of upper contemporary chain Scoop NYC also drained some of the area's fashion juice as retail spaces gave way to less exclusive names like Levi's, Patagonia and UGG. Still, tony pioneer Jeffrey remains in place as other retailers have come and gone, and Diane Von Furstenberg is not likely to go anywhere anytime soon, so the neighborhood has not been given over completely to mall stores. It has become something of a destination, however for non-retail "brand experience" spaces like the Samsung 837 tech showplace and the upcoming "Intersect" from Lexus which will include a gallery and restaurant under the nameplate of an automaker. Well, at least it is a luxury automaker, which points to a renewed upscale direction for the areas with Hermès being the first full-on luxury player to enter the neighborhood since the relocation of the Whitney. Other upcoming arrivals will include the return of the sorely-missed Pastis restaurant which will be conveniently down the block in the former Gansevoort Market space. Area merchants are also looking to the eventual opening of the Restoration Hardware RH Gallery mega-store on Ninth Avenue to give the area a boost of retail excitement.
As for Hermès, the upcoming store is promised to be more casual than the Madison Avenue flagship and Wall Street units, and certainly larger than the Brookfield Place store which is mostly limited to fragrance and scarves. Plans include a rooftop terrace to attract both current and new customers, and impart a "downtown" ambiance to the store. Now we have to wait and see if the other luxury players who have sniffed around the Meatpacking District on and off over the past 15 years will follow Hermès and take the plunge themselves.
Say goodbye to the Armani Exchange at The Shops at Columbus Circle.
Later this year, that 4,000 square foot space on the third floor will be transformed into New York City's first permanent Amazon Bookstore. While you would probably need the entirety of Time Warner Center's retail space to display a full array of what Amazon offers online, the bookstore is expected to primarily serve to showcase the company's proprietary products like Kindle and Alexa, along with a curated selection of books. It will be more the size of the B.Dalton or Waldenbooks chain stores that some us remember, than the sprawling Borders that once existed only a few steps away. Whether or not Amazon aims to eventually repopulate some of the newly available retail space in malls all over the country remains to be seen, but the upcoming branch won't be the only one coming to the area. Amazon is also officially coming to Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The two stores will be the seventh and eighth Amazon Bookstores that have been announced which makes the brick and mortar chain still a tiny offshoot of the online giant which currently has three stores open in San Diego, California, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Now the question to be answered will be whether New Yorkers, who have become extremely comfortable ordering fast deliveries from Amazon wherever they might be themselves, will be interested in visiting an actual Amazon store.
Real estate in New York City is a pretty ruthless business. There are fights between developers and cummunity boards and local politicians all the time, but it is unusual for the opening of a 55,000 square foot retail flagship to have its grand opening legally halted just hours before the doors were to be unlocked. That, however is what has happened to the new Nike store that was to open last Friday on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street in SoHo.
In a feud pitting Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 2 and various other local officials against the Department of Buildings, the long awaited Nike store sits fully stocked and presumably staffed with its opening indefinitely postponed. The complaint concerns building regulations about the size of the store allowed in the space and the permits issued to redevelop 529 Broadway, the building that contains it. The protesters want Nike's certificate of occupancy recinded because, the company and the developer allegedly did not apply for the special permit required for stores over the 10,000 square foot limit imposed by the area's zoning rules. In addition, it is alleged that the DOB issued an alteration permit to build the building rather than demolition one. All of these discrepancies require greater public and oversight. Brewer and her cohorts allege that they were denied their rightful input by the DOB's arbitrary permit granting policies which allegedly favor developers over community input. Further arguments include details about party walls and how much of the original building on the site was retained that fall into the category of real estate arcana. The upshot is that Brewer and company have chosen the Nike Store to make their stand against the DOB. Now eager sneakerheads who were erroneously lined up outside the store on Friday morning will be waiting indefinitely until an agreement between all parties can be reached to grant Nike the temporary certificate of occupancy it needs to open its doors.
Brewer and company probably feel that a huge multibillion dollar corporation and presumably greedy developers are easy and suitably high-profile targets for their cause, but perhaps they shouldn't have waited until hours before the store was to open to throw a wrench into everyone's gears. The building has been under construction for years. Nike's plans for the store were also not a secret. Did they really need to wait until the last minute to protest improprieties? Now, there are not only eager customers waiting to shop at a major new store from one of America's most popular brands, but also a whole staff of workers for the multilevel store who expected that their jobs would start last Friday. It is not known how long Nike will be willing to pay managers, sales and stock staff for a store that is not being allowed to open and isn't selling anything. The company has already had to cancel at least one of the new product launches that bring customers streaming to their stores. Hopefully, the parties will be able to resolve their dispute in a timely manner. It seems unlikely Nike will actually have to pack up its big new store and find it another home, but now wonders if the city is really doing itself any favors by forcing it to sit idle right at the point it was ready to open.
Yet another fast-fashion chain from a faraway land is set to make its New York debut. UK based internet retailer Boohoo.com, has reportedly signed a lease for a 2,000 square foot store at 3 West 13th Street just off Fifth Avenue and a block away from Union Square. The 10-year-old site has become one of the fastest growing online retailers worldwide. Aimed at 16 to 24 year-old customers, it looks to be poised to take on chains like Forever 21 with trendy but wallet-friendly looks for high school and college-aged shoppers. Though not an enormous store, it is being designed to be "experiential" space that will also serve as an event space and presumably encourage shoppers to shop on their phones and mobile devices while they are there.
If something seems dismaying to you about that headline, then you are not alone at scratching your head. It is exciting news that one of global fashion's most influential stores, 10 Corso Como will soon be arriving in New York, one does wonder just a bit what owner Carla Sozzani chose the Seaport as the location for her company's only North American store. After all, it is literally all the way across the entire borough of Manhattan from Brookfield Place and the Westfield World Trade Center Oculus, where the Financial District's retail renaissance is currently under way. That is apparently why Sozzani wanted the location. “It’s not a traditional area," she tells WWD "it is new but also one most linked to the city’s history and origins, over the docks, with the Fulton Fish Market [dating back to 1822] and a view on the river. Its history of international commerce and innovation is inspiring.”
The store is set to open next June in the Howard Hughes Corporation's revitalized Seaport development (pictured). It will be conceived as more of a destination in the manner of Dover Street Market, for example, but rather than focusing on clothes, it will emphasize design pieces and hospitality with food and beverages. It will join Sozzani's original Milan store as well as the three branches she has opened in recent years in Shanghai and Bejing, China and Seoul, South Korea. Though a removed from the neighborhood's other retail hubs, the new store is expected to be surrounded by new food and dining concepts from David Chang and Jean-Georges Vongerichten as well as a luxury iPic movie theater.
Keith McNally may be enjoying some schadenfreude right about now.
It turns out that the Restoration Hardware store that ejected McNally's popular restaurant Pastis from its very successful Ninth Avenue home is running into some legal problems of its own. We aren't talking about the initial contractor whose principals are awaiting trial regarding the death of a 22-year old worker in the construction site's excavation pit last year. The current problem that the store faces is that it is nearly six times the size of any retail store that the site is zoned for, and the Department of Buildings has not yet issued an exemption.
According to the D.O.B., the maximum size of a retail store for the building being gut renovated and expanded at 9-19th Ninth Avenue is 10,000 square-feet. The store planned for the site is 58,659-square-feet, which is somewhat larger to say the least. DNAinfo reports that the developers of the site were informed in early March of this year that their permits would be revoked for failure to comply with city code. In addition, the nature of the business was misrepresented as an "interior decorating establishment" which, oddly enough, would only be allowed to take up a mere 750 square-feet in such a structure according to current zoning laws. Construction has not been halted, because the developer immediately engaged the D.O.B. to resolve the dispute, but it has been over four months since the notification without resolution. If discussions fall through, the construction will be immediately halted not because the building is not up to code, but because its intended use is.
Since the talks are apparently continuing, its a good bet that the store will eventually open as planned, but possibly with some concessions that are yet to remade clear. It has been known for quite some time that the store intended for the site was meant to be extremely large, but it is not yet a done deal. At the moment, it's not out of the question that Restoration hardware may either have to settle for a smaller store sharing the building with other retailers or pull out entirely and find a suitable site to build the flagship it had intended.
Jewelry designer John Hardy has built a strong business over the past few decades with his intricately handmade silver and gold creations sold mainly through major department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, but now that his label is under new ownership, its distribution is being re-thought with his first freestanding U.S. boutiques opening this fall. One will be in Houston TX, but the other, more prominently, will be on Prince Street in SoHo, number 118 to be precise (pictured above) which happens to be just a couple of doors away from his main competitor in the luxury silver jewelry game, David Yurman. It's never a bad thing to place your store near your competition. It only makes it easier to fight for the customers you share, although placing it two doors away on the same block might be just bit obvious. The 1,200 square foot store (rendering pictured below), formerly a BareMinerals location, is set to open in November, just in time for Holiday Shopping, and customers will see a newly elevated offering featuring more gold and precious stones alongside Hardy's famous Bali-crafted silver chains and bracelets.