Moschino's New Boutique Is A Double Nostalgia Trip For SoHo

The revival and reanimation of longstanding fashion brands is in air at retail at the moment. Will the new revamped Gucci style create the kind of sensation that Tom Ford's revival did 20 years ago? Will a new designer re-invigorate Balenciaga? Will movie mogul Harvey Weinstein be able to make the Charles James label relevant for this century? Will Schiaparelli accomplish the same feat?
For the past couple of decades or so, the Moschino brand has quietly chugged profitably along, something nobody expected after its irreverent namesake designer died in 1994, but a couple of years ago, its parent company, AEFFE, decided to shake things up by hiring the cult designer Jeremy Scott to take over the brand's creative direction. Gone were the ancillary profit-making lines like Cheap and Chic and Love Moschino, and a return to outrageous runway shows was implemented. Suddenly, the new Jeremy Scott-powered Moschino is the hottest label around especially for celebrities who were already fans of the new creative director like Katy Perry and Madonna.
Part of Scott's creative strategy was to not just to re-interpret some classic Moschino codes, but to bring them back almost entirely. Rarely has a creative director been so in tune with the deceased namesake of his brand, and the merchandise hanging in the new Moschino boutique that opened this week on Wooster Street in SoHo (pictured above) gives shoppers the feeling of being transported back into the designer's late 1980s heyday. Even the original "Moschino Couture!" label has be revived as the familiar Chanel spoof quilted bags and glitzy logo belts are once again on display along with snarky slogans emblazoned on otherwise innocuous LBDs and dinner suits. The sartorial puns run rampant as giant stiletto pumps and handbags provide display space for more humanly scaled accessories and shoes like a pair of sandals made from measuring tape. In fact, the 3,500 square foot shop is designed more like an art gallery than a functioning clothing boutique —which is also a nod not to the late Franco Moschino, but to the SoHo neighborhood of the late 1980s, when it was still full of art galleries and had not yet fully transitioned into the retail destination that it is today. Brobdingnagian hangers suspended from the ceiling form the clothing racks holding carefully spaced garments delicately placed just so in a manner that discourages any casual touching, let alone taking a hanger off the rack. It only amplifies the store' gallery ambiance, which seems to be intentional. A friendly staffer made sure to let us know that there was additional, less extravagant stock in the back that he could bring out if we wanted to see it, but that would have made the place like an actual store. We preferred to enjoy the time machine that Scott and the folks at Moschino have set up for true Moschino fans. Will they turn into actual customers? That remains to be seen, although the folks at AEFFE seem to be very happy with how the revamped label has been performing in recent seasons. For now, anyway the new store is poised to be a must-visit destination for Moschino fans and and anyone else who dreams of fashion's past decades.

Moschino 73 Wooster Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo



Can Paris' Colette Save McDonalds?

A look from the upcoming collaboration between McDonald's and Colette

Sometimes the French are inscrutable.
We all love a high-low collaboration, but most of us would draw the line when it comes to fast food. Not so for the famed Colette concept boutique in Paris. The store is teaming up with the international burger chain for a collection of clothing and accessories featuring graphic designs that were featured on a McDonald's campaign last year in by TBWA Paris. The pictograms of signature McDonald's fare like a Big Mac or French Fries are so abstracted that you might not even recognize what they are or connect them with the chain, but then there's that telltale red, yellow and white color scheme that sends us right into a line to order a serving of large fries while hoping we don't run into anyone we know.
As a fashion authority, Colette has been known to possess the ability to confer coolness upon brands that are either unknown or may have been overlooked in the past. It is the first stop for entrepreneurs looking to relaunch a revamped heritage designer brand, and retail buyers visiting Paris from around the world are still known to take notes on the store's offerings to add excitement to their own stores back home.
But will Colette be able to work its magic on McDonald's, whose business has been on a stubbornly downward trend recently as casual diners seem to have finally given up on its pedestrian burgers and even its French Fries no matter how reliably tasty they may still be. Perhaps this is an example of differing brand perception from continent to continent. While McDonalds may be seen by some as mundane and greasy here in the States, in Paris, the brand seems to be able to muster up at least enough irony or camp to be embraced by the fashion avatars at Colette. will it be enough to add sum luster to McDonald's currently dingy reputation? It's too early to tell. The line will not go on sale until May 4 through the end of the month. Americans will have their chance to order them from the store's website, but without the opportunity to add on an order of Fries —and we al know that they are the best part.

Colette Adds McDonald’s to Fashion Menu (WWD)


In Which We Discover Ralph Lauren Blatantly Knocking Off Maharishi

So, the other day, The Shophound was wandering through Bloomingdale's on 59th Street to see of there was anything worthwhile remaining of the last Summer markdowns when we noticed the lavishly embroidered pant you see above. We thought, "Oh, look. Bloomingdale's is carrying Maharishi now."

Many may know Maharishi as the London based sportswear line that gained a cult following by festooning military-style clothing with bright Chinese-style embroidery. At the time the label reached its peak —the late 1990s and early 2000s— it was an unlikely and charming combination. For a time, the label was a mainstay at Barneys and other similarly influential retailers, but after a while, shoppers moved on to other brands, and the label became less visible in such stores. Unfortunately, the style spawned many unfortunate imitators who copied the brand's ideas with less finesse (culminating in the hideous cacophony that is Ed Hardy), but somehow, the originators always seemed to get the look right.

Imagine our surprise when we took a closer look at the pants before us and discovered that they were not from Maharishi at all, but RLX, Ralph Lauen's high-tech athletic line.

Now, Ralph Lauren has been accused of copying things for most of his career as a designer, and most of the time he probably wouldn't argue. His inspirations, however, tend to include the classics whose origins are decades in the past, or vintage items that are lovingly adapted for modern consumption. You can't fault someone too heavily for trying to reproduce the elegant line of Cary Grant's suits if nobody else is making them, and it goes without saying that he has found an enormously receptive customer base for his products, but Maharishi is still very much alive and in operation. While the RLX pants are probably not a direct copy of a Maharishi embroidery, the concept is clearly lifted wholesale from the British company. Compare the images below (click to enlarge). On the left is the RLX "combat pant" taken from Ralph Lauren's website, and on the right is a current offering from Maharishi, the signature "Original Dragon Snopant", virtually unchanged from the version The Shophound picked up in 1999 from Ron Herman at Fred Segal on Melrose in Los Angeles (at the very least, you can say they are consistent). Over the past 15 years, they have produced their signature "snopants" with innumerable different embroidery designs, and it has become the brand's flagship item.

So you decide, copying or "hommage"? We know where we stand. On the plus side, maybe this means its time to take our Maharishi pants out of the "Archives" closet and put them back into rotation.
RLXmaharishiPants MaharishiDragonSnopants



Is Limelight Marketplace Fizzling?

Limelight Nearly a year after its metamorphosis from nightclub to shopping destination, there are signs that Limelight Marketplace is struggling. The de-consecrated church on Sixth Avenue at 19th Street had little trouble attracting crowds after dark in its life as part of a glittering yet infamous worldwide chain of mega-clubs that opened its doors in the 1980s. Daytime shoppers, however, have been slow to materialize after an initial surge right after the reconfigured retail complex opened last May. Several high profile tenants including Hunter Boots and Le Sportsac, have exited their stalls, and those who remain have seen their business shrink during a time when it should be growing and gaining traction, according to Crain's.

Alex Yoo, manager of another departed tenant, custom shirtmaker Alexander West, tells the paper, “You don't know whether [Limelight] is a cheap, flea-market type of thing or a luxury-goods place,” an impression that can only be intensified by the structure's mazelike, multi-level configuration. Other companies fleeing their spaces reported difficulty in dealing with the Limelight management, but it would seem that the biggest problem was just getting people to come inside the doors as the building's landmark status limits the kind of signage that might attract more foot traffic. The very late arrival of Grimaldi's, the beloved Brooklyn pizzeria that only opened in February, has been a disappointment to tenants hoping it would drive traffic.  One also has to wonder if the location, surrounded by discounters like Marshall's, TJ Maxx and Men's Wearhouse and big box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Sports Authority and The Container Store, is really the best place for a quirky mini-mall filled with expensive gourmet food shops and small designers and apparel booths which are mostly hidden from the street?

Jack Menashe, who masterminded the project, promises that another transformation is under way as the space is being configured once again to refocus on apparel sellers with French Connection set to take space in the complex along with designer Edwing D'Angelo and Covert Shoe Lab as well as other apparel tenants yet to be named. In addition, next month is expected to bring a 4,000 square foot restaurant, Cross Bar, from Todd English. Menashe promises that the new tenants “will drive the local business and make the place hip and sophisticated.” Limelight Marketplace 2.0 is set to be completed by this August. Let's hope the tenants can hang on until then.

Limelight struggles after tenant defections by Adrianne Pasquarelli (Crain's)
Ladie's Mile Metamorphosis: Limelight Begins Its Third Act

Closing Before Their Time:

Virgin Megastores Not Losing Money
But Closing Anyway

Unionsquare Here's some disturbing news about the impending loss of New York's only major music stores, the two Virgin Megastores in Times Square and Union Square. According to Michael Stoler's report in The Real Deal yesterday, the stores remain profitable. The Times Square unit, once the jewel in the crown of the chain, made $6 million in profits on $55 million in sales. Union Square's $40 million gross also yielded profits according to Stoler. Apparently, someone is still buying CDs. They are only closing because the chain is now owned by its landlords, Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, who are shuttering the stores in favor of tenants who will pay a higher rent. In fact Forever 21 is taking the Times Square space for a reported $20 million a year. They are going to have to sell a lot of those cheap dresses.
Here's the thing: usually, stores close because their business is bad, but Virgin's isn't. In fairness, it's probably because they are the last player standing in the record store game, but while their market is shrinking, it hasn't vanished just yet, and may still be viable at their two stores for years to come. Even when Tower Records closed as a result of bankruptcy, its New York City stores were cited among the chain's few profitable locations.
So what's the big deal? When the Virgin stores are gone in a few months, there will no longer be a single major store in New York City devoted to music. There will be a few independent specialists, and major releases will be found at places like Best Buy and Target. Anyone looking for a wide selection of import CDs, classical music or anything out of the ordinary will be forced to search the internet, which may seem more efficient, but can never really match the convenience of simply walking into a store with a vast selection to buy something you can count on them having.
So why is this happening? It's because Virgin is now owned, at least until it is folded completely, by people who aren't remotely interested in being retailers. It's a doomsday scenario for any store, profitable or not.
Goodbye to America's Mega-Music Stores By Michael Stoler (The Real Deal)

Red Carpet Disappointment:

The Jolie-Pitts Get Hit
By The Ugly Stick

Joliepitts The Screen Actors Guild Awards were last night, offering yet another opportunity for glamorous Hollywood stars to get gussied up and pose on a red carpet as the second act in televised award show circuit leading up to the Oscars on February 22nd.
There were lots of pretty ladies in pretty dresses, and we can't possibly sift through them all. Style.com did, and you can see it here.
We do have to pause for a moment to ponder what we must call the curious case of the Jolie-Pitts, Angelina and Brad.
Here we have the two-time sexiest man alive with his companion who has been called the most beautiful woman in the world more times than anyone can count,
But not last night.
It would appear that both of them are on a campaign to subvert their natural beauty.
And how they have succeeded!
From what we can tell, Brad is finished filming Quentin Tarantino's WWII epic "Inglorious Basterds", so it would be time to lose that oily Errol Flynn mustache. He looks alright with it, but not nearly as good as he does without it. As for his Tom Ford suit, it looks well tailored but in desperate need of a tie. Also, it apparently is not a tuxedo, which it should be at a black tie event. And, finally, those pants are way too long, which is inexcusable in any event.
And on to La Jolie, who told E!'s Giuliana DePandi Rancic that she just wanted to wear something comfortable.
Well, shoot, Angie, you should have just worn your bathrobe. We're betting it looks a lot sexier than this drab, shapeless bit of Max Azria frumpery. Of course, she'll always have that gorgeous face, and thankfully, she had decided not to grow a mustache of her own, but geez! We're your fans. What did we do to deserve this?

Too Much Too Soon:

Kira Plastinina On The Rocks?

KiraPLas1 Over the weekend we (and we're betting several other fashion themed websites) got an anonymous comment, and then an email (now unpublished) about Russian wonder-teen retail chain Kira Plastinina. According to the comment —which we at the time we felt was unsubstantiated and not to be remotely taken as fact— The chain's U.S. operation (consisting of 12 stores) is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
at the time, we didn't think it was solid enough even for a blog to publish. We generally don't trust anonymous, negative tips because frequently it's just someone who is trying to spread malicious rumors, but now WWD has confirmed that the nascent chain is indeed in trouble.

Well, we did think that they were coming on a little strong. Apparently, rent is up to date on the stores,  only some of which may close, but it looks like Kira Plastinina's moment will have been exceedingly brief.
Kira Plastinina U.S. Stores Face Closure (WWD)
The text of the mysterious email after the jump
Kira Plastinina: Even Pinker Than We Thought

Continue reading "Too Much Too Soon:

Kira Plastinina On The Rocks?" »

Designer Revolving Door

Alessandra Facchinetti
Out At Valentino

Facchinetti Alessandra Facchinetti cannot catch a break.
When she was appointed Valentino's successor last year, it was seen as a redemption of sorts after having been let go from her job as Tom Ford's successor at Gucci.
Sadly, succeeding a celebrated designer has not worked out too well with her, as it is widely expected she will be dismissed shortly. Her Prêt à Porter collection show was today (see pictures here).
Valentino accessory designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli are expected to succeed her, though rampant speculation centers around Giambattista Valli. His retro-inspired collection (see it here) referenced many Valentino hallmarks, and was widely seen as an unofficial audition for the top design job there. Similar things were said about John Galliano's Spring 1995 Collection (see it here and here for a reminder of what a mid-90s supermodel extravaganza was like. Good times). Many called it an audition for Dior, and we all know how that turned out.
We had no idea that Facchinetti was dong such a dreadful job, as her first efforts have only just reached sales floors, and the current climate is hardly the best to judge her success or failure. Some have suggested a clash with management, which was also blamed for her Gucci exit, but we will all know very soon what her fate with the house will be.
Fashion Scoops: Facchinetti Exiting Valentino (WWD)
Valentino Spring 2009 Collection (WWD)

Preparing For Departure:

NoLita's Mayle Set To Shutter
Early Next Year

Mayle Designer Jane Mayle has announced that her popular Elizabeth Street boutique will close next February as she folds her decade old label. The holiday/resort collection will be her final delivery, and she will not offer a Spring 2009 Collection. Mayle tells WWD that accelerating market dates and promotional pressures were important factors in her decision to close her business, and the end of her store's lease offered fortuitous timing:

"It seems like a commercial cul-de-sac in a way that the customer gets tired before collections even hit stores," Mayle said. "How I came into this business was all about dreaming and building a wardrobe you would be seduced by. That mystery and remoteness ans insouciance have disappeared from fashion in order to accelerate the product. I feel I have just become another cog in that machinery."

Mayle certainly isn't the first designer to be disillusioned by the pressures of the rag trade, and she maintains that her business is healthy with $5 million in sales a year from 65 wholesale accounts. We have to give her credit for leaving when her interest has ebbed rather than letting her label chug along on autopilot without inspiration, but both her retail and wholesale customers will surely miss her original and personal designs that managed to find an enthusiastic audience without benefit of the advertising and publicity she eschewed. She promises to return to fashion in some other capacity, but just what that will be remains to be declared. In the meantime, her shop will be open at 242 Elizabeth Street until February offering your last chance to pick up her final collections.
Jane Mayle To Close Business (WWD)

Oh, The Irony Of The Extinct

Nothing like a trip to Urban Outfitters to make us feel like Methuselah.
Anyone who recognizes the logo on this t-shirt will probably understand the flash of nostalgia that hit us when we saw it earlier today.
For those of you unfamiliar with Peaches Records & Tapes, imagine a big barnlike store filled with bins of vinyl 33 RPM LP record albums as well as cassettes for those fortunate enough to have a Walkman portable tape player.
OK, this goes back a good couple of decades. Let's just say that Peaches was the place to be on the day that the new Pat Benatar or Police album came out. It was suburban record store heaven.
Now of course, Manhattan's once bountiful music retailers have been reduced to a pair of Virgin Megaastores, soon to be only one or possibly none, and Peaches, now long shuttered, is but an ironic reference for a young hipster who probably never owned an actual turntable record player.
Yeah, we know. Time to order that walker.