When humble, homey Bleecker Street was swiftly transformed into a white-hot fashion shopping destination in the early 2000s, A lot of people pointed their fingers at designer Marc Jacobs. He was blamed for being the primary interloper in the neighborhood which saw longstanding and beloved antique shops pushed off the street —and in many cases out of business— in favor of the shiny designer boutiques that flooded the formerly genteel destination in his wake. Eventually, Jacobs saw his neighborhood store count climb with a main women's shop, a men's shop, an accessories shop, a shop for his recently launched beauty line, a children's shop and, finally, a curated book shop. Often, these stores would switch places, but the designer seemed to prefer the concept of a cluster of smaller stores within the space of a couple of blocks as opposed to the more traditional, larger brand palace flagship that most of his colleagues seem to prefer.
Now it's 2016, however, and the designer has quietly trimmed his roster of retail shops down to three including the BookMarc book shop, the Little Marc children's shop (pictured below) and one single women's apparel and accessory collection shop which itself was once a combination of two side by side units, and has now been pared down to the single store space on the corner of Bleecker and West 11th Street (pictured above). It's not totally surprising that the designer's store count has shrunken. Last year he made the decision to streamline his labels, folding the popular Marc by Marc Jacobs contemporary line into the main Marc Jacobs brand which suggested that a few changes were in order as a result. A lovely retail location at the corner of Bank and West 4th Streets that had at times been a men's store and an accessory store was given over to the Canadian brand Want Les Essentials de la Vie for its flagship boutique. An always undersized space on Bleecker that had been an on-and-off men's store over the years was quietly relinquished shortly after that, but we just discovered that an erstwhile accessories location at the corner of Bleecker and Perry Streets that was converted to launch the beauty line has also recently closed (The beauty collection itself remains a going concern that has expanded from its exclusive launch through Sephora into major department stores.)
So what is the strategy here? Is it sign of doom for the reorganizing label, or, is it simply an indication that the designer is rethinking his retail plan, at least in New York. While his original Collection flagship on Mercer Street in SoHo is currently being revamped with a temporary location taking its place on Prince Street, Jacobs and, more prominently, his business partner Robert Duffy have been teasing an uptown flagship boutique for years, even going so far as to name specific locations where it would open without ever officially closing on a lease deal. Bleecker Street's glow has dimmed a bit over the past few seasons. Just a few years ago, it was rare to see a retail space sit empty on Bleecker street for very long, but as more recent leases turn over, shoppers are seeing more and more empty storefronts there waiting for someone to pay the skyrocketing rents that were once easy for the neighborhood to demand. Perhaps Jacobs has finally decided to focus his retail resources on higher profile locations as his business enters a more mature phase. Could the smaller shops be closing in favor of that long promised uptown flagship?
It has been the retail equivalent of couch surfing for Fendi in SoHo for a while, now. While the brand has found the block it wants, it has been bouncing around from pop-up to pop-up for several seasons. First on the corner of Greene and Prince Streets, a space absorbed by the Louis Vuitton boutique, and then a few doors down in an awkwardly long and narrow store that subverts its visibility almost entirely. Multiple reports, however have the LVMH-owned luxury label in talks for a more appropriate, permanent space just across the street in the former home of Space NK at 99 Greene Street. Pushed aside in favor of bigger siblings Vuitton and Dior no longer, the brand will be able to settle comfortably in its own 6,000 square foot store in the middle of the block between Spring and Prince Streets. Look for a more spacious new store to appear there sometime next year.
It's been a minute since we talked about the Thursday Styles' Critical Shopper here at The Shophound because, you know, we've been doing it for a while, but today marks a first for the column: two Critical Shoppers combine forces as Jon Caramanica and Katherine Bernard explore the new Rick Owens boutique in SoHo together. After quite some time of each shopper ignoring the offerings for the opposite gender in the boutiques they have covered, we are finally getting a comprehensive assessment of everything all in one column.
So what have we learned? Not too much about what we didn't already know, though both critics concur that Owen's clothes, freeform-like though they may often seem, disappointingly appear to look their best on the willowy model-esqe type of person so beloved of designers in general. Though only one of our shoppers comes close to fitting that bill —Ms. Bernard is determined to be Tilda Swinton-esque in her angular haircut— they soldier on, noting the significance of Owens' sumptuous fabric innovations that aren't always apparent from afar. Ultimately, they conclude that Owens is more Rick-Owens-y than ever at his new, more accessible location on the corner of Howard and Crosby Streets. This is good for him commercially since the designer has been so pervasively copied in recent years that his signature look, though not exactly classical, now feels much less avant-garde than it once did. It's all still hideously expensive, though, even if the pre-Raf Simons era Jil Sander boutique it took over has been stripped of its polished marble in favor of humbler concrete.
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.
This week, the Westfield Corp. unveiled its most spectacular shopping center in what is possibly its most controversial and likely the most expensive location to construct in the city, if not all of America. The Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus is the dramatic centerpiece of World Trade Center redevelopment with a multi-billion dollar price tag that has left New Yorkers scratching their heads as if to say "Wait, we said we would pay how much for that thing?"
People will debate the return on that investment for years to come, until it no longer becomes relevant, but along with the opportunity for regular folks to finally walk through that strange, spiny structure comes a reason to be there, which is, of course, shopping at the Westfield World Trade Center. The financial district has become the white hot center of attention for New York City's real estate community for several years now, and the area is finally starting to bear fruit as the vast transit hub is finally ready to show off its dazzling tenant list —even if some of those tenant aren't quite ready to open their doors yet. Like in any new mall, not every store is finished, but we can see what will be arriving in the coming weeks, and the question is, do you need to go out of your way to go shopping in the newly retail-packed financial district?
Our answer: Maybe? Maybe not.
Like its also-highly touted neighbor Brookfield Place, which we understand is doing well with its collection of contemporary-to-luxury retail boutiques, There is no store open or coming to Westfield World Trade Center that isn't open somewhere else in the city in what is probably a bigger and more convenient iteration. That is not to say that the stores are unwelcome. The mall's biggest store appears to be the city's umpteenth Apple Store, and while we have several of those already here, this one should easily be kept busy with it its captive customer base in the surrounding area. That is probably the same story for all the other stores there. Did we need a new Kate Spade boutique? No but the women of the financial district will probably be happy to see the store in the neighborhood which, up until now has mostly leaned towards men's retailers, given the still predominantly male industry it serves. Though it is a jaw dropping setting, the Oculus is still a glorified transit hub, and the shops inside are geared to serve the vast numbers of workers who will stream through on a daily basis from the subway and the PATH trains, as well as the gawking tourists who have made the location a must-visit stop on their tour. If it is the most convenient shopping neighborhood to your location, then yeah, it's not a bad collection of stores at all, but if you live uptown, or even downtown, many of the stores are already more conveniently well ensconced with flagships in Midtown or SoHo or the Flatiron District or the Upper East Side. What you may want to travel to see is the spectacular building itself. The scale is dizzying, literally. There are some areas that are vertigo inducing, like a wide curved set of stairs on the east end whose lack of railings is a bit unsettling, and there are many areas of the building where the scale is oddly off-putting, but the structure is indeed a sight to behold, like the set for a futuristic movie yet to be filmed. The long-rumored remake of Logan's Run, perhaps? The space is majestic and thrilling, and its sprawling connectivity with the other new and redeveloped structures and transit systems make one feel a bit like one is in an enclosed community large enough to never have to leave. It has the immaculate perfection of a set from a Star Trek movie —the big budget new version, not the original series— but while that architecture is usually computer generated, this one is all real with the same cold perfection that always hints at something less pristine underneath. The vast concourse (pictured below) seems almost too empty, as if any week now, it will be furnished with the kiosks that dot the interiors of every other mall. Time will tell if the need for more profits calls in a Proactive stand or Piercing Pagoda. How the dust settles will determine if it becomes a vibrant city landmark or a dreary boondoggle of taxpayer resentment, but for now, Westfield World Trade Center still has the cool glow of its nascent weeks.
Remember a couple of years ago when we passed along the news that an upstart Qatari luxury label called Qela was opening a glittery flagship store on the corner of Madison Avenue and 61st street (rendering pictured above) in the long-gestating, renovated retail section of the former Carlton House at 680 Madison Avenue?
Not to be cynical, but that's the sort of ambitious retail debut that we usually take with just a grain or two of salt: "Heretofore unknown brand from a faraway land to make splashy New York debut at phenomenally expensive location". Well, it turns out that Qela, if it even still exists, will not be making its way to Madison and 61st Street after all. About a year ago, word was out that the space was being shopped around for a sublease, and the original lease was eventually terminated before any further action was taken, leaving it available for Tom Ford to swoop in and secure it for his next Madison Avenue boutique. No, he will not be among those with dual shops on Madison, but will instead move his flagship store downtown from the 70th street corner where he first debuted his apparel collections under his own label. The 2-level 12,300 square foot store is just a bit smaller than the current flagship, but the location, just across 61st Street from Barneys, has an even more prominent profile. While is Ford's current store is keeping company with Ralph Lauren, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Céline and other illustrious names, the new location will be sharing the block with a new Brioni boutique expected to open later this year to show off that brand's radical revamp. Other menswear neighbors include Berluti, Brunelli Cucinelli and the Hermès men's store. Though Barneys across the street as radically shrunk its fabled suit department, it also remains a major menswear store (where Ford does not sell his collection) and an important traffic generator for the neighborhood. Though Ford has shown a women's collection for several seasons, he started his signature collection with men's apparel, and it would appear to be the bigger part of his fashion offerings. There's no official time frame for the new store opening, but the raw space has been ready for a new inhabitant for quite some time now, so late 2017 might be a reasonable estimate to see how Ford will update his typically lavish retail concept.
Grand Entrance: Upstart Qatari Luxury Label Qela Plans A Major Madison Avenue Debut (1/8/2014)
Enduring SoHo women's boutique Kirna Zabête has weathered all sorts of retail conditions the have felled lesser stores since it appeared in 1999, and is more than surviving —it's expanding. After buying out her business partner Sarah Easley's ownership stake earlier this year, now sole owner Beth Buccini is launching a temporary store for the next couple of months in East Hampton —not a terribly surprising development— and, more importantly a permanent satellite location not in the expected NYC area, but in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on Philadelphia's main line.
While seasonal Hamptons stores are a time honored business opportunity for city retailers, opening in another city is a more daring move. Bringing her boutique to wealthy uptown shoppers who would be a safer strategy, but an expansion to another city gives Buccini the opportunity to bring Kirna Zabête's boundary pushing point of view to an affluent shopping area with less competition than one would have to fight in a designer-heavy market like New York. “I’ve been observing the fashion and I found women are hungry for new ideas and excited about fashion and they’re really underserved,” Buccini tells WWD. “I really went deep into the demographics in the area. There are so many universities and private schools all around, and really the only game in town is the mall.” Having moved her family to the area, the retailer is familiar with the market. The upcoming 32,000-square-foot store (pictured) will reflect the bold look of the SoHo mother ship and will open in a new shopping development aimed at affluent shoppers who can expect to see the store later this fall, opening with resort and holiday collections.
Summer will officially begin next week which is the perfect time for a swimwear store to open, and so Orlebar Brown, the cult brand that has been instrumental in banishing baggy board shorts from beaches everywhere, has opened its first New York store in SoHo.
Known for their sleekly tailored bathing shorts that are hemmed a a good, healthy distance above the knee, the brand has earned a faithful following by finding an alternative beach look somewhere between the unflattering aforementioned surfing shorts and the skimpy racing or square-cut suit. Their bathing suits are so well-made that they come with a 5-year guarantee. As the swimming shorts have taken off, the label has expanded into a full sportswear line but always with a beachy, resort-style attitude. In fact, the new SoHo store is but a taste of the label's offerings at a compact 395 square feet. The real show is at the East Hampton store opening this weekend at around 3,000 square feet also carrying the women's and children's collections. For those who prefer to shop in the city, however, a trip to Broome Street will be at the top of the to-do the list for gentlemen who are putting together an impeccable vacation wardrobe.
Orlebar Brown, 451 Broome Street between Broadway & Mercer Street, SoHo
Stella McCartney's long rumored uptown store has been officially finalized as the designer signed a deal last week to sublease a multi-level townhouse space from art dealer Mallet at 929 Madison Avenue. The store between 73rd and 74th street will include 5,400 square feet from the basement through the third floor, making it technically just a bit bigger than McCartney's current SoHo store. While it is just north of the traditional prime stretch of Madison from 57th to 72nd Street, it is south of the Met Breuer, formerly the Whitney Museum, which has added a lot of heat to those few blocks where stylish shoe label Aquazzura and exclusive leather goods maker Monyat have just debuted new boutiques. It may be too early to ask for projected opening dates just yet, but the store will finally bring the popular designer to a street that many thought she had stayed off for too long.
UES Location for Stella McCartney Is Done Deal (Commercial Observer)
Much admired men's store Carson Street announced that it would close its doors at the end of June after just over three years in business.
Originally opened on Crosby Street as Carson Street Clothiers (pictured at right), the store recently made a major move to a larger but somewhat more out-of-the-way space last Fall coinciding with a new abbreviated name and distinct change in direction from a modern, updated classic point of view to a more progressive style. Perhaps it was too much change too fast. Trouble seemed to be brewing earlier this week when cofounder Brian Trunzo announced his exit from the company to pursue his own projects. The store's 2013 debut was highly anticipated by industry watchers as an audacious project from menswear fans but retailing outsiders Trunzo and Matt Breen. The shop's construction was chronicled on Esquire.com, and was greeted with praise when its doors finally opened featuring a well edited assortment of the most favored menswear designers of the moment displayed in a welcoming setting featuring a cozy lounge and friendly salespeople. The location was smartly chosen as Crosby Street became home to more and more complementary stores like Saturdays NYC and Miansai. The arrival of Seattle's Totokaelo last fall seemed to solidify the street as a prime destination for shopping, but Carson Street was already planning to relocate to a block of Greene Street that was further off the beaten path of shoppers.
A new, separate wholesale collection called Deveaux was launched earlier this year at New York Fashion Week Men's for this fall, which may have been one complication too many too many for the still growing company. That business will continue even as the store closes, and is expected to be found at Totokaelo, United Arrows and Spruce according to WWD.
The Shophound will miss browsing through Carson Street's racks, and its always sad to see a promising shop depart before its time, but the predictable silver lining remains what will have to be an excellent G.O.B. sale over the next couple of months.