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.
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.
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.
It'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
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)