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?
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.
We have known for months that Apple was planning a major renovation for its busiest 24-hour flagship store on Fifth Avenue, but now comes word that the refresh will include a doubling of the store's size from 32,000 to over 77,000 square feet —and it's going to take a while. Apple's current store incorporates what was once a below-grade open-air plaza in front of 767 Fifth Avenue, better known as the General Motors Building. one presumes that the renovation will capture basement, or possibly sub-basement space that is beneath the GM Building itself, which should be an elaborate feat. None of the changes are expected to be visible from the street, and the view of the signature "Cube" entrance should remain unchanged. As earlier reported, Apple will be temporarily taking over a substantial part of the former FAO Schwarz store in the GM Building along West 58th Street (pictured above) while renovations proceed, but it is expected to be there until well into 2018, meaning that it will be a while before the space's next designated tenant, Under Armour, is able able to take over and build out its own store.
It's hard to know it Nike deliberately chose the day Adidas opened its shiny new brand palace to make the announcement, but yesterday the sneaker giant announced that its long search for a follow up to its 57th Street Niketown store is over. The new Nike store will eventually open in a whopping 70,000 square feet at 650 Fifth Avenue in a space that includes not only the building's entire previous retail component, but some extra office floors that will be converted as well to make a seven-floor superstore. Essentially it will be a Nike department store on Fifth Avenue.
It has not been announced that Niketown will be closing at the end of its lease which has been extended to 2022 while the company continued to search for its successor space, but it is hard to imagine even Nike sustaining two large flagships in such close proximity. Nike execs have also been candid that the once innovative design of that store has aged, and needs to be updated in favor of the more open format of the recently unveiled Nike SoHo store (pictured above). Look for the brand to expand on the concepts in that store including areas for customers to try out athletic gear on the selling floor in basketball and soccer cages, a concept also appearing at Adidas' new flagship. In any event, there may be little overlap between the unveiling of Nike's new store and the old Niketown. It will take some time to gut and rebuild the retail space at 650 Fifth which for the past couple of decades has been the home to several brands formerly owned by Liz Claiborne including the namesake labels, Mexx and, most recently, Juicy Couture. It has been one of Fifth Avenue's biggest white elephants, having stood empty for the past couple of years except for housing a few brief pop-up stores. It is likely that Nike will institute a major redesign of the late 1970s-era facade on the lower levels to create a more imposing brand signature. That could take a while, so while Nike's new store is definitely something to look forward to, it will probably be a something of a wait to see it come to fruition.
Forget about politics. They are too nauseating to follow right now anyway. Lets talk about something really important: sneakers.
There has been a bit of retail activity regarding the perennial rivalry between Adidas and Nike. A couple of months ago, Adidas debuted its newly updated Adidas Originals store on Spring Street in SoHo featuring its burgeoning fashion line including heritage models and collaboration collections. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Nike opened its follow up to the Niketown retail concept when the new Nike SoHo store at Broadway and Spring Street finally opened after a weeklong halt and neighborhood and city government protests. Not to be outdone, Adidas is opening its largest New York store ever today on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 46th street (pictured above) . At over 45,000 square feet, the four level superstore featuring every single product category the brand offers in a high-school stadium-inspired store —if, that is, your high school stadium consisted of concrete and chain link fencing.
The industrial look, however makes an excellent backdrop for the brand's sprawling product lines. At the press preview on Tuesday night, most of the action migrated to the top floor which was devoted to an even larger presentation of the Originals division featuring, at the center, the city's first miadidas Studio (above) allowing customers to create their own versions of Originals styles. Other exclusives include the print shop on the men's athletic level in the basement, treadmills and turf cages for customers to test out products right in the store, along with refreshment kiosks, concierge services and same-day hotel delivery. The gleaming new store is poised to make the most of New York's teeming hordes of tourists who should be devouring new product as you read this, but it is also a chance for Adidas to even the scales a bit with its main rival. In midtown, where Niketown made an innovative statement in the mid '90s, Adidas is now challenging with a huge flagship of its own, and a newer one as even Nike execs have recently admitted that the high-school gymnasium concept at the 57th street store has gotten tired, and the atrium centered store layout is difficult to navigate. Look for a new Niketown announcement soon, however as the store known to be looking for a new location. In other parts of the city, however, Nike still has an edge with Nike Running shops in Flatiron and on the Upper East Side, but in SoHo, the brands are in a head to head battle. Adidas' Houston and Broadway flagship (currently undergoing a revamp) and Originals stores are now being challenged by the correspondingly edgy NikeLab store on Mercer Street and the New Nike SoHo flagship, now giving both companies a strong foothold to fight for those precious sneaker loving customers. Must we speak of these two brands as if they are in an endless pitched battle for market dominance? Well, probably not. After all some of us mix Adidas and Nike in our sneaker wardrobes, even with the occasional dash of Puma. The upshot is we now have a suddenly dramatic increase in the offerings from both of these sneaker giants, so go get yourselves some new sneakers.
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.