Every now and then, our Critical Shoppers hit the discounters, and in today's Thursday Styles, Molly Young checks out the relatively new Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, and it is clear that this is not her first time at this particular rodeo. For the uninitiated, Last Call Studio is a smaller, more condensed version of Neiman Marcus' larger, department store sized Last Call outlet stores. This new format is designed to be more easily inserted into urban shopping areas and suburban retail centers as opposed to being limited to dedicated outlet malls like Woodbury Commons and the like. It is the first Last Call store in New York city, but may not be the last, and not unlike Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus is following the unlikely pattern of entering New York city with its discount brand in advance of opening the full line store expected in the Hudson Yards development in a few years.
But back to the store itself, and out clearly experienced off-price shopper. Young notes that the luxury department store outlet chains like Last Call as well as Saks Off 5th (which is coming to the Financial District) and Nordstrom Rack (already here) has clobbered the old line off-pricers like Filene's Basement, Syms, Daffy's and the grande dame of them all, Loehmann's, literally out of existence. This has been at least partly achieved by creating a more pleasant shopping environment. "Loehmann’s stores were a mess, with jammed racks, communal dressing rooms (leave your dignity at the door) and salespeople who wore the ravaged masks of Goya subjects. Last Call Studio is 16,000 square feet of orderly displays and a smiling sales staff. Looks are everything," she writes, and its worth noting that the local survivor, Century 21, has thrived by expanding and upgrading its stores from cramped, dingy and messy to species, sleek, shiny and somewhat less messy.
But it's the merchandise that really makes the difference between a successful off-pricer and a collection of picked over goods. Shopper Young has an extensive list of what to consider purchasing and what to ignore, and it is very specific,
Stick to natural fibers and colors found in nature. Never buy anything with a peplum, a cow print or a notched V-neck. Avoid harem pants. Avoid fabrics that glow in the dark. Avoid jumpsuits unless you’re good at winning people over with your personality. Avoid anything eggplant-colored or printed with a pattern that causes physical distress.
That's just the first half of the list, which are generally good guidelines, but seem pretty personal overall. In the spirit of fashion and self-expression, however,we would add that if you know you are the kind of person who can carry off harem pants —and though you are very rare, you exist and you know who you are— you should definitely go for it, off-price or not.
Critical Shopper: Cheap Thrills at Neiman Marcus’s Cut-Price Outlet Store By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio 210 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn