While some shoppers are counting down the last few days before Chelsea's new Barneys opens, others are keeping their eyes on Midtown where an opening date has been set for New York City's first Saks Off 5th location. Eyebrows were raised when it was announced only a few months ago that the luxury department store's outlet chain would open right in the middle of full-price territory on East 57th Street, a mere seven blocks uptown from the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship at 50th and Fifth. Now we have learned that not only will the store will open on Thursday March 3rd, but it will contain the first of what is expected to be several in-store Gilt boutiques in Off 5th locations (rendering pictured above). WWD reports that the 1,000-square-foot boutique will be situated at the landing of the first escalator in the two-level, 47,333-square-foot underground store. The shop will include "Gilt by Appointment" services and will mirror the sites online events. New merchandise that is released online at 12 noon will also be unveiled at the store just in time for lunch-hour shopping. Off 5th will also accept returns of online purchases in the store but is not yet ready to facilitate in-store pick-up of online purchases.
The new shop is one of the results of Saks parent company The Hudson's Bay Company's recent purchase of Gilt. While Off 5th and the online retailer will begin to be marketed in tandem, they will continue to maintain separate buying and merchandising personnel to differentiate the more luxury minded site from the broader assortments at Off 5th. We will be able to see how well the new siblings play with each other in just over 3 weeks when the new store opens at 125 East 57th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. It's worth noting that in our rather extensive experience, off-price stores like this one tend to be packed with exceptionally good bargains at the grand opening, so first-day shopping is always recommended.
As any New Yorker knows, shopping in Midtown between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a trial. The combination of Holiday shoppers and high season tourists can make simply walking up Fifth Avenue a sidewalk-rage inducing experience. Of course, finding quieter, out of the way places to shop can be its own challenge, but the curated men's lifestyle website TRNK and the sophisticated menswear label Bespoken have joined forces for a Holiday pop-up shop that will solve thee problems and make you never want to set foot into a department store again. . . at least for a while anyway.
Part of the reason why the shop is such a pleasure is that it is discreetly tucked away at the Bespoken showroom on the seventh floor of the East 57th Street building that houses its related brand, Turnbull & Asser (Bespoken co-founders Sammy and Liam Fayed's father Ali Al-Fayed has owned Turnbull & Asser for the past three decades or so). Discreetly but not inconveniently tucked away away from the bustle below, the showroom has been transformed by TRNK's co-founders Tariq Dixon and Nick Nemechek into a cozy lounge where everything is for sale combining the best gift picks from their Holiday offerings and the Bespoken line. That sleek walnut and brass bar cart can be yours for a mere $1,650, but not everything extends into the four-figure realm. There are cleverly designed desk accessories, wool throws, barware and even the rugs can be yours. Everything is skillfully chosen to complement the Bespoken clothes on display including sumptuous sweaters, knitted cashmere caps and a particularly appealing shirt in lofty brushed cotton with high-tech taped seams. The shop will be open to the public through Christmas and private appointments can scheduled by email or by phone. Of course, if you can't make it in, most of the merchandise can be purchased through the companies respective websites as well.
See a closer look at the shop after the jump
Honestly, we didn't plan to be spending so much time on Saks today, but news is news and the New York Post is reporting that Saks Off 5th, the chain's off-price division, has signed a lease to take over the former Daffy's space at 135 East 57th street between Park and Lexington Avenues. This is significant not only because it will be Saks' second Off 5th store in Manhattan, once considered off limits to the luxury department store's discount division, but because it comes perilously close to the midtown luxury shopping district on Fifth and Madison Avenues. In fact, the new store will only be about a 20 minute walk from the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship at 49th and Fifth and a mere two blocks from Bloomingdale's. Saks has already announced its first Off 5th Manhattan store opening next year at 1 Liberty Place in the Financial District.
While the Post has no confirmation on the specific size of the lease, it reports that the former Daffy's store was estimated at 60,000 square feet and the store is expected to open sometime next Spring. The three level space includes some street level selling area with most floor space on two concourse levels below. Landlord Charles S. Cohen reportedly held out for three years to sign a tenant that met his requirements which on the one hand demonstrates a tenacious resolve, but on the other, represents a growing problem in Manhattan and other cities where prominent, high priced retail spaces sit empty for months and years on end while landlords wait for deep pockets tenants which may never materialize, creating rent blighted stretches of storefronts in otherwise upscale and thriving neighborhoods.
Anyway, that's all the Saks news we have today. . . until something else pops up.
Well it is turning out to be a bonanza of a sample sale week for stylish gentlemen of New York. We just heard about the KENT & CURWEN sale a few days ago, and knowing that the British label just decided to abandon its revamp plans in favor of a completely new direction in collaboration with soccer legend David Beckham, we thought that this might be an interesting opportunity.
In fact, it's more like a fire sale.
For the past few seasons, Kent & Curwen has already been undergoing a revision under British born, New York based designer Simon Spurr, whose own much admired label collapsed after he was separated from it in 2012. Spurr's collections for Kent & Curwen showed him in fine form with all of his strengths as a designer on display; sleek tailoring, inventively engineered knitwear, and superlative outerwear. The brand and its owner were apparently so confident in his creative direction that they leased an expansive flagship boutique on Madison Avenue last year to show it off. The label found its way into Bloomingdale's and Sals Fifth Avenue, both stores who carried Spurr's label previously, and things seemed to be going well until, after barely a year in business, the Madison Avenue store quietly shuttered over the summer, and the label's Fall 2015 collection was mysteriously absent from any men's fashion week, only to be unveiled late in a muted presentation. It was not so much of a surprise, then, when the company announced its new Beckham partnership with great fanfare a couple of weeks ago indicating that Spurr had left the brand.
But back to the sale. We asked one of the Kent & Curwen staffers there if they were clearing out of the Spurr-designed product to make room for the new Beckham lines and she said that, in fact, the merchandise was actually meant to be stocked in the Madison Avenue store that no longer exists, so, for the most part, it is all Fall 2015 merchandise in classic Simon Spurr stye —and it is a all a bargain. We are talking $15 neckties and $60 sweaters —$90 for $500 - $600 cashmeres— and $1,500 suits for $395. We found boxes of soft cashmere scarves for $30 each. And there's tons of everything, including Leather outerwear for that retailed for up to $2,000 for a mere $395 —and few designers know their way around a leather jacket like Simon Spurr (a full price list is posted after the jump). There are stacks of dress shirts and racks of slim trousers, with more merchandise rolling in as we shopped.
The only drawback is that to enter the sale, one must go to Trump Tower.
Yes, that Trump Tower.
While we are loath to have anything to do with anything Trump or Trump-adjacent, it is worth braving the pink marble atrium. You will have to go through the attendant at the elevators just to the left of the building's Fifth Avenue entrance, and visitors will be personally escorted up to the 14th floor by a doorman, which, all things considered, is a perfectly reasonable security precaution at the moment. The sale is in a raw, recently gutted space that is divided into a small first room with casual items and accessories, and a larger back room full of tailored clothing, outerwear, shirts, ties and more of everything. Apparently the sale had been going on since this past Monday before we internet folk got wind of it, and it will continue on weekdays only through Friday the 9th, assuming that there is enough merchandise to keep it going. Even if you aren't a Simon Spurr fan, it is still a great opportunity to refresh you fall wardrobe with some smart, sophisticated clothes at a fraction of their retail price tags. Don't dawdle.
As usual, all details can be found in our SALE ROLL at left which is worth keeping an eye on these days as unexpected sales have been popping up all over the place.
See a price list after the jump
At this point, several announcements about major renovations for the enormous Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store have come and gone with little actual activity, often because top management has changed faster than they have been able to implement the ever more elaborate and expensive renewal projects. The most recent one came earlier this year when then president Marigay McKee presented plans which included a series of bi-level designer lifestyle boutiques that would ring the main floor and extend up to the second level creating what we could only imagine to be a construction nightmare that wouldn't actually solve the store's pressing merchandising problems. McKee's noisy but brief tenure as Saks president ended shortly after that announcement, and the plans were apparently scuttled.
Today, WWD reports that current Saks President Mark Metrick has announced a new 3-year $250 million renovation plan that is even more radical, shuffling floors and adding a lower concourse level and even a dramatic new elevator. Ordinarily we would simply sigh and say, "We'll believe it when we see it," but now that Saks appears to have settled more comfortably as a division of Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, we have a feeling that this plan, or at least parts of it, will stick. Here are some of the main points of what will ultimately be a startling shakeup of every floor in the store.
Handbags and Accessories will take over the entire main floor.
One of Saks' longtime merchandising struggles on Fifth Avenue has been an epic fight for space on the main floor of the original building between cosmetics and handbags. Despite the enormous amount of floor space, there has never been enough room for retail's two most profitable categories to coexist peacefully there along with jewelry, and it would appear that cosmetics has won, taking over almost all of the floor space, and pushing accessories to a series of in-store shops around the store's perimeter and an undersized multi-brand handbag section crammed into the escalator atrium. This forced handbag customers to not only shop in a cumbersome ring around the huge main floor, but also to have to contend with aggressive makeup reps while buying purses.
In a reversal, Accessories have now gained the upper hand, and will not only take over the front of the main floor, but also the Swiss Tower sections behind the escalators currently occupied by jewelry. That department will be divided between the new concourse level downstairs to be called "The Vault" for precious gems and watches and part of the tower section of the second floor which presumably will house semiprecious baubles. It's a big change that will not only make it easier to sell those high-margin accessories, but should also mollify some important luxury brands without their own in-store shops who could not have been happy with the puny accessory area around the escalator atrium. This means that...
Cosmetics will move to the second floor.
Competitors Bergdorf's and Barneys have previously solved space problems by creating expansive makeup deportments in luxuriously renovated basements, but Saks will twist that scheme by moving it upstairs instead for 53% more space. The second floor at Saks is currently dedicated to more separates-oriented women's designer collections (they used to call it Designer Sportswear), but the section in the front of the store hasn't seen a major renovation since the 1970s, which is when the dramatic wooden superstructure you see there now was installed. Presumably, it will finally be cleared out. How will Saks keep what must be one of the biggest cosmetics departments in the world humming without the main floor foot traffic? A new glass elevator with a 23-foot staircase spiraling around it as well as an additional escalator will be installed in the center of the main floor to ferry customers up to two and down to the new jewelry concourse. Having cosmetics on two will trade the main floor's hectic —and extremely loud— ambiance for a more relaxing environment that will encourage customers to buy more. It will also save store visitors from having to brave battalions of fragrance models on their way to the upper floors, which is a win for everybody
Women's apparel will shrink from four to three floors.
With cosmetics moving up, women's wear will lose an entire floor, but the entire women's departments are being re-imagined. No longer to be stratified by price between the second and fifth floors, women's departments will now be arranged by lifestyle, with varying price points and different designer collections on every floor between 3 and 5. In addition, a new department call "The Ballroom" will be created on the 9th floor devoted only to eveningwear including shoes, handbags and jewelry. Bridal will also be included on the floor as well.
While Men's will remain on 6 and 7, it too will be rearranged with more of a lifestyle point of view, and other departments will be tweaked and moved around. The plan is one of the most elaborate store renovation plans we have seen, but, assuming it is fully carried out, it will give Saks some long overdue changes and updates. Don't get too anxious to see the results, however. It is not projected to be completed until 2018. In the meantime, there will be much construction disrupting the store, but when it is finished, it should result in a state-of-the-art ready to do battle just as fierce competitor Nordstrom sails into town.
As an example of how the bewildering PR system at H&M sometimes works, let us remember about six weeks ago when it was officially announced that the popular contemporary chain COS would be opening its second U.S. store on Fifth Avenue in part of the space on the northeast corner of 42nd Street that had been quietly abandoned by H&M, its parent company. What would take the rest of the space, we all wondered?
Well, no official announcement appears to have been made other than big sign in the window telling us that the other budding chain from H&M, & Other Stories, will be joining its sister for its second store in New York —and the entire U.S, for that matter.
We won't have to wait too long for the trendy chain's expansion. What must be a pretty firm opening date of October 30th is clearly included in the window, which makes this scenario a striking mirror of the stores' arrivals in SoHo when the more sophisticated COS was the first to be announced, but lagged months behind & Other Stories in actually opening to the public. On Fifth Avenue, COS is still "opening soon" which could mean this Fall, Christmastime, next Spring or just when they are damn good and ready.
We aren't complaining. We'll take more COS anytime whenever they want to give it to us, but now we know for sure that both of H&M's up and coming nameplates are on the road to expansion in New York and beyond. If the new stores are as well received in Midtown as they have been in SoHo, you can bet that there will be more of both coming your way soon.
While we don't yet know what will ultimately become of the FAO Schwarz retail space in the GM Building after the iconic toy store moves out on July 15th, we now know that the next immediate tenant will be the Apple Store which is reportedly taking over the place while its main flagship store underneath the plaza in front of the building undergoes an extensive renovation. The news was disclosed by Apple retail chief, senior vice president Angela Ahrendts to the Associated Press in an interview promoting the company's newest outlet set to open tomorrow on Madison Avenue. Though that new store will contain the company's signature minimalist wooden tables and fixtures, the building around it is reported to be a meticulous restoration of the former U.S. Mortgage & Trust building which will include chandeliers re-produced from vintage photographs and the original vault converted into a private shopping area —fitting for the store located in the neighborhood most conducive for selling the pricey golden AppleWatch Edition.
But back to Fifth Avenue. The famous store with the "cube" is included among the roughly 20 U.S. Apple Stores set for major renovation as they have outgrown their spaces since the introduction of the iPhone and other new products that have transformed the company's offerings. Exactly when the Fifth Avenue store's renovation will begin or how long it will take is unclear, though it is likely to start as soon as the FAO Schwarz space can be converted to Apple's temporary requirements. When that happens, the GM Building's Fifth Avenue retail spaces will be entirely devoted to temporary stores with Cartier on the northern corner, waiting for its own flagship a few blocks downtown to finish its extensive revamp, and Apple on the southern side. While the famous "cube" entrance is expected to remain, it sounds like the rest of the store will be dramatically updated. Whether or not the temporary store will maintain the flagship's 24-hour schedule is also unknown at the moment, but Apple is uniquely fortunate to be able to take over a large high profile location only steps away so it can continue doing business at it's highest volume retail outlet without any interruption.
In Today's Thursday Styles, our Critical Shopper menswear specialist Jon Caramanica expresses his disappointment with Joseph Abboud's first New York boutique on the corner of 49th Street and Madison Avenue. Essentially, he has pegged Abboud as a purveyor of the tastefully bland, contrasted with our shopper's continuing affection for what sounds like a typically flashy V2 Versace Classic suit from the late '90s purchased post-college in service of indeterminate career goals.
This is a vaguely Kaczynski-esque reminiscence with tenuous relevance, but it does suggest that our shopper does not remember that there was a time when Joseph Abboud was America's hottest new menswear designer, a GQ favorite with an in-store shop in Bergdorf Goodman's men's department (in both the original version and in the new Men's Store). At that moment, he was on the forefront of cross-pollinating American classic style with Italian sprezzatura before most men had even attempted to pronounce the name Ermenegildo Zegna, and labels like Isaia and Kiton were yet to be discovered. Eventually a partnership with Italian mega-manufacturer Gruppo GFT sent Abboud, aesthetically, into a pit of homogenized Euro-style from which his brand never really recovered, bringing him to the innocuous grays, taupes and earth tones that you still see in his new store. This is what our shopper Mr. Caramanica is judging him on when he says, "On the left wall are racks and racks of suits ($795, mostly). They are handsome, a little stiff, not risking imagination of any sort."
Having been separated from his own brand by the kind of corporate machinations that bedevil so many designers these days, The Shophound was hoping that Abboud's reunion with his label and the opening of his first New York store —under the unlikely auspices of Men's Wearhouse— would have sparked some kind of creative resurgence, but it turns out he has simply picked up where he left off with pleasant but predictable upscale clothing. While Abboud is pushing the suits, it's ultimately the sportswear that catches our Shopper's attention, when he says, "much of what was in the rest of the store was surprisingly warm." You won't go too far wrong at Joseph Abboud. It seems to be a safe place for men who can't be trusted to pull together a new outfit without steady guidance, but apparently, it will never offer the thrill of an off-price suit from a Versace diffusion line.
Critical Shopper: Joseph Abboud Provides a Guiding Hand for the Suit Averse By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Joseph Abboud 424 Madison Avenue at 49th Street, Midtown
In a rare instance of timeliness, the H&M store that is taking over the former Herald Center will open on May 20th, two weeks from yesterday and one month before the "Summer 2015" date indicated on its signage officially begins. It's comforting to see H&M buck the trend of stores that seem to take forever to get built, and the date will get even more attention because singer John Legend has been pressed into service to open the store.
The store at 63,000 square feet will be H&M's biggest in the world with four floors collecting every single one of the chain's product categories including newer lines like H&M Sport and H&M Mama. It trumps the now puny 50,000 square foot store that opened last year on Fifth Avenue and was itself, for a time at least, the biggest store in the chain. That will leave the chain with three stores on the 34th Street shopping corridor, although the one closest to Herald Square between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is slated to close. More details about opening festivities are likely to be disclosed in the coming week, so stay tuned.
It has been about a year and a half since we heard about Vivienne Westwood's purchase of a $13.5 million townhouse next to the St. Regis Hotel on East 55th Street, but the details of the upcoming flagship store have been announced. Contrary to WWD's headline, this is not in fact the first Vivienne Westwood boutique in New York. SoHo shoppers will remember a spacious boutique on Greene Street that opened in 1999 and closed a few years into the 2000s, but that was puny compared to the three level showplace that is slated to open this fall in midtown. The new store is slated to carry all of Westwood's product line including the premium Gold Label collection, Red Label, Anglomania and Man clothing lines along with accessories, bridal and exclusive Gold Label Capsule eveningwear. In a first for the U.S., the store will offer the designer's World's End collection which (except for a current offering at Opening Ceremony) has only been available at the designer's original King's Road boutique in London and features reproductions and reworking of classic Westwood designs —and yes, that's where Pharrell Williams got that hat. The upper floors will serve as the brand's U.S. headquarters and showrooms.
As for the decor and design, the rendering pictured is all we have to go on for now, but when opens, shoppers should be warned to expect just a bit of politics with their fashion. Those who only know Westwood from the lavish gowns she designs that regularly appear on red carpets might be surprised to discover that she is famously free with her philosophy and opinions, many of which are well outside the mainstream of typical American discourse. A visit to the Vivienne Westwood boutique might offer shoppers just a bit more than they bargained for.