Bill Cunningham, the street style photographer for The New York Times, passed away today at 87. Cunningham had recently suffered a stroke.
Cunningham could often be found at his favorite haunts, most prominently the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, intensely observing the crowd and picking out the most strikingly attired passersby to be featured in his long running collage of pictures in the Sunday Times Styles Section. Events like the Central Park Conservancy luncheon and the Gay Pride parade, which he just missed this year, were among his favorite events to revisit year after year. He was also known for an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion past and present, and often slyly pointed out when one designer's work mysteriously resembled that of another in the extensive seasonal runway round-ups he compiled for the pre-Condé Nast version of Details magazine during the 1980s. While he has inspired numerous blogs, Tumblrs and Instagram accounts, Cunningham has always been recognized as the originator, and few have come close to rivaling his sharp eyes for original style and spotting a trend. Then upcoming fashion weeks will be a bit less glamorous without him to pick out the most exciting dressers.
Bill Cunningham, the street style photographer for The New York Times, passed away today at 87. Cunningham had recently suffered a stroke.
Did you buy some spanking-fresh, white Adidas Stan Smiths a couple of years ago?
Have you been dutifully wearing them with everything?
Are they now a little bit (or a lot) less bright and white than they once were?
If you have been searching for ways to restore their fresh look, then you may have stumbled upon Jason Markk, who has turned sneaker maintenance into a new industry by creating products that allow collectors, enthusiasts and just regular old sneaker wearers to stave off the inevitable moment when their beloved kicks finally, just "die" from wear and tear. Markk's sneaker care kits have shown up in retailers ranging from J.Crew to footwear temple Kith, and he has finally opened his own flagship concept store in Los Angeles (pictured right) where you can drop off your shoes for a refresh just as if it were a dry cleaner. Services range from a $10 Classic Clean to the $65 Purple Label Detail featuring a deep cleaning and reconditioning of beloved sneakers. The good news for New Yorkers is that, according to the New York Times, Markk is bringing this in-store service to New York City with a pop-up shop from June 18th to the 26th at the Footaction store on 14th Street. Hopefully, this will be a test for a more permanent East Coast outpost, because you don't have to be a raging sneakerhead to feel the pangs of regret at eventually having to relegate a favorite pair of hard to find Nikes or Adidas to the trash heap because you have chosen to actually wear them instead of keeping them preserved for posterity.
Today's Thursday Styles has a look back at the rise and fall of the Scoop NYC boutique chain that is currently in the process of liquidating, and the most significant bit of information it reveals is that the chain will finally shutter its stores on the second week of July. That gives it about eight more weeks to get rid of its inventory which should mean escalating discounts through the sale period. It's not exactly the best time to be liquidating, since Scoop will be competing with the regular seasonal markdowns in all of the other stores that have the same merchandise, and it will have to go a bit deeper than the 20% off it has mostly been offering for the past couple of weeks in order to compete with regular old sales elsewhere.
Otherwise, the story told in the article by former insiders is much as we have heard. The once hot chain lost a bit of its mojo when co-founder Stefani Greenfield departed and the up and coming labels it helped to discover became less exclusive and opened their own boutiques —generally in competing locations— and became mainstays in the burgeoning contemporary departments of major retailers like Saks and Neiman Marcus. Instead of replacing those maturing labels with newer, hotter ones, the store chugged along as a comfortable if less essential stop the millennial shopping tour until skyrocketing rents and ill-advised leases did it in Now there are eight weeks left to how much Scoop can slash its prices enough to make us all come back to clear its racks and shelves.
Liquidations are an inherently bittersweet stage of a store closure, but we will try to keep shoppers updated on just how much of a discount is being offered.
The Last Days of Scoop By Marisa Meltzer (NYTimes)
Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica returns in this week's Thursday Styles to take on the dismayingly resilient trend of luxury designer sneakers by visiting the newly expanded Giuseppe Zanotti Design boutique on Madison Avenue. Designer sneakers are nothing new. They go back decades, but the current iteration, mostly aimed at men, has resulted in increasingly embellished and costly athletic shoes that are further and further removed from any actual sports that they were originally intended for. While Zanotti is hardly the only designer offering such footwear, he does make some of the most baroquely adorned models. Our shopper compares the designer's style to the "brazen, sexy vulgarity" of the 1980s, although as someone who lived through that decade, we can assure that Zanotti's designs far surpass the glitz of that decade with higher heels and flashier materials than anything anyone wore back then.
In fact, it is the glitz of the actual store that first strikes our shopper's eye, but it seems almost too humble a setting for Zan0tti's ever more lustrous offerings. Our shopper isn't blinded by the gleaming surfaces before him, however. It turns out that the increasingly impractical shoes are not all that comfortable. "All of the sneakers I tried on had the first-wear inflexibility of shoes, and the leather began to visibly crack with the first steps," he writes, describing them as "like wearing huge pieces of candy on your feet." The token apparel items presented to complement the shoes seem similarly shiny, impractical and uncomfortable. Ultimately, our shopper never really gets to the bottom of whom this store and its crass sneakers are for. Who is the guy (as usual, Caramanica mostly ignores the larger women's side of the store) who wants to drop $1,250 on an extravagant, bejeweled variation on a pair of $150 Nikes? We never really find the answer beyond the suggestion that it is not our shopper.
Critical Shopper: The Store With the Golden Sneakers By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Giuseppe Zanotti Design 806 Madison Avenue between 68th & 68th Streets, Upper East Side
A new Critical Shopper has arrived at the Thursday Styles today. We don't know if Katherine Bernard will take over Molly Young's women's shopping duties permanently, but she does give us a respectable survey of the new Balmain boutique that quietly opened its doors earlier this month in SoHo. Don't worry if you are concerned that glittering label's thirst for publicity is starting to wane. The official opening party is scheduled as this year's Met Ball after-party on Monday night. Now you can picture the requisite Kardashian/West/Jenner extravaganza, and our shopper reminds us that it is almost impossible to make mention of the Balmain brand without also using the words Kardashian and Instagram. She also notes pointedly that Instagram followers do not necessarily translate into throngs of eager customers. Despite Balmain's social media following of multiple millions, the store is a quiet and serene environment in neutral shades of beige and black when she visits mostly because clicking 'like' and 'follow' are free, but owning single piece of Balmain apparel beyond a $365 t-shirt requires four figure investment at minimum. And what of those clothes? They are tight.
These clothes are honest. They hold you. My designer friend tells me that the fabric embrace comes from technically advanced four-way stretch. There’s pull and lift. There’s no darting or corseting, it’s just extremely special fabric.
Ultimately, the experience seems like a taste of fantasy, complete with a salesperson impersonating a paparazzo. For better or worse, Balmain and its once reserved designer Olivier Roustieng has thrown their lot in with social media stars and red carpet glitz. The rabid rush for last Fall's H&M collaboration collection proved that, so if runway walking in glittery opulence is your aspiration (and within your means), your boutique has arrived.
There isn't exactly a Critical Shopper column in this week's Thursday Styles, but Jon Caramanica wrote about going to Barneys in Chelsea, so it seems to be one in all but name only. As per usual, the review begins with a little nostalgia. This time its our quasi shopper's memories of a Brooklyn childhood where the thought of Barney's (It had an apostrophe once) seemed too fantastical to be real (except that Mom had been quietly shopping there for herself all along). But that was a different Barneys than the one that currently sits on Seventh Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets. Even Caramanica notes that this new flagship store seems to be missing something, or a lot of things. "It’s like the airport version of the Madison Avenue store, perhaps more a suggestion of actual Barneys than the thing itself," and then, "It’s the MP3 to the FLAC file of the main store," —remember, he's a music writer too. Well put, although, to us it's more the the remix that bears almost no resemblance to the original track.
After all, Barneys in Chelsea is essentially a women's store now. The store that built itself on men's suits now devotes only a fraction of its space to any kind of men's apparel, and there is neither a traditional tailored suit nor a necktie to be found in the entire place. Caramanica calls the merchandising scheme "ruthless" allowing for only the most reliably profitable items, which is why, like in any other department store the main floor is an "ocean of handbags", and Chelsea Passage, the home department named after the neighborhood where it was born, has been neglected altogether. In the end, our shopper finally finds satisfaction in the basement in the chair of the Blind Barber, which tells us that maybe the inevitable comparisons to other versions of the store miss the point at the new Chelsea Barneys.
It'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
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.
In this week's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young discovers the Lands' End pop-up store on Fifth Avenue, but what strikes The Shophound is not so much her assessment of the store, but her childhood take on the mail.
"There were days as a kid when I was so bored, I organized my entire day around the mail delivery"
As a a kid, in the pre-digital era, the mail delivery could be a magical moment. There are so many potential delights in the mailbox like magazines or catalogs and always knowing that none of the bills are for you.
This is all get to the point that the boring old Lands' End catalog that she would discover pushed through the mail slot has come to life in Midtown Manhattan where she notes that the updated, elevated merchandise seems to co-exist among the same bland goods seem that have been populating the catalog for 30. Maturity seems to have given her a new appreciation for practical but potentially dowdy Land's End standards like full length a down coat's versatile zippers and hood, "The younger me would have been blind to these components, but time has a way of turning defects into assets. Now I just want to be weatherproof," she writes. The vanity sizing doesn't hurt either.
Ultimately, our shopper isn't all that excited by the store or its gimmicks like a "selfie station", which reveals itself as a trope to capture customer information, but manages to walk away with a very Lands' End-y purchase, new gloves. The store's general modestly seems counterintuitively refreshing among the forced Holiday merriment that descends upon retailers the end of the year. "If the store were a party, it would be the kind where the guests are gone and the dishes washed by 11 p.m.," and sometime that's just enough.
Critical Shopper: Lands’ End Updates Its Image By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Lands' End Holiday Pop-Up Shop 650 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, Midtown
Pop-Up Proliferation: Nautica & Lands' End Pop-Ups Push Upscale
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?