MOVIN' ON UPTOWN:

Balenciaga Does The Kering Shuffle Uptown With Gucci

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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.


TODAY IN BELT TIGHTENING:

Ralph Lauren's Fifth Avenue Polo Store Is Getting The Axe

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In an unexpected but only marginally surprising move, Ralph Lauren will be shuttering the splashy Polo flagship store on Fifth Avenue as a cost cutting measure. It turns out that the high profile, loss leader flagship stores we have come to know so well in New York are not the investment in publicity that they once were. WWD is reporting that the store closure along with other measures including a workforce reduction and an updated digital platform will save the company a not insignificant $140 million per year after an initial $370 million cost. 
Opened less than three years ago, the Polo store was meant to be represent a grand relaunch of the Polo brand for Lauren. it was to put the designer's original brand back into the spotlight with the rebranding of his women's "Blue Label" collection to make Polo a masterbrand for men and women along with a newly designed label. Its Fifth Avenue location should have been a tourist magnet, and the attached restaurant became one of the most coveted reservations in town. This is the first indication we have heard that the lavish three-level store has not lived up to expectations, although when it opened we were struck by impression that though the store is very large, it offered little in terms of newness in either environment or product. Lauren still remains content to draw from the same creative wells he has established over his 50 years in business. That leaves us with a whole bunch of reinterpretations of reinterpretations of the same things he has been making for years., which may be the root of his company's current troubles. At any rate, the "way forward" business reorganization plan that the company has been following seems to be the on right track in shedding some of the behind the scenes excesses that has always plagued the organization, but it is somewhat surprising to see it extended in such a high profile way. At least it shows that they are serious about setting the business right.
There is no closing date announced for the store, and the company is not giving up on new retail concepts, and it identified the Ralph's Coffee counter within the Polo store as a future opportunity. We also expect a newer, more modestly sized Polo store to appear somewhere in Manhattan to maintain the label's presence. With all this cost cutting, we immediately thought about the future of the cult-sized RRL label which has gone through several iterations before settling on an antique-inspired menswear theme. The collection is presented with evocative stores in Los Angeles and SoHo, but not a business on the scale that might warrant its continuation at this point under the company's apparent willingness to make hard choices. One has to wonder if the big RRL store on West Broadway, which has also had a series of lives under Lauren, might be headed for yet another transformation into a Polo store?

UPDATE:
The store is slated to close on April 15, only a week and a half away, however, the popular Polo Bar restaurant is expected to remain open as far as we can tell.

(WWD)
Previously:
Flagship Flash: Fifth Avenue's New Polo Flagship Holds Few Surprises


REVISITING RETAIL:

Anthony Thomas Melillo's First ATM Store Returns Him To Retailing

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That big new ATM sign on Bleecker Street is not meant to alert shoppers to a cash machine.
Fans of designer Anthony Thomas Mellilo's ATM collection of deceptively simple sportswear will be pleased to discover the label's first freestanding boutique on Bleecker Street. Opened last month, the sparely designed shop offers clean backdrop for one of the collections that helped launch the unfortunately named "athleisure" trend, but should also remind shoppers with longer memories of the store that first brought Melillo attention in the late 1990s. Back when the Lower East Side was becoming an infamous hipster epicenter, Nova USA by Tony Mellilo appeared on the corner of Stanton and Ludlow Streets. The men's sportswear line brought acclaim, but the usual challenges of being an independent designer made it a relatively short lived venture. Still, Melillo persisted, helping to relaunch classic brand Generra and putting out another eponymous men's collection before finally hitting the right groove with ATM in 2012. This time, he let other retailers like Barneys present his collection, but now that he has his own store once again, it seems like a circle has finally been closed. While his designs have evolved, his straightforward aesthetic remains consistent, showing his skill for making basics that don't look boring based around cleverly designed jersey knits. ATM evokes the ongoing appetite for athletic wear without making customers look like they didn't bother to change after yoga class. Look for the new shop at 405 Bleecker Street in what was once one of Marc Jacobs' series of boutiques between West 11th and Bank Streets.

(ATM)


WANDER NO MORE:

Fendi Finds A Permanent Home On Greene Street

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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.

(Commercial Observer)


THE PENDULUM SWINGS:

Does Hermès Herald A Luxury Revival In The Meatpacking District?

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Image: Google Maps

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.

(WWD)


FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Todd Snyder's Boutique Arrives Just In Time For The Holidays

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When designer Todd Snyder's City Gym shop ended its brief run in NoLita about a year and a half ago, we were promised that a more permanent showcase for the designer was on the way. It's been quite a wait, but Snyder is finally making his bid for the MVP role in the bumper crop of American menswear designers who have emerged in New York over the past decade. The Todd Snyder NYC Flagship store finally opened on the northern edge of Madison Square Park last week featuring the full breadth of the designer's offerings plus a host of collaborations that almost make the new store seem like a multi-brand affair. While a few features like the in-store barber shop and café are still awaiting finishing touches, there is still plenty for Snyder fans to appreciate including a full Moscot optical counter and an impressive shoe assortment featuring exclusive styles from beloved brands like Crockett & Jones, Alden, Grenson and Tricker's to name a few.

Of course, this isn't Snyder's first big boutique. Even before opening the City Gym shop, Snyder launched his Townhouse store in Tokyo where his sophisticated take on classic sportswear found an enthusiastic customer base. This, however, is his first major retail statement in his home town. it is, in part, a result of new investment in the Todd Snyder brand by American Eagle. While AE was attracted by the more casual Tailgate brand also created by Snyder, the designer's signature collection now gets a hefty collateral boost that can potentially elevate it to a new level. It's great for a designer to have a rack or two in Bergdorf's, Neiman Marcus or Saks, but nothing beats having an entire store to show the full expression of a brand and raise a designer's profile. Snyder's clothes aren't avant-garde or outlandish. They don't necessarily jump out at you when they are mixed in with the rest of a department store's offerings, but stock an entire store with them, and their appeal increases exponentially. Add some tasty accessories and collaboration items to cover whatever he can't yet produce under the main brand plus a personable and professional staff, and you have the formula for a big brand boost just a stone's throw from one of Manhattan's burgeoning neighborhoods. The store is off to a promising start just in time for the Holiday season, and if it fulfills it's potential, you should be seeing Todd Snyder on a faster track to the big leagues.

Todd Snyder NYC Flagship Store now open at 23 East 26th Street/25 Madison Square North, NoMad.


BOUTIQUE ROULETTE:

Marc Jacobs Is Down To A Single Fashion Store On Bleecker Street

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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?
LittleMarc


FLAGSHIP FINAL:

Fendi Expected To Find A Permanent Home On Greene Street

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99 Greene Street Photo via Sinvin.com

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.


JON CARAMANICA & KATHERINE BERNARD GO SHOPPING:

Dual Perspective In SoHo Edition

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Photo: Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

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.

Critical Shopper: Both Sides of a Fashion Eccentric By   


NEW IMPORTS ARRIVING:

Milan's Iconic Store 10 Corso Como Will Open At The South Street Seaport

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Rendering: SouthStreetSeaport.com

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. 

(WWD)