MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Beyond Ballet Flats Edition

21CRITICAL4-articleLargeIn today's Thursday Styles, this week's Critical Shopper Molly Young makes her way to Soho to check out the Repetto flagship or Mecca for generations of ballet flat fans. it is not, however, the eternal ballet flat that interests out shopper this week. She gives it its proper historical context (Brigitte Bardot, Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse etc.), and there are clearly lots of them to be had there for both professional dancers and civilians alike, but it is the other items at Repetto that really catch our shopper's eye. The well priced sportswear gets its due, although it seems a little bit too well-priced to have actually been made in France, but the item that sticks is a fawn-colored ankle boot. "It felt like having someone gently blow kisses toward my foot from a distance," she describes, which seems tough to resist, even for $425. And yet, the delicacy that makes it such a treat for her feet is also its chief drawback, How could such a dainty piece of footwear stand up to the rough sidewalks of New York? Of her trusty shopping partner she finally says, ". . .I’m grateful for friends who remind me of the important things in life — like keeping the maximum amount of shoe between me and New York City’s fathomless secretions," —perhaps finally remembering the heartbreak of having a new pair of shoes destroyed by the very streets of the city we call home. We have all been there.

Critical Shopper: Be a French Girl. Or Just Look Like One. By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Repetto 400 West Broadway between Spring & Prince Streets, SoHo

 


JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

Make It Depressing Edition

31CRIT-BROOKFIELD-PLACE-slide-UQ0P-jumboToday's Thursday Styles features steady Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's take on the beginning of the retail cavalcade that has descended upon the neighborhood immediately surrounding the World Trade Center's memorial as well as its re-imagining still under construction.
And he's finding it all a bit jarring.
Rather than focusing on just one store, he takes on the entirety of the Brookfield Place luxury mall featuring fresh new outposts from Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bottega Veneta an more among its roster of international status brands. Our shopper's overall thesis this week is that we shop to forget —to anesthetize ourselves against the adversity we encounter in life. In this case, he is obviously making a reference to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 which haunts the financial district in general, and he is really giving in to the ghosts. Of the mall he says, "It is a testament to the resilience of our real estate developers, if not our national mood. Here, at the heart of the city’s suffering, we are being told to shop: To spend is to be healed."
Perhaps we are somehow protesting the specter of international terrorism down town with the kind of luxury and profligate consumption specifically abhorred by our jihadist enemies, but hey, it's New York. We're just being ourselves. By that token, we could argue that the city's sprawling shopping culture exists to distract us from so many of the more disturbing aspects of our city. After all, it's not that we have seen a homeless person or two on Fifth Avenue, but that any city resident has encountered so many in every neighborhood no matter how tony it may be, not to mention everywhere in the public transit system.
But back to today's column, where our shopper has faintly admiring words for the just opened Gucci shop at Brookfield Place. It is the first New York example of the label's new creative director Alessandro Michele's re-imagined retail format for the brand. It's not all that different from the old format which features lots of handbags up front with lots of logos and red and green striped webbing. It's a respectable update that nicely shows off Michele's relentlessly eclectic, dressed-in-the-dark Resort collection, but The Shophound has to admit that we have had a lot harder time working up enthusiasm for a designer who thinks that putting a high, chunky heel on a gold leather version of you grandmother's house slippers makes than somehow appealing.
It does not.
Caramanaica calls the lineup of stores at Brookfield Place "shrug worthy" and it's true in the sense that it appears to includes not a single boutique that doesn't exist somewhere else in Manhattan in a larger and more comprehensive version. Perhaps it is the relentless retail drumbeat of the Holiday Shopping season combined with this year's weirdly balmy Holiday Season that has put his mood off, but still, he doesn't leave empty-handed. Our shopper remembers his professional purpose and picks up a smart overcoat at nearly 60% off from Club Monaco along with a bracing scented candle from Nest.

They all smelled the same until finally I landed on one — Sicilian tangerine — that was almost acidic. It had bite, the scent creeping up my nostrils and scraping away. Instinctively, I winced, but at the same time began to salivate. For a moment, death felt far away.

It's tough to stay down on shopping when it is an explicit part of one's work assignment. The choices are to rally or resign, but everyone is entitled to a case of the Holiday Blues once in a while. Like the neighborhood around Ground Zero, however, one eventually has to pick oneself up and carry on.

Critical Shoper: Shop the Pain Away By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Brookfield Place New York 200 Vesey St at West Street, Financial District


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Middle Of the Road On 5th Avenue Edition

03CRITICAL4-articleLarge-v2In this week's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young discovers the Lands' End pop-up store on Fifth Avenue, but what strikes The Shophound is not so much her assessment of the store, but her childhood take on the mail.
"There were days as a kid when I was so bored, I organized my entire day around the mail delivery"
As a a kid, in the pre-digital era, the mail delivery could be a magical moment. There are so many potential delights in the mailbox like magazines or catalogs and always knowing that none of the bills are for you.
This is all get to the point that the boring old Lands' End catalog that she would discover pushed through the mail slot has come to life in Midtown Manhattan where she notes that the updated, elevated merchandise seems to co-exist among the same bland goods seem that have been populating the catalog for 30. Maturity seems to have given her a new appreciation for practical but potentially dowdy Land's End standards like full length a down coat's versatile zippers and hood, "The younger me would have been blind to these components, but time has a way of turning defects into assets. Now I just want to be weatherproof," she writes. The vanity sizing doesn't hurt either.
Ultimately, our shopper isn't all that excited by the store or its gimmicks like a "selfie station", which reveals itself as a trope to capture customer information, but manages to walk away with a very Lands' End-y purchase, new gloves. The store's general modestly seems counterintuitively refreshing among the forced Holiday merriment that descends upon retailers the end of the year. "If the store were a party, it would be the kind where the guests are gone and the dishes washed by 11 p.m.," and sometime that's just enough.

Critical Shopper: Lands’ End Updates Its Image By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Lands' End Holiday Pop-Up Shop 650 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, Midtown
Previously:
Pop-Up Proliferation: Nautica & Lands' End Pop-Ups Push Upscale


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

More Than Goth On Madison Avenue Edition

29CRITICAL1-articleLarge-v2À propos of the days before Halloween, Critical Shopper Molly Young makes an excursion to the recently opened Givenchy boutique in today's Thursday Styles. Riccardo Tisci's version of Givenchy is offering possibly the darkest, witchiest vision in luxury fashion these days, and while it is frequently described as "Goth", it has really evolved into more of a moody, baroque aesthetic with tinges of mysticism. Our shopper seems to enjoy her visit noting that the gallery-like boutique seems to welcome all,

Givenchy is also a great place to encounter beauty, no matter what your tax bracket. Looking is free, after all. The salesmen are warm and offer coffee. You can stare at $22,000 velvet dresses and silk blouses with an all-over centaur print ($4,195). You can flip through books by Marina Abramovic.

It's the sort of successful brand statement that makes sense of the fashion in-joke of using competitor Donatello Versace as this season's campaign model, and given the dodgy job security of running a Parisian couture house these days, a strong brand image is Tisci's best form of employment insurance.

Critical Shopper: Givenchy on Madison Avenue Mixes Metaphors, Beautifully By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Givenchy 747 Madison Avenue at 65th Street, Upper East Side


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Versace Diffusion Profusion Edition

08CRITICAL5-blog427In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young informs us that a Versus boutique has quietly materialized on Greene Street, not far from the downtown home of its mother brand, Versace —and she is not entirely sold on it.
As usual, there is an extensive introduction to the label, a relic of the brand's '90s high point when there appeared to be an infinite number of sub-brands connected to Gianni Versace —Versus, Istante, Versace Jeans Couture, V2 Versace Classic, Versace Sport etc. etc...
With the company's more streamlined 21st Century model, the Versus label has been exhumed as a laboratory of sorts for emerging designers who can be trusted to keep the line's point of view well within the hidebound Versace aesthetic of sex, skin and Rock and roll. Current creative director Anthony Vaccarello seems to fit that bill nicely, turning out sexy dresses and separates that cost about a quarter of what analogous pieces in the premier Versace collection would go for, but our shopper is not swayed to even go through the perfunctory try-ons, wondering exactly who these offerings are aimed at. "Who is the Versus girl? I couldn’t extrapolate from customers on any of my visits, because there weren’t any," she writes in a cold jab that may say more about the store's quiet arrival than the public's appetite for Versace at a price. Still, this version of Versace seems more watered down to our shopper than re-interpreted, as her shopping companion suggests, “It seems like the kind of brand that would thrive in the duty-free section of an international airport”. Perhaps the shop's saving grace will be that SoHo remains teeming with tourists primed to respond to this sort of thing.

Critical Shopper: Versus Versace Store in SoHo: Caught in Transition By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Versus Versace 75 Greene Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo


JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

Almost But Not Quite Edition

01CRITICAL1SUB-blog427In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica is extra critical.
First, he spends several paragraphs on the typical New York apartment dweller's closet dilemma. Does an over stuffed closet mean you have too many clothes or not enough closet space? Who can say –besides Marie Kondo whom we don't even want to get started with.
This philosophical storage discussion is all to lead us to Tomorrowland, not the section from the Disney theme parks, and certainly not the cinematic misfire from earlier this year, but the Japanese sportswear brand which just opened a sprawling boutique on Broome Street in SoHo (pictured at left).
The problem with Tomorrowland's wares is not that they aren't appealing, but are they appealing enough to try to cram into your already overstuffed closet/armoire/dresser/makeshift under-bed storage apparatus? It seems pretty clear that our shopper has not yet come to terms with his own wardrobe space issues. "What you have to watch out for are inessentials that look and feel like essentials," he writes, "clothes that are elegantly designed, well made, reasonably priced and seemingly unique, but which don’t solve an unsolved problem."
This is a problem peculiar to cities like New York where there is an embarrassment of retail riches to choose from, and one has the luxury of discernment. You might not necessarily have to pounce on the first great thing you see because, in all likelihood, there will be five more great things around the corner, anyway.
So he gets picky.

It was hard not to get excited looking at these clothes, though when I tried them on, that enthusiasm faded slightly. The fabrics felt just a hair too deliberate, even for the colder seasons.

It is all gorgeous stuff, but nothing there sings out "You must have me now!" in the right key. In fairness, our shopper concedes that the store is in its early days here, and given a couple of seasons, could hone its offerings better to the wants and needs of New Yorkers —or maybe just to our shopper. Tomorrowland may be better tomorrow, but The Shophound stopped by for a quick look last week, and we thought that Tomorrowland looked pretty damn good for today.

Critical Shopper: Reason to Keep Coming Back to Tomorrowland By Jon Caramanica
Tomorrowland 476 Broome Street between Wooster & Greene Streets, SoHo


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Seattle Comes To SoHo edition

24CRITICAL5-articleLargeThis week's Thursday Styles sends Critical Shopper Molly Young to SoHo for a survey of Totokaelo, the vertically sprawling new boutique from Seattle that has become an auspicious addition to Manhattan's shopping roster. Our shopper, a Pacific Northwest native, offers an illuminating interpretation of Totokaelo's abundance of luxurious but loose, often shroudlike garments, "There’s something about the temperature and moisture content of the air there that makes a person want to swaddle herself in garments that are half hug, half anesthetic." The same appeal holds in New York, which has its own pressures that might make a person want to spend the day swathed in something cozy.
After a detour into the store's subterranean men's department —a literal man-cave— Young ascends the many levels of women's offerings to further explore. Totokaelo's signature look is not to be approached without some expertise, however, as our shopper describes some of the items she has encountered as making her look like "a sack of cornmeal" and, comfort benefits notwithstanding, "uniquely unflattering to all of my body parts". As for a peculiar preponderance of jumpsuits, our shopper writes, "If you’re in the mood to hit the playground or just to obscure your secondary sex characteristics, any of these will do the job."
Well, that is a very specific customer, but as we know, in New York, there is a store for every kind of person.

Critical Shopper: Jumpsuits, 7 Days A Week at Totokaelo’s SoHo Store By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Totokaelo 54 Crosby Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo.


JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

Fancy Feet Edition

17SHOPPER4-master180-v2Today's Thursday Styles brings us Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's visit to shoe guru Louis Leeman's new boutique on Madison Avenue. Before taking on Leeman's store, Caramanica takes the opportunity to assess the current craze for extremely expensive, highly embellished designer sneakers. The term sneaker is relative here, as none of these shoes are actually meant for real athletic activity, but then, most of the covetable instant sell-out Nikes that get customers to camp out on the sidewalk for days in advance will never see the floor of a basketball court either. Our Shopper is more amused than appalled, and he calls Leeman the love child of his Madison Avenue neighbors, combining the craftsmanship of John Lobb with the unbridled glitz of Giuseppe Zanotti.
Ultimately, this is what seems to flummox our shopper. We never really thought he would go on a spree there, but it turns out that, along with noticing some consistency problems, Caramanica finds that the Leemans he tries on are neither  flamboyant enough to be outrageous nor classic enough to be elegant.

Maybe it was the lighting — diffuse, soothing, slightly yellow — but in the mirror, they seemed almost dull

It turns out that on Madison Avenue, the middle of the road takes you nowhere.

Designer Louis Leeman Puts a Swagger in His Shoes By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Louis Leeman 793 Madison Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

A Jester's Revival In SoHo Edition

10CRITIC1-master675The Critical Shopper makes a return in today's Thursday Styles as Molly Young drags her brother Ned to the recently opened Moschino boutique in SoHo. We have been to Moschino and experienced its gallery-of-fashion-puns aesthetic for ourselves, but our shopper has revived the ageless trope of bringing a rube to experience high style. She collects her brother from painting crates on a Chinatown roof (?) to the sleek store which expresses designer Jeremy Scott's recent reimagining of the Italian label. "Like wandering onto a cereal box" is Young's rather apt description of the stage-set-like store where Scott is presenting not only his own interpretations of the Moschino style, but more than a few apparent replications of products that made the label famous in the first place.
Truth be told, The Shophound has always found Moschino to be tremendously entertaining as a brand, but one we wouldn't be caught dead in. Mainly, it's because we have always felt that one's clothes shouldn't be funnier than oneself, however brother Ned ultimately feels otherwise.

During our circuit, Ned became ensorcelled by a pair of denim shorts ($325) printed with a trompe l’oeil pattern of other denim swatches. He tried them on.
“You look insane,” a salesman said.

Like a good sister, our shopper buys matching pants for herself which she describes as "not so much pants as a vortex of denim Op Art".
Are we to buy this story?
Perhaps we are just jealous that Ned is apparently a gentleman handyman who has $325 to blithely throw away on shorts that sound truly ridiculous looking.
And, really, who wouldn't be?

Critical Shopper: At Moschino in SoHo, a Tweety Bird Sweater and Other Charms By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Moschino 73 Wooster Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo
Previously:
Flagship Flash: Moschino's New Boutique Is A Double Nostalgia Trip For SoHo


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Blasé In The West Village Edition

06CRITICAL1-master675-v2Today's Thursday Styles features Critical Shopper Molly Young's trip to a store that sounds vaguely like others that have come before it and others that will probably come after. At Calliope, each item is carefully chosen and tagged by hand to make a perfectly curated array of very special merchandise. Its owners describe themselves as "Purveyors of things we like", and, as such, they join a host of New York shopkeepers, some wildly successful, others less so, who open stores not as a means of creating income, but more as a creative expression of their own rarefied tastes. New York City's retail scene would be nothing without these merchants. Sometimes they are relatively innocuous neighborhood stores that last no more than a few years, and sometimes they wind up as influential players like Geraldine Stutz's legendary Henri Bendel of the 1970s and 80s (back when it was still at 10 West 57th Street) or today's Kirna Zabête or Odin. The ones that succeed propel shopping forward. It's hard to know where Calliope falls on this spectrum, but one thing is for sure: Molly Young is over it.

As pleasant as all the refinement was, it did not have much effect on my pulse. I wandered the store, poking at my brain and senses to react, but they couldn’t engage. I am simply not curious about the type of person who finds her personality reflected in a Brazilian quartz crystal to the degree that she is willing to pay $410 for it. Shopping can be a gesture of self-expression, but it can also be a lapse in critical thinking.

Really?
The Thursday Styes —and the Sunday Styles and T Magazine for that matter— probably wouldn't exist if it weren't for $410 Brazilian quartz crystals and the people who find their personalities reflected in them or some other equally extravagant item. New York is full of stores stuffed to the rafters with things that cost way too much, and while it seems easy to turn ones nose up at all of the people who buy the stuff in them —and there are always more than you think there are— if it weren't for them, there wouldn't be much for the Critical Shopper to write about at all.

Critical Shopper: At Calliope, Beautiful Things for Beautiful, Moneyed People By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Calliope 349 West 12th Street between Washington & Greenwich Streets, West Village