KATHERINE BERNARD GOES SHOPPING:

Insta-Dressing In SoHo Edition

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Photo by Emily Andrews for The New York Times

A new Critical Shopper has arrived at the Thursday Styles today. We don't know if Katherine Bernard will take over Molly Young's women's shopping duties permanently, but she does give us a respectable survey of the new Balmain boutique that quietly opened its doors earlier this month in SoHo. Don't worry if you are concerned that glittering label's thirst for publicity is starting to wane. The official opening party is scheduled as this year's Met Ball after-party on Monday night. Now you can picture the requisite Kardashian/West/Jenner extravaganza, and our shopper reminds us that it is almost impossible to make mention of the Balmain brand without also using the words Kardashian and Instagram. She also notes pointedly that Instagram followers do not necessarily translate into throngs of eager customers. Despite Balmain's social media following of multiple millions, the store is a quiet and serene environment in neutral shades of beige and black when she visits mostly because clicking 'like' and 'follow' are free, but owning single piece of Balmain apparel beyond a $365 t-shirt requires four figure investment at minimum. And what of those clothes? They are tight.

These clothes are honest. They hold you. My designer friend tells me that the fabric embrace comes from technically advanced four-way stretch. There’s pull and lift. There’s no darting or corseting, it’s just extremely special fabric.

Ultimately, the experience seems like a taste of fantasy, complete with a salesperson impersonating a paparazzo. For better or worse, Balmain and its once reserved designer Olivier Roustieng has thrown their lot in with social media stars and red carpet glitz. The rabid rush for last Fall's H&M collaboration collection proved that, so if runway walking  in glittery opulence is your aspiration (and within your means), your boutique has arrived.

Critical Shopper: The Balmain Army Steps Out By Katherine Bernard (NYTimes)
Balmain 100 Wooster Street between Spring & Prince Streets, SoHo


STOREFRONT SHUFFLE:

Bally & Georg Jensen To Move A Few Blocks Up Madison Avenue

The game of Musical Stores on Madison Avenue will continue as famed Swiss shoe and accessory brand Bally will move from its current home in the GM Building to Georg Jensen's shop at 687 Madison. Georg Jensen, by the same token will relocate further uptown to 698 Madison.
what may seem like lateral move for both companies may in fact be something of marginal improvement for Bally, which has endured continuing efforts to reposition and improve its fashion image in its GM building location through a series of creative directors. The move will have it taking the entire southeast corner of 62nd and Madison including not only the Jensen store but also the adjacent former Church's shop which has been closed for several months now creating a total of about 3,000 square feet. It is a somewhat more favorable location just a block up from Barneys with a much more intimate scale than the cavernous GM Building space.
Georg Jensen's new home will have be the former Kentshire shop where, between the ground floor and the basement, it will have 1,600 square feet to display the famous Danish jewelry and silver designs.
No word yet on who will takeover the current Bally store which is on the back end of a wing that features a temporary (or possibly not so temporary if rumors are to be believed) Cartier store, and if there is a new Church's store in the works, something New York City hasn't been long without in decades, then it is still under wraps.

The WTC transit hub is an exhausting mess (NYPost via The Real Deal)


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Madison Avenue Bookworm Edition

24CRITIC5-blog427It's been a few weeks since The Shophound has caught up with the Critical Shopper over at the Thursday Styles. This week, it is Molly Young's turn to take on the city's newest boutiques, and she has made her way to the new Sonia Rykiel boutique on Madison Avenue. Hey, we were there too when it opened just about a month ago, so we are very well familiarized with the store's unique red lacquered bookshop aesthetic which our shopper describes as "eye-catching in a way that makes passers-by halt, whip off their sunglasses and peer inside"
And that's half the game right? 
While The Shophound was more taken with the store's design and décor, Our shopper hones in on the clothes, having reportedly just over purged her closet. Here is where we learn that Sonia Rykiel, though always a label steeped in a woman's point of view from its flame-haired founder to its current designer Julie de Libran, is perhaps not for every woman. Of a rainbow striped jacket she concludes, "On a taller person, the fit would have been slouchy. I looked like a garden gnome." But we were most surprised by the critique of a pleated dress in 'creamsicle' polyester for $2,190, "it should have been chiffon, at that price". Well, Molly, chiffon and polyester are not mutually exclusive. Chiffon is a particular weave of fabric, like satin or corduroy or gabardine. Polyester is a fiber out of which you can make that fabric and many others —but we knew what you meant. Your copy editor didn't, though.

Critical Shopper: French Lit, Stripes and Cigarettes at Sonia Rykiel By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Sonia Rykiel 816 Madison Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets, Upper East Side


FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Todd Snyder's First Permanent U.S. Store Is Coming To NoMad

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About a year ago, Todd Snyder (pictured below) finally closed his popular City Gym Pop-Up store months after it's original expected expiration date with promises of a new, permanent store in the works. Then, last October, when the company was acquired by American Eagle, a New York flagship store was again teased, and now, finally we have confirmed reports that Todd Snyder's first U.S. flagship store will open at 23 East 26th Street (pictured above) across the street from Madison Square Park. The 5,700 square-foot store is expected to carry the full range of Snyder's designer collections including his main signature line, his ongoing Champion collaboration and, presumably, the white-label tailored clothing and furnishings collection recently launched at Nordstrom. Snyder already has four well received boutiques in Japan, but this will be his first permanent U.S. store.
The location is slightly unconventional for a designer boutique, which is still several blocks away from the stretch of apparel stores on Fifth Avenue below 23rd Street, but it's right in the center of Manhattan's tech industry center and also convenient to destinations like Eataly and Shake Shack. Look for an opening this October.

Todd Snyder to open first US store at Moinian’s 60 Madison (The Real Deal)

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Image: ToddSnyder.com

 


INCOMING IMPORT:

Boglioli Will Raise Bond Street's Fashion Quotient This Spring

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Bond Street may not get the quite hype of SoHo, The Meatpacking District or Bleecker Street, but it has quietly been a satisfying micro-neighborhood for shoppers looking for slightly less mainstream labels in NoHo. That tony 2-block stretch between Broadway and The Bowery is also home to some very flashy modern residential buildings, and one of the newest at 10 Bond Street will be home to the first U.S. store for Italian clothing label Boglioli. The 2-level store at the corner of Lafayette Street is slated to open this Spring according to its windows, a time frame that technically begins this weekend. Known for its softly constructed, lushly hued version of Milanese sprezzatura, the label has only a handful of shops worldwide, but is on an expansion kick that also includes a newly named creative director, Davide Marello, whose first collection will hit stores this fall. Boglioli will be joined in the building by New York City's first store for of U.S.-made yoga-wear chain Yogasmoga slated for later this Spring.

Boglioli (Official Site)
Yogasmoga (Official Site)


FOOTWEAR UPGRADE:

Melissa Shoes To Move To Former Tommy Hilfiger Space In SoHo

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Fans of shiny, plastic shoes will be pleased to hear that Melissa Shoes is reportedly moving its flagship store from a modest storefront on Greene Street to  Tommy Hilfiger's former store at 500 Broadway (pictured above) right next door to Bloomingdale's. The Brazilian brand known for its leather-free footwear and collaborations with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Jason Wu, to name a few, will enjoy a big step up both in profile and square feet nearly doubling the store's selling space and increasing visibility immeasurably. As for the store that the brand is leaving at 102 Greene Street (pictured below), it is rumored to be Fendi's next home at SoHo, suggesting that the odd, windowless space right next door that Fendi recently moved into is in fact just a temporary space for the main luxury brand as it waits to move into a more appropriately proportioned store.

Melissa Shoes to make big footprint in Soho with new Broadway store (TheRealDeal)
Previously:
Fendi's New SoHo Store Is Open As Louis Vuitton Takes Over Its Old Space

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RETAIL RENEWAL:

Hickey Freeman's New Brookfield Place Store Points To A New Direction

HickeyFreeman-WWDIt's been tough going for Hickey Freeman in recent years what with changes of ownership and creative direction coupled with some uncertainty in the men's suit business that has caused a store like Barney's New York to dramatically reduce the space devoted to the category it built its business on to one measly floor in its Madison Avenue flagship —from the original three. Things seem to have stabilized at Hickey, however, and to prove it, the label has opened a modest but noteworthy new store at Brookfield Place right in the middle of the neighborhood where suit-wearing has never wavered. Not a big flashy flagship, the 900 square foot store is devoted to the company's made-to-measure division, a service that falls just short of full custom tailoring, but allows customers to make their own fabric and model choices as well as offers special sizes and fit adjustments that can minimize final alterations. Though there is a selection of ready-to-wear items showing the company's updated look, the new concept store also displays 180 bolts of fabric for tailored clothing and shirts as a part of its sleek, design. It is the first Hickey Freeman retails store created by the brand's new management, Grano Retail Holdings which purchased Hickey Freeman's assets including its famed Rochester NY factories, as well as a long-term license for the brand name which still belongs to Authentic Brands Group. It's a complicated arrangement, but it has kept one of America's great menswear brands alive after a couple of bankruptcies of its past parent companies Hartmarx and HMX. New management is dedicated to revival, and chose Brookfield Place to join in the renewal of lower manhattan but also to give the label more visibility in a market where it believes it is underrepresented. The other obvious part of the store's goal is to show off Hickey's new fashion direction, “. . .so when retailers come through New York City, they can see how we display and present it,” Grano CEO Stephen Granovsky tells WWD.
But what of the Madison Avenue flagship between 54th and 55th Streets? Shouldn't that be the site of brand's high-profile re-introduction? It turns out that that store continues to be owned and operated by a different company controlled by Hickey Freeman former CEO which accounts for its more traditional look and ambiance. That state of affairs may change in the future, but Grano is actively looking for looking for more New York locations to open stores of about 1,500 square feet as well as continue to grow Hickey Freeman's business in the specialty store channel that has historically been its strong suit (no pun intended). The Upper East Side is another target location, so perhaps we will soon see Hickey going head to head with Italian powerhouses like Brioni, Isaiah and Cesare Attolini. If it can stand up to to that rarefied competition, then its future should be as bright as its new yellow logo design.

Hickey Freeman Opens Made-to-Measure Store at Brookfield Place (WWD)


MUSICAL STOREFRONTS:

Fendi's New SoHo Store Is Open As Louis Vuitton Takes Over Its Old Space

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Call it just one of the effects of corporately owned fashion. Several weeks ago, we noticed that Fendi had vacated its high-profile spot at the corner of Greene and Spring Streets for a strangely innocuous location down the block with very little street visibility, and now we can see that the space at 122 Greene has been given over to the ever sprawling Louis Vuitton boutique that had been its next-door neighbor (pictured above). It's not Vuitton's first expansion of its SoHo store, and now it controls a substantial portion of the block between Spring and Prince Streets. It's not terribly surprising to see Vuitton move into Fendi's space, as they are sibling brands under the vast LVMH luxury umbrella. Vuitton, along with Dior which also has a boutique on the same block, is one of the group's crown jewels, a cash cow that has few peers in the fashion world. It would appear, at least in their case, that one of the hazards of being a part of such a luxury group is that when Big LV needs more room lesser brands, even ones as celebrated as Fendi, will get out of the way and relinquish their highly desirable corner stores.
For its part, Fendi's new store at no. 104 (pictured below) may be a bit larger than its previous space, but even the brand's outsized chrome robot bear mascot at the doorway may not be enough to alert passers by that the new boutique is now open. Hushed, well-appointed and well stocked with the brand's Bag Bugs festooned accessories though it may be, the new store is strangely tunnel-like and windowless which is particularly unfortunate in a neighborhood so prized in part for its airy loft-like stores. Hopefully, SoHo's tourists and other deep pocketed shoppers will find Fendi's new downtown home, but we have to wonder if the brand's retail executives are really that pleased with the relocation.
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MOVIN' ON UP:

Zegna Will Take Its Flagship To The Crown Building

Crownbuilding4It was only about eight years ago that Ermenegildo Zegna debuted a lavish Fifth Avenue flagship store of the sort that one would expect it would remain in for quite a while, but the NY Post is reporting that the Italian menswear megabrand is already heading to The Crown Building at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue to open a new 9,000 square feet for a new brand palace at one of the most expensive intersections in the world. If, as one might presume, the company had a 10-year lease at 663 Fifth Avenue, its current home, then it should be ready to move uptown at about the time its current lease runs out. While the retail space is being reconfigured, much of the office space upstairs will be converted into a combination of luxury hotel and condominiums.
Zegna's space is reported to include 1,500 square feet the ground floor and 7,500 square feet on the second floors of the building with an entrance on West 57th Street. Bulgari, the longtime corner tenant, has recently renegotiated its lease for a reduced 3,000 square footprint. It looks like Zegna will take over part of Bulgari's former space combined with Smythson's former store next door at the street level. What the new store will look like will be for us to anticipate, but given the splashy address and its current glamorous digs, it seems fair to expect a major statement.

Gildo Zegna gets luxurious flagship store inside Crown Building (NYPost)


UES UPGRADE:

Smythson To Class Up The Corner On Madison And 61st Street While DKNY Leaves The Block

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In case anyone thought that moderate contemporary brand Vince Camuto was a little bit downmarket for Madison Avenue, you were probably right. It looks like the brand has ditched the flagship across the street from Barneys that was once the home of the respectable Cole Haan, leaving it to the suitably exclusive Smythson of Bond Street. The prestigious British stationer and accessory purveyor will shortly be opening its new store there having relocated from the Crown Building on West 57th Street. Trading "across the street from Bergdorf's" for "across the street from Barneys" is probably something of an even swap, prestige-wise, and the windows on the corner of 667 Madison Avenue tell us that the new store will be open in March.
But isn't it a little bit snobby to suggest that department store mainstay Vince Cameo's premium line isn't up to snuff for Madison Avenue? After isn't DKNY just on the other corner of the block with chain store Ann Taylor just across 60th Street?
Not anymore.
As part of the brand's ever more radical-appearing revamp, DKNY has abandoned its three-level Madison Avenue showplace, the last vestige of Donna Karaon on the street, leaving its SoHo store on West Broadway as its primary flagship home. As you can barely see reflected in the photo of the shop door below, the large Ann Taylor store has also been emptied out and is available to lease. Now there are two rather sizable retail spaces available in particularly desirable locations waiting for some deep-pocketed companies to swoop in and install some new flagship-sized stores. Who will move in, or more to the point, how long will those stores sit empty before someone coughs up the dough to move in?
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