It's been a tough fight, but it looks like rising athletic megabrand Under Armour has won out among the prospective tenants for the former FAO Schwarz store in the GM Building (pictured above). A couple of months ago, it seemed that Nike and Apple were vying for the space as a possible new home for NikeTown or as an above-ground expansion for Apple's 24-hour flagship store underneath the plaza in front of the building. Then, Under Armour stepped in as a surprise spoiler, and now C.E.O. David Plank has announced that the company will take 53,000 square feet of the former toy store on the ground and second floors of the building officially known as 767 Fifth Avenue. It's going to be a bit of a wait before we see what Plank is calling "the most breathtaking and exciting consumer experience ever conceived at retail" as the company is not taking possession of the space until sometime in 2018. Apple is still reportedly going to be using some of the space as a temporary store while it renovates its flagship under the iconic cube entrance, but it appears that Under Armour has won the contest to stake its claim as a brand worthy of one of the most high profile retail spaces in the city.
Why, just last week we wrote about the potential battle between Apple and Nike for the former FAO Schwarz space on the 58th Street side of the GM Building (pictured above), and now the status quo has changed as another player, Under Armour, appears to have entered the fray. According to Crain's, the burgeoning performance athletic-wear company is in talks to take over at least part of the space that the legendary toy store has left vacant. Does that mean that Under Armour will now be nestled among Cartier, Apple and Bergdorf Goodman's Men's store which will be its neighbor across the street?
Reports say that the former toy palace with 13,ooo square feet on the ground floor and 40,000 on the second level is ultimately likely to be divided, and we don't know if Under Armour may be in talks for the whole thing or part of it, though if Nike is still looking to get into the space after its lease extension on 57th Street expires, it is unlikely that it would accept Under Armour as a direct adjacency.
Cartier's store on the 59th street side of the GM Building is technically temporary, and though there has been talk of the jewelry company holding on to it even after it's landmarked townhouse on Fifth Avenue is finally restored and renovated, it could also be in play within the next year or two.
The real question here, though, is whether or not Under Armour belongs in the GM Building amongst rarefied luxury flagships as well as the only electronics company that approaches luxury brand status? Nike, for all its prosaic qualities, has a coolness factor that allows it to be included amongst the avant-garde designers curated at Comme des Garçons' Dover Street Market. We could see it moved to the GM Building, but Under Armour? Does it really have that level of prestige?
We tend to think no, not that that has any bearing on whether or not a lease will be negotiated and signed. It does, however, remind us of the early 1990s, when there was a multi-level Warner Brothers Studio Store on the corner of 57th and Fifth, and a few blocks down Fifth Avenue, shoppers found an equally lavish Walt Disney store. Retailers in the neighborhood griped that the stores were degrading the area's prestige level (though there were fewer complaints when Nike took over the beleaguered space that was originally Bonwit Teller's replacement store). Eventually, those two cartoon palaces became Louis Vuitton and The Polo Store, and all was once again right with Fifth Avenue. Will the same sentiments follow Under Armour to the GM Building. The brand seems at home with a huge flagship on lower Broadway in SoHo, but will is be as comfortable a fit on one of New York's most luxurious corners?
Most recent reports are telling us that this year has brought tough times for retail real estate with shopping falling short of projections for the past couple of seasons, but in Manhattan, the right space is still in demand.
Take the now long-empty Fifth Avenue space in the GM Building vacated by FAO Schwarz last year (pictured above). for several months now, we have all been under the impression that Apple will temporarily take over the space while it renovates its 24-hour flagship store underneath the building's plaza, but now we are told that the tech company is now looking to add all or part of the above-ground store as permanent space. This comes on the heels of reports that had Nike negotiating for the space, but it has also been reported that the sneaker icon has renewed its Niketown lease on East 57th Street through 2022. While they may still be interested in the GM building space, ultimately, the building's owner, Boston Properties, will have to decide if it is worth it to keep the space empty for Nike for a few more years, or to make a deal with Apple which is said to be balking at the $2,700 to $4,450 per square foot asking rent for the space and feels it deserves a break since it has drawn such attention and prestige to the location with its store. Will Apple need all 61,000 square feet in addition to its underground space. How will they differentiate merchandise for two side-by-side stores? Will there be an underground passageway to connect the two separate spaces, or will some other mega-brand swoop in to take over the still-prestigious retail space out from under both Apple and Nike's noses?
We should know these answers soon —or maybe not. Essentially, we will hear it when we hear it.
Apple likely to expand at GM Building on “temp” basis (TheRealDeal)
The Met Ball is tonight, and, for the first time, you will be able to watch the red carpet arrivals on E! just as if it were the Oscars or the Golden Globes. What with a splashy documentary about last year's blowout in theaters now, you might be forgiven for forgetting that this weekend, long after the gala detritus has been whisked away form the museum's galleries, there will be a exhibition opening, and this year's entry, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, is just a bit different from the lavish extravaganzas of past spring seasons.
The pre-publicity for the exhibition has put the emphasis on the "tech" of the title, which has been underscored by having Apple as a major sponsor, but the shoe is less about "wearable tech" than it is about how technology has shaped the clothes we wear, or maybe, as it focuses mainly on Haute Couture and extremely deluxe Ready-to-Wear, the clothes that just a select few of us wear —or sometimes just the clothes that models wear on the runway.
We aren't sure if the neoprene couture wedding gown by Chanel that sits at the center of the exhibition has ever been worn by anyone in real life, but it is the emblem of the exploration into the merging of cutting edge materials technology snd high fashion that is the concern at hand. In his remarks to the press previewing the exhibition this morning, Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute talked of re-evaluating the exalted status of hand-made objects versus the more mundane view of machine made products.
So the actual exhibition is not the grand, glamorous display we have seen in the past few years, though its emphasis on the inner workings of construction owes something to the recent Charles James retrospective which presented a surprising focus on the engineering structure of his famous sculptural ballgowns. Manus x Machina is a somewhat smaller affair contained entirely in the museum's Robert Lehman Wing which has been transformed into a gauzy white space by a striking arrangement of taut scrims designed by Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York. Organized around the disciplines of Couture, it highlights the innovations that technology has made possible by juxtaposing vintage fashion with its modern counterparts made in materials that Coco Chanel and Christian Dior could not have dreamed of. See a vintage Chanel tweed suit alongside Karl Lagerfeld's 2015 versions made with an 3-D printed overlay that creates a quilted effect in a mix of high-tech, machine made materials and traditional hand-finished embroideries (pictured above). This is an opportunity for some of the most avant-garde designers to shine and shine they do, chief among them, Iris van Herpen, the Dutch designer who has made a name for herself by pioneering the use of cutting edge materials and 3-D printing to create ensembles that range from elegant to outlandish, but are never less than fascinating, especially when the museum delves into her unusual manufacturing techniques. This is one exhibition where reading the item descriptions really pays off as each item is described by which elements are handmade and which are made by machine. Also well represented is Japanese innovator Issey Miyake, whose famous pleated garments are shown alongside the gowns of the often overlooked Mary McFadden who pioneered the heat-pleating process to great commercial success in the 1970s and 80s, and Mariano Fortuny, whose technique for creating his early 20th Century pleated silk gowns remains a fiercely protected secret still held by his heirs. Also on view are Proenza Schouler's remarkable forays into fabric research, Raf Simons' elaborately constructed creations for Dior, Hussein Chalayan's mechanically automated dresses and more. It is a particularly scholarly detour for the Costume Institute, but it is encouraging to see that the museum is making a move away from some of the exhibitions of the past that had alluring themes but maybe not quite as much much depth as one might have hoped for (remember Punk? Superheroes?). This time, the flash is backed up with real substance.
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 5 through August 14th.
We have been actively following the progress of Bergdorf Goodman's current exterior renovations partly because we are interested and partly because we happen to have walked by the place a lot in the past few weeks. Today, we noticed that the last remnants of the plywood covering has been removed from
the newly remodeled 57th Street side of the store including a new entrance into the store's re-conceived jewelry salon. The store has faithfully replicated the 58th Street (pictured at left) entrance on the other side of the store to create a grander entryway (pictured above in the best shot we could get over Midtown traffic). While the 58th Street door is technically the store's front entrance dating back to the building's completion in the late 1920s, more customers tend to enter through the more heavily trafficked 57th Street and Fifth Avenue doors, so it makes practical sense to upgrade the entryway. Despite the completed construction being exposed, it is clearly not totally finished and ready for its close-up just yet. The wrought iron railing at the window above the door and new awnings over the reconfigured windows have yet to be installed, but what has been revealed seems to answer one questions. The new, pristine white marble visible between the windows and on the new entryway appears not to be decorative, but a practical measure. We now can safely presume that the new stone will ultimately be toned to match the color of the building's original facing to create a seamless effect once the finishing touches are applied. As we have noted before, how all of this remodeling will affect the building's chances at being named a City Landmark remains to be seen, but by the end of this year, by which time a final designation is expected to be made, the building will look substantially different from when it was initially proposed for Landmark status.
While the revamping of Bergdorf Goodman's 57th Street storefront as part of the store's current top-to-bottom renovation has still not been completely unveiled, it looks like the 58th Street side is up for a revamp that is almost as dramatic. This week, plywood scaffolding (pictured above) appeared covering the ground floor exterior and what is officially the store's front door. As on 57th Street, a life sized rendering covers the construction area showing the familiar big display windows (visible on the right side of the photo below) replaced by a series of smaller vitrine-type windows which are more suitable for showing off accessories, shoes or other small merchandise items. It would appear that the windows will be framed with green marble to match the arch around the main entrance that they flank, though it remains to be seen if any of the white marble accents that have been added to the 57th Street renovation will be used here. The new windows on both sides will now reflect the reconfiguration of the main floor selling areas with the fine jewelry salon on 57th Street and a consolidated handbag and accessory department on 57th. It took until the late 1960s for Bergdorf's to expand enough to fill up the entire building it currently occupies, but the 58th Street side has been part of the store since the building was completed in 1928. Since then, it has remained essentially intact architecturally, windows and all —until this week.
When the construction is completed, the building will have lost the original storefronts on all three of its street-facing sides. As we have pointed out before, the entire building is on a fast track to be considered for City Landmark designation before the end of this year which would preclude any further alteration to its exterior. The more it is altered, however, the less likely it is to be landmarked —which would please both the store and the building's current owner who are not in favor of landmarking. The redesigned façade should be finished in less time than its counterpart on the other side of the building since the dramatic arched entrance is expected to remain intact, but that will one of the few architectural elements left on the exterior street level from when the building was originally finished.
It 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.
Yesterday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing to clear out a backlog of proposed landmark designation for over a hundred buildings in New York City, among them, The building that houses Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue. While over 60 buildings were rejected for various reasons, the Bergdorf's building was included in a group to be prioritized for a final vote by the end of 2016. The store itself, which holds an extremely long-term lease on the location, has been fairly quiet about the developments, but the owner owner of the property is known to oppose a landmark designation.
Wouldn't it be a prestigious honor to have the building protected and singled out for its architectural contribution to the city?
Well, sure, but it's not that simple.
Once the building has been declared a landmark, it precludes any further alteration to its exterior, which can be a challenge when it houses a thriving business like Bergdorf's which may want to make upgrades and renovations to suit its needs. Currently the store is finishing up a major alteration to its 57th Street façade for its new jewelry salon (pictured above) which would not be permitted after a landmark designation. Occasionally, the commission requires that owners return buildings to their original state as much as possible, which can incur great additional expense. Alterations for business purposes are not entirely unheard of, however. During the 1990s, the landmarked Rockefeller Center got a special dispensation to substantially increase the size of its store windows on its Fifth Avenue side after a lengthy series of discussions with the commission. Ralph Lauren's flagship boutique at Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in the landmarked Rhineland Mansion was also substantially altered to create store windows and entrances when it was opened in the 1980s. In both cases, however, the original building materials have been carefully stored and numbered in the unlikely event that they would be returned to their original positions to restore the buildings' original design.
For its part, Bergdorf's exterior is not in its original state either. The building was constructed on the site of the Vanderbilt Mansion, but the store did not initially occupy it in its entirety when it moved in in 1928 to the northern portion of the building with its entrance on 58th Street. The Fifth Avenue storefront was divided amongst several stores (as seen in the image below compared with its current state) which Bergdorf's progressively consumed, eventually taking over all of them by the early 1970s except for Van Cleef & Arpels which still exists on the first floor of the building's southeastern corner. What might keep the building from being landmarked is the major redesign of the Fifth Avenue side of the building which erased the disparate storefronts and installed a unified facade and introduced the big display windows we see there today. Unfortunately, the re-design reflects the post-modern architectural style that was popular at the time featuring outsized detailing free of the kind of refined, carved decoration found on the rest of the building. Now it looks glaringly out of scale particularly on the grand entrance with its arched window and oversized keystone and the large cartouche featuring the store's main sign.
The architectural inconsistency on it's biggest exterior wall might discourage the commission from landmarking the building, especially because the prospects of the store submitting to a restoration of the old facade are essentially nonexistent —if it were even feasible to do that at all. Of course, the commission could vote to landmark it regardless of any alterations because of Bergdorf Goodman's prominence in the city's history and its retail industry. We should know what happens by the end of the year, if not before.
Landmarks Commission Acts On Backlog Properties (NYC Landmarks Commission)
Even though retail has been tough for the past unseasonably warm season, one category seems to weather consumer glitches a bit better than most. The highest end jewelry and watches will always hold appeal in New York if not for the locals then for the endless stream of tourists that pass through the city at any given moment. We have already seen Bergdorf Goodman unveil a bigger, better precious jewelry salon, and just a few blocks down Fifth Avenue, a similar expansion is under way at Wempe, the city's most prestigious watch store.
You may be thinking that Tourneau is the leader in that category (and it's really a matter of opinion), but while the big T has more locations, more brands and generally more flash, Wempe is the one with the more concentrated focus on the most luxurious and exclusive watchmakers without all of those designer and mid-range, mass brands. While they have never tried to be all things to all people like their great competitor, they are about to get quite a bit bigger. It all came about last year when it came time to renegotiate its 15-year lease on the Fifth Avenue side of the Peninsula Hotel at 55th Street. Rather than getting the old rent-hike heave-ho that so many of its longtime neighbors —even major designers— have recently been faced with, Wempe was offered the opportunity to take over the Lindt Chocolate and Swarovski stores next door. Well, those guys got the heave-ho, obviously, but we're pretty sure they will be fine. Wempe will now be extending its red carpet to around 5,550 square ft. to transform itself into the newly dubbed Wempe XXL. Rather than broadening its assortments to fill all that new space, the store is expected to maintain its current lineup of watchmakers, but offer a greater depth of merchandise. That will mean more option for customers in search of the perfect Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and , of course, Rolex and the like. Look for the store to reveal its renovation sometime this summer, just in time to take advantage of summer tourist season, or, as we like to call them at the high end, non-local clients.
Though it appears to have converted the entire city to Stan Smith and Superstar devotees in the past year, sneaker giant Adidas has been playing a catch-up game on the retail front in New York City. Since Niketown landed on East 57th Street, its arch-rival has been carefully colonizing the city with a more exclusive Sportswear store, an even more exclusive appointment only Fitness studio and Nike Running stores around the city, along with various pop-ups when appropriate. Adidas, however has contented itself with an Originals store on Wooster Street (soon to move to new digs on Spring Street) and a brand flagship not far away at Broadway and Houston Street. Things will change, however, in about a year when, according to the Observer, the brand finally ventures north to Midtown to unveil a 34,000 square foot North American Flagship store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 46th Street. Once an HMV superstore (remember those?), and most recently a Build-a-Bear Workshop, the store will be twice the size of the current Broadway store across three floors, but more importantly, it will be better positioned to capture all that precious tourist traffic. It is projected to open in late 2016, by which time, the once moribund stretch of Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 49th Street will be even further along in its ongoing upgrade from second string location to a Varsity-level retail mix.
Adidas Nabs 34K-SF East Midtown Space for New North American Flagship (Commercial Observer)