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.
It'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.
Today's Thursday Styles features steady Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's take on the beginning of the retail cavalcade that has descended upon the neighborhood immediately surrounding the World Trade Center's memorial as well as its re-imagining still under construction.
And he's finding it all a bit jarring.
Rather than focusing on just one store, he takes on the entirety of the Brookfield Place luxury mall featuring fresh new outposts from Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bottega Veneta an more among its roster of international status brands. Our shopper's overall thesis this week is that we shop to forget —to anesthetize ourselves against the adversity we encounter in life. In this case, he is obviously making a reference to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 which haunts the financial district in general, and he is really giving in to the ghosts. Of the mall he says, "It is a testament to the resilience of our real estate developers, if not our national mood. Here, at the heart of the city’s suffering, we are being told to shop: To spend is to be healed."
Perhaps we are somehow protesting the specter of international terrorism down town with the kind of luxury and profligate consumption specifically abhorred by our jihadist enemies, but hey, it's New York. We're just being ourselves. By that token, we could argue that the city's sprawling shopping culture exists to distract us from so many of the more disturbing aspects of our city. After all, it's not that we have seen a homeless person or two on Fifth Avenue, but that any city resident has encountered so many in every neighborhood no matter how tony it may be, not to mention everywhere in the public transit system.
But back to today's column, where our shopper has faintly admiring words for the just opened Gucci shop at Brookfield Place. It is the first New York example of the label's new creative director Alessandro Michele's re-imagined retail format for the brand. It's not all that different from the old format which features lots of handbags up front with lots of logos and red and green striped webbing. It's a respectable update that nicely shows off Michele's relentlessly eclectic, dressed-in-the-dark Resort collection, but The Shophound has to admit that we have had a lot harder time working up enthusiasm for a designer who thinks that putting a high, chunky heel on a gold leather version of you grandmother's house slippers makes than somehow appealing.
It does not.
Caramanaica calls the lineup of stores at Brookfield Place "shrug worthy" and it's true in the sense that it appears to includes not a single boutique that doesn't exist somewhere else in Manhattan in a larger and more comprehensive version. Perhaps it is the relentless retail drumbeat of the Holiday Shopping season combined with this year's weirdly balmy Holiday Season that has put his mood off, but still, he doesn't leave empty-handed. Our shopper remembers his professional purpose and picks up a smart overcoat at nearly 60% off from Club Monaco along with a bracing scented candle from Nest.
They all smelled the same until finally I landed on one — Sicilian tangerine — that was almost acidic. It had bite, the scent creeping up my nostrils and scraping away. Instinctively, I winced, but at the same time began to salivate. For a moment, death felt far away.
It's tough to stay down on shopping when it is an explicit part of one's work assignment. The choices are to rally or resign, but everyone is entitled to a case of the Holiday Blues once in a while. Like the neighborhood around Ground Zero, however, one eventually has to pick oneself up and carry on.
After a casual announcement that it was in the works earlier this Fall, it now appears that Saks Fifth Avenue's freestanding Men's store will land at 250 Vesey Street (pictured at right), not far from the full-line store in Brookfield Place that is scheduled to open this Summer.
The New York Post reports that the retailer has taken the space that was thought to be allocated to French chef Joël Robuchon for a gourmet restaurant and market. Perhaps it was decided that one French culinary hall, Brookfield's Le District, was enough for the area. Saks will reportedly be taking 16,750 square-feet on the second floor of what was originally called 4 World Financial Center which includes all of Robuchon's space plus an additional 4,000 square feet. The space overlooks the Battery Park City marina which will be a nice view for the store currently expected to open in March of 2017. Included with the larger full-line Women's store and an upcoming Off 5th unit on the other side of the World Trade Center complex at One Liberty Plaza, Saks will have an impressive presence in the Financial District, a neighborhood whose potency as a major shopping destination still has yet to be proved.
Like many bits of retail news, the announcement that Saks Fifth Avenue will open a stand-alone Men's Store in Downtown Manhattan was casually dropped as an aside in a news article concerning larger business issues. In a New York Times profile of Saks CEO Marc Metrick that ran over the weekend, the plan for a men's store was revealed in a discussion of Metrick's ambitious overall scheme for the department store in New York City.
"Saks. . . is opening a second store in Manhattan, at Brookfield Place in the fast-growing financial district, and will follow with a third location, a men’s-only store, also downtown."
That's all we know so far.
Stand-alone men's store.
It's not totally surprising. Saks has a few freestanding men's only stores in the chain which tend to exist when a longtime full-line store nearby needs more room for women's apparel and an appropriate real estate opportunity makes itself available. In Beverly Hills, Saks took over the former I.Magnin store a few steps away from its Wilshire Boulevard flagship for a men's store in the 1990s (pictured above). In Washington DC, the chain opened a men's satellite in a former Filene's Basement space on Wisconsin Avenue that had originally been a Raleigh's men's store when expansion of its decades-old Chevy Chase store a few blocks away was nixed by local zoning boards. The difference here is that a men's store will be presumably built without having been gestated as a department within a full line Saks store and being spun off for more selling space. We know that Saks is coming to Brookfield Place next year with a new concept store currently under construction. Will the proposed men's store be a nearby counterpart in a neighborhood that, due to its business center heritage has traditionally been more welcoming to menswear retailing anyway? It seems plausible. Saks' two men's floors at the Fifth Avenue flagship certainly encompass enough square feet and merchandise to constitute a sizable stand-alone store by themselves, so the merchandising part of the store is mostly covered. The main questions here are where and when?
The Financial District remains a pull for retailers looking to expand in Manhattan, and Brookfield Place is confirming its position as the headquarters for luxury stores with the addition of a new Hickey Freeman boutique slated to open in January next to the upcoming Saks Fifth Avenue store. Commercial Observer is reporting that the fabled men's tailored clothing label has signed a 10-year leaser the 974 square foot store. While Brookfield place has collected an unprecedented group of luxury retailers for the neighborhood together, Hickey Freeman is the kind of merchant —traditional men's clothing— that has always found a home in lower Manhattan with its concentration of office buildings full of men in suits. While its last downtown store was a SoHo outpost for its erstwhile younger label, Hickey, the suit maker has had a rocky run over the past several years, with trouble at its parent companies and changes in ownership and creative direction that stalled its momentum. Things seem to have settled down now, and the brand tapped David Hart, one of GQ's Best New Menswear Designers for 2015, as its creative director earlier this year. The downtown store will be the brand's first under Hart's direction, so it should be a good hint of how a once stodgy suit maker will move forward into the future.
Hickey Freeman Dressing Up Lower Manhattan Dudes With New Store (Commercial Observer)
Belgians Ann Demeulemeester & Haider Ackermann Team Up for An Exclusive Sale This Monday
Like we said, breaking Sample Sale news is coming hard and fast right now.
This time it's from Belgium buy way of FiDi.
C21-Edition at Century 21's next exclusive sale will from two of the labels most coveted by fans of Belgian fashion. Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackerman are having a special two-day "Friends & Family Shopping Event" starting on Monday the 11th, so if you haven't spent everything at the last-minute Marc Jacobs sale, here's another one to save some cash for. So far, few other details have been disclosed, so we are presuming that the sale will include both designers' men's and women's collections as well as shoes and accessories. Which seasons will be included remains to be seen, but we do know that an RSVP is required according to the notices, so click HERE to send an email to get yourself on the list. We don't know if it is totally necessary, but it can't hurt. Last week's similarly short and exclusive Nicholas Kirkwood sale was extended for several days, but, again, there's no way of knowing how this now will be handled.
See our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for more details, and stay tuned for more late-breaking sales.
Downtown is happening.
The Financial District is a retail gold mine that has been woefully untapped, and when an unprecedented concentration of luxury stores around the World Trade Center opens up, rich people with money burning holed in their pockets will flock to the new mall full of coveted designer brand.
But not this week.
We must make it clear that The Shophound roots for retail projects to succeed, however pie-eyed they may seem. We don't like to see stores fail. It's depressing, so we are as hopeful as anyone that the extremely ambitious retail plan for the World Trade Center area succeeds, but if it happens, it won't happen overnight.
Since yesterday was the official opening day for the retail section that Brookfield Place created out of the old World Financial Center, The Shophound decided that it was as good a time as any to see what they had made out of it —which leads to obstacle #1: Getting in there.
Unlike most most Manhattan shopping areas, you can't just stroll up to Brookfield place at the moment, at least not from the street. In fact it is easier to access the complex that includes the shopping section, the Hudson Eats food hall/court and the about to open Le District French-centric food hall if you are strolling along the Hudson River Park promenade. The entrances from West Street remain blockaded for long stretches that include the shopping center's main entrance. Even marked crosswalks are closed off, so the most direct way to get inside of the place is to backtrack two blocks east to the PATH train entrance at Greenwich and Vesey Streets and walk the length of the Santiago Calatrava Occulus structure underground to re-emerge at street level inside Brookfield Place. This is annoying but temporary, but it emphasizes the fact that Brookfield place will remain inconvenient to enter even for local shoppers for a little while.
Once inside, however there was no abundance of shoppers on opening day. Crowds were sparse on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, which made it the perfect time to finally grab an Umami Burger up in Hudson Eats without enduring a long line. Of course, not all the stores are ready, and the big luxury names, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Ferragamo and others, are still gestating under plywood. Only about half the stores opened yesterday including bright and spacious new versions familiar shops like J.Crew, Vince, Theory, Bonobos and Diane von Furstenberg. Paul Smith was celebrating a lovely new store with Champagne, macarons and other sweets for all visitors, but, sadly, as with the other shops, earnest salespeople easily outnumbered customers, and we got the impression that this might be the case for some time to come. Many of the customers looked like they probably worked in the complex of buildings surrounding the shops, in shirtsleeves, unencumbered by coats, and probably taking a long awaited look through at the tail end of their lunch hours. That's a good thing. Part of the retail strategy there is to take advantage of the well paid working folk in the area as a captive customer base, but they may or may not be enough to support a mini-Madison Avenue, and it is basically the same sort of group that was there when the World Financial Center opened about 25 years ago. That turned out to be something of a disappointment. Retailers in the newer, reconfigured space will have to be content with a sort of time-release excitement that will hopefully bring more traffic over the course of coming year. Patience and deep pockets will be required because the immediate WTC are is still knee deep in construction which is unappealing to luxury shoppers who frankly don't need to go down there to get anything the mall has to offer. And the neighborhood tourists did not seem to be the sort of folks who would keep such a high-end collection of stores humming. We did not see a single store at Brookfield Place, open or upcoming, that wasn't already represented elsewhere in Manhattan at least once, and in most cases, several times over. In fact most of them are also open not far away in SoHo. It will be a challenge to convince most New Yorkers that they need to come to the Financial District to shop in a mall for things that are easily found in more charming New York-y shopping neighborhoods. And that's part of the challenge. It's a mall.
Nobody comes to Manhattan to shop in a mall, and successes like Columbus Circle are carefully tailored to the local neighborhood.
You can drive to Short Hills for a luxury mall, and, frankly, it's more exciting to stroll along Madison Avenue if you want to go to Hermès and Gucci and Bottega Veneta. There is nothing in Brookfield Place yet that you can't find anywhere else in Manhattan, which puts a lot of pressure on Le District to deliver on its promise. What is being touted as a "French Eataly" is opening a few sections today, most of the others by next Wednesday and is expected to be completely finished by May. It is the one thing there that hasn't been seen before elsewhere, and there is real excitement around it. Wealthy New Yorkers will go out of their way for a new food experience, and if Le District can keep them coming back, it will help the entire complex. Saks Fifth Avenue will probably not be open in Brookfield Place for at least a year, and the World Trade Center's retail projects look to be at least that far off, so if this area is destined to become the luxury retail mecca that real estate industry flacks are breathlessly touting, it's going to take a couple of years to build up to at the very least. We hope that everyone who opened to day can stick it out. We want to see them win in the end, but ravenous luxury shoppers who are expected to make Brookfield Place a success did not show up yesterday.
So this week's Ferragamo Sample Sale was no fluke.
The lavish C21-Edition vintage luxury accessory shop (pictured above) at Century 21's FiDi flagship may have been a little bit too ambitious of a concept for the longtime off-pricer pricer despite its recent refurbishment and upgrades. That's OK, because a new use for the space sees to be emerging and it's one we can never have too much of. Yesterday it was announced that the popular beyond reason Diptyque sample sale, one that has appeared to be missing from the current season's lineup, will indeed take place there next Wednesday through Friday, making it the second sample sale there in as many weeks. Get ready. We all love a nicely scented candle, but this sale traditionally brings out aggressive volume shoppers who have been known to pick the offerings clean within hours, let alone three days.
It's good timing for the Sample Sale world. 260 Sample Sale, Diptyque's former venue went gangbusters last year with three venues between its original Fifth Avenue site, a smaller one a few blocks downtown, and spacious one on Wooster Street that were consistently busy with major sales. For whatever reason, 260 Sample Sale is currently working only with its single original space, which means that many of its regular clients will need alternative arrangements to maintain their schedule. Enter C21-Edition, an unconventional, bi-level space (complete with an elevator) that served nicely for Ferragamo's last-minute sale and will host Diptyque next week.
There's no word on future sales scheduled at the space, but it looks like seasoned shoppers should get used to the idea of adding the corner of Dey and Church Street to their sale map.
See the SALE ROLL at left for the Dyptique sale details.
With a major Midtown flagship on the way in a few years and Rack stores popping up in a few boroughs, WWD tells us today that Nordstrom is still looking for a spot for a second full line store in New York City. And where are they looking?
Big surprise, right?
Speculation centers around several Lower Manhattan sites ranging from spaces on Wall Street to the Howard Hughes Corporation's complete renovation of Pier 17. None of the potential spaces are perfect slam dunks. They will all take some serious negotiations, and Nordstrom, as we have seen from the previous rounds of rumors regarding the store that will eventually open around the corner of Broadway and 57th Street, will kick a lot of tires before they make a final decision. They are extremely picky about location (as they should be) and, in most cases, insist on building their stores from the ground up which will be extremely difficult if not impossible in the landmark-laden financial District. The World Trade Center retail spaces are said to be too small to accommodate the 230 square foot flagship sized store that the Seattle-based chain is looking to construct, even though space might have freed up now that the much rumored talks to sign luxury stores from Tiffany, Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani boutiques are now rumored to have stalled due to their potential proximity to both Century 21 and the upcoming Saks Off-Fifth. Pier 17 would be a dramatic spot that would allow the chain's preferred construction requirements, but it is the site of a previous retail project that was a colossal failure. Saks has taken the largest space in Brookfield Place, and that store is only going to be 85,000 square feet, a little more than a third of the size of the presumed Nordstrom store. That leaves other buildings around the area that may or may not fit Nordstrom's bill. We don't expect the chain to settle on a space anytime soon, but keep in mind that when Nordstrom wants to put a store somewhere, they eventually find a way to do it, so add another great big department store to the list of openings before the end of this decade. That makes one new Barneys, one Neiman Marcus, one new Saks Fifth Avenue and now, two Nordstroms coming to Manhattan.
Five big stores.
Let's just hope people keep spending.