MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

Madison Avenue Bookworm Edition

24CRITIC5-blog427It'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


UES UPGRADE:

Smythson To Class Up The Corner On Madison And 61st Street While DKNY Leaves The Block

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In case anyone thought that moderate contemporary brand Vince Camuto was a little bit downmarket for Madison Avenue, you were probably right. It looks like the brand has ditched the flagship across the street from Barneys that was once the home of the respectable Cole Haan, leaving it to the suitably exclusive Smythson of Bond Street. The prestigious British stationer and accessory purveyor will shortly be opening its new store there having relocated from the Crown Building on West 57th Street. Trading "across the street from Bergdorf's" for "across the street from Barneys" is probably something of an even swap, prestige-wise, and the windows on the corner of 667 Madison Avenue tell us that the new store will be open in March.
But isn't it a little bit snobby to suggest that department store mainstay Vince Cameo's premium line isn't up to snuff for Madison Avenue? After isn't DKNY just on the other corner of the block with chain store Ann Taylor just across 60th Street?
Not anymore.
As part of the brand's ever more radical-appearing revamp, DKNY has abandoned its three-level Madison Avenue showplace, the last vestige of Donna Karaon on the street, leaving its SoHo store on West Broadway as its primary flagship home. As you can barely see reflected in the photo of the shop door below, the large Ann Taylor store has also been emptied out and is available to lease. Now there are two rather sizable retail spaces available in particularly desirable locations waiting for some deep-pocketed companies to swoop in and install some new flagship-sized stores. Who will move in, or more to the point, how long will those stores sit empty before someone coughs up the dough to move in?
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TRIUMPHANT RETURN:

Sonia Rykiel Is Back On Madison Avenue With A Splash

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We see a lot of designer boutiques here at The Shophound, and they always have something in common. They are generally designed to be tasteful and neutral backgrounds for the rarefied products they display. They may use luxurious and even innovative materials and have specially designed details that elegantly express their brand's image, but, generally without the clothes, they are a blank.
Is always refreshing to see someone willing break that pattern which is what we encountered this morning at the just-opened Sonia Rykiel boutique on Madison Avenue. Rykiel, the Parisian designer with the unmistakable mane of flaming red hair whose soigné collections amassed a cult of devoted fans over the past several decades, has been absent from Madison for a few years now as her label underwent some transition including her own retirement and the installation of new creative director, Julie de Libran. Rather than remaking the company in a wildly different direction, de Libran has successfully given the brand a shot in the arm but still pays tribute to the house signatures like those familiar striped knits and fluffy, colorful furs. When it came time to return to Madison Avenue, rather than reverting to Rykiel's traditionally sedate black and cream design scheme, de Libran and the company went for bright red lacquered shelves and a bookstore/café theme that appears in the brand's other international locations and serves as a delightful alternative to the parade of self-conscious opulence that has come to characterize Madison Avenue. The walls of the 1,900 square foot shop that was most recently a short-lived Kent & Curwen boutique, have been almost entirely covered in bookshelves which have been duly packed with all manner of literature ready for your perusal —as long as you read French. There are even a few racy volumes waiting for more private examination in the dressing rooms. Matching red lacquered mannequins bring the clothes to life, and a whimsically designed carpet by artist André Saraïva underscores the upbeat ambiance. The "café" corner in the front (pictured after the jump) shows off the newest accessories including the new "Le Copain" mini-bag (only $490) in all its colorful permutations. In short, Rykiel's return to Madison Avenue is inviting and fun, especially on a gloomy winter morning. Of course, Sonia Rykiel is no second tier brand. The clothes hanging on the racks are as luxurious and costly as anyone else's on the street, but it's amazing how a coat of red paint and a little bit of humor can vanish that that sense of self-important preciousness that seems to glaze over so many designer brand palaces in New York. See for yourself starting today.

Sonia Rykiel now open at 816 Madison Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets, Upper East Side
Have a look at some more images of the store after the jump

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Image courtesy of Sonia Rykiel

Continue reading "TRIUMPHANT RETURN:

Sonia Rykiel Is Back On Madison Avenue With A Splash" »


MENSWEAR MOVES:

Brioni Is Heading To Madison Avenue This Fall Amidst A Men's Designer Shuffle

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It may have just lost its creative director, but that won't stop Brioni from opening it's newest store on Madison Avenue this Fall. It's not totally clear if this store is meant to be a replacement or an addition to the Roman-founded label's flagship on East 57th street, but it's certainly about time that the revered brand joins its colleagues and competitors like Isaia, Berluti, Ermenegildo Zegna and Cesare Attolini on New York's most luxury-concentrated shopping strip. Brioni will be taking the northern corner shop of the recently refurbished Carlton House at 62nd Street, just one block from Barneys. Presumably, the store will open with Brioni's Fall 2015 collection which was the last one directed by Brendan Mullane who added a more directional edge to the label's classic Italian tailoring. It may have been a little bit too directional as Mullane was dismissed last month while Ermenegildo Zegna also parted ways with its designer, Stefano Pilati. Rumors swirled that the designers' innovations, impressive though they may have been to critics, were neither resonating with the labels' existing, traditionally minded customers nor attracting enough new ones. Zegna managed to poach Alessandro Sartori, the designer who originally developed its Z Zegna collection, away from Berluti where he oversaw the merging of the artisanal shoe brand with the Parisian custom tailor Arnys to make a new men's luxury lifestyle brand. Sartori will now oversee all Zegna collections. Will Brioni, now owned by luxury conglomerate Kering, try again to find someone new to add some more youthful zing to its image and attract more fashion forward customers or fall back the impeccably hand tailored traditional clothing that has always been its stock in trade? Whatever it chooses, it will have a prime Madison Avenue location to display it.


NO, NOT LEFTIES:

Italian Contemporary Label Pinko Coming To Madison Avenue

PinkoSS16Generally, we would suggest that Pinko, derogatory midcentury slang for lefty communist sympathizers, would not be the best name for a contemporary women's apparel line, but we have all gotten used to a fashion line called Acne by now, so we suppose that all bets are off in that respect.
Anyway, Pinko (pictured at right), an Italian based sportswear chain is making what appears to be its U.S. debut on the north-western corner of Madison Avenue and 80th Street in the former home of a Comptoir des Cotonniers unit. The line, whose prices appear to be comparable to Sandro or Maje, has an abundance of stores throughout Europe, the U.K., the Middle East and China, but has not yet ventured into North America. The Commercial Observer tells us that its debut store will be roughly 1,000 square feet, and that's all we got fro now. No opening date has yet been set, nor have plans for further expansion been released, but the upper reaches of Madison Avenue right on the pedestrian route to the Metropolitan Museum should be fertile ground to launch this sort of brand in the vicinity of Vince, J.Crew, Nanette Lepore and their ilk. Stay tuned for more details.

Italian Women’s Fashion Brand Pinko Making Foray Into USA (Commercial Observer)


SHOE DEBUT:

Aquazzura's First U.S. Store Is Coming To Madison Avenue

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Fans of burgeoning Italian designer shoe label Aquazzura will be flocking this spring to the block that the Whitney Museum just vacated when the label debuts its first freestanding store in the United States. Currently under extensive renovation, the retail space in the row of townhouses just to the museum building's south will be the label's new home (as pictured in the rendering above). The Commercial Observer reports that the label, founded by former Ferragamo shoe designer Edgardo Osorio in 2011, will take 2,221 square feet including ground floor and basement space. While Madison Avenue's prime stretch has traditionally been thought to be between 57th and 72nd Streets, designers have been pushing northward for some time. The new boutique will fall between 74th and 75th Streets, and a Spring opening will coincide with the Metropolitan Museum taking over the museum building which will be known as the Met Breuer after its esteemed architect. More to the point, Aquazzura's shop will be in just about the same spot as Christian Louboutin's first New York store. You can now find those red-soled slippers a block or so to the north, but if the location works half as well for Aquazzura as it did for its acclaimed colleague, the label should easily break out of its insider-y niche status.

Italian Luxury Shoemaker Opening First U.S. Store in Manhattan (Commercial Observer)


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

More Than Goth On Madison Avenue Edition

29CRITICAL1-articleLarge-v2À propos of the days before Halloween, Critical Shopper Molly Young makes an excursion to the recently opened Givenchy boutique in today's Thursday Styles. Riccardo Tisci's version of Givenchy is offering possibly the darkest, witchiest vision in luxury fashion these days, and while it is frequently described as "Goth", it has really evolved into more of a moody, baroque aesthetic with tinges of mysticism. Our shopper seems to enjoy her visit noting that the gallery-like boutique seems to welcome all,

Givenchy is also a great place to encounter beauty, no matter what your tax bracket. Looking is free, after all. The salesmen are warm and offer coffee. You can stare at $22,000 velvet dresses and silk blouses with an all-over centaur print ($4,195). You can flip through books by Marina Abramovic.

It's the sort of successful brand statement that makes sense of the fashion in-joke of using competitor Donatello Versace as this season's campaign model, and given the dodgy job security of running a Parisian couture house these days, a strong brand image is Tisci's best form of employment insurance.

Critical Shopper: Givenchy on Madison Avenue Mixes Metaphors, Beautifully By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Givenchy 747 Madison Avenue at 65th Street, Upper East Side


JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

Fancy Feet Edition

17SHOPPER4-master180-v2Today's Thursday Styles brings us Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's visit to shoe guru Louis Leeman's new boutique on Madison Avenue. Before taking on Leeman's store, Caramanica takes the opportunity to assess the current craze for extremely expensive, highly embellished designer sneakers. The term sneaker is relative here, as none of these shoes are actually meant for real athletic activity, but then, most of the covetable instant sell-out Nikes that get customers to camp out on the sidewalk for days in advance will never see the floor of a basketball court either. Our Shopper is more amused than appalled, and he calls Leeman the love child of his Madison Avenue neighbors, combining the craftsmanship of John Lobb with the unbridled glitz of Giuseppe Zanotti.
Ultimately, this is what seems to flummox our shopper. We never really thought he would go on a spree there, but it turns out that, along with noticing some consistency problems, Caramanica finds that the Leemans he tries on are neither  flamboyant enough to be outrageous nor classic enough to be elegant.

Maybe it was the lighting — diffuse, soothing, slightly yellow — but in the mirror, they seemed almost dull

It turns out that on Madison Avenue, the middle of the road takes you nowhere.

Designer Louis Leeman Puts a Swagger in His Shoes By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Louis Leeman 793 Madison Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side


TRIUMPHANT RETURN:

Givenchy's New Madison Avenue Boutique Is Busy With Shoppers While Its NYFW Debut Invites The Public In

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It has taken nearly two years for the folks at Givenchy to transform the space at the corner of Madison Avenue and 65th Street into it's new flagship store (pictured above), and in that time, the space's former resident, Valentino has renovated a new multi-level store on Fifth Avenue as well as created a slightly smaller store on Madison, and Alexander McQueen has taken over the space next door which was also part of Valentino's boutique. 
Why it took Givenchy so long to get what is a sleek but not architecturally complex store open remains a mystery, but who can ever fully explain Manhattan construction delays? In the time since the store was announced, the Givenchy brand, which was just hitting its stride as a revived Haute Couture maison, has grown in stature almost exponentially. That is probably why on a muggy Monday afternoon on the last day of August, while most of the other stores in New York City were enduring the week-before-Labor-Day doldrums, the new Givenchy store was hopping with customers —and not "just looking" customers, but serious, buying customers.
Clearly, there is some pent-up demand for the Riccardo Tisci designed version of Givenchy that has been anticipating the arrival of the new boutique. The store is cleanly designed with a graphic black and white interior that sets of Tisci's often dark and graphic collections. Inspired by an art gallery (which is, frankly not a novel idea for a designer boutique in this day and age) the store's notable focal point is a group of high counters for accessories in the center of the store, neatly arrayed with handbags with their breathtaking prices noted beside them on the plank. The arrangement oddly recalls the original Helmut Lang boutique in SoHo which greeted visitors with similarly blocky displays, but these days, highlighting profit-making accessories is nothing novel. Apparel is relegated to the sides, and the men's line, another area of strong growth, is in the mezzanine upstairs in the back and set off by white glass-tiled walls.
The store is getting off to a strong start, and despite the fact that Barneys appears to carry about three times as much Givenchy merchandise a few blocks away, there remains a clear desire among some shoppers to buy in designers' own stores.
To celebrate the long awaited store, Tisci will take the unusual step of debuting the Spring 2016 Givenchy collection during New York Fashion Week on September 11th. While not unprecedented for a Parisian house to show in New York —Nicolas Ghesquière showed his Fall 2003 Balenciaga collection here to help promote the label's first U.S. boutique in Chelsea— it is a pretty rare occurrence that, this year, will help fill the void left by the unexpected departure of the Donna Karan Collection from the schedule. Creating even more excitement, the house announced today that it will distribute hundreds of tickets to the show to the public, another unusual move that is likely to set off just a touch of Wonka-like frenzy to get in as the date approaches. If it seems like Givenchy is hijacking New York Fashion Week, then you can feel confident that this is probably a one-time thing, but this season's fragmented Fashion Week can probably use the extra excitement as it tests out a new arrangement that spreads official shows between Moynihan Station in midtown and Skylight Clarkson Square in western SoHo.


RAPID EXPANSION:

Roland Mouret Is Already Moving To A Bigger Store On Madison Avenue

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Though it has only been open for less than a year, WWD tells us that Roland Mouret's flagship store on Madison Avenue is ready to move to a new space nearby that is nearly four times the size. The new store, a 5,250 square foot 6-floor townhouse at 1006 Madison (pictured above) is said to better reflect the feeling of Mouret's London boutique with 20 foot ceilings and multiple levels to house the designers' expanding array of product offerings. Located a block or so north of his current store at no. 925, the new space will still be within the section of Madison Avenue that is under extra scrutiny lately as it includes the newly opened Apple Store as well as the Whitney Museum's recently vacated Breuer Building that will soon become a satellite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even more foot traffic is expected to be directed above 72nd Street. Other neighbors include Christian Louboutin, Missoni, and the Carlyle and Mark hotels, making the former home to the Peress Lingerie boutique something of a sleeper location waiting for a better use. There's no word on when the store will be ready to move, in fact, new os the lease comes not from Mouret but the owner of the building, Thor Equities. For the moment, expect Roland Mouret to stay right where it is for at least another season or two while its expansive new home undergoes what is expected to be some major renovations.

Roland Mouret Flagship to Quadruple in Size (WWD)