Man In Fashion Edition

25zCRITICAL1-articleLargeToday's Thursday Styles brings a bit of an unexpected twist as the Critical Shopper sends its menswear guy, Jon Caramanica, to the new 3.1 Phillip Lim store in NoHo. Even though Lim has made menswear for several seasons now, we would typically have expected this review to come from Lady Critical Shopper Alexandra Jacobs, but she is presumably busy in Paris covering the Spring Collections. Rather than reviewing the store itself, our shopper stays on his side of the aisle and focuses on the clothes, which he finds rather intoxicating —especially a $1,200 blanket coat found presiding "high on a platform, like the Christ the Redeemer statue that gazes out over Rio" over the men's section

So I wore it for a few minutes — in my size, which was preposterously large, and the size down, which was almost preposterously large. I looked like the Fisher King. I looked like Vincent (The Chin) Gigante. I looked a little ridiculous. I loved it.

And here lies the endless challenge of Men's Fashion: finding the balance between what is new and interesting without descending into clown costume territory. And then one has to contend with silly bloggers who will snark about any men's apparel item that diverges from the norm (or often even complies with it) by using condescending words like "mandals", "meggings" or "mankles" —not really helpful to anyone trying to propel men's style forward through the 21st Century. Thankfully, we have Mr. Caramanica, a guy who is undeterred by the snickering skeptics, happy to explore in search of the new, and even have his long-held beliefs about trompe-l'oeil design effects challenged. Every store needs more like him.

Critical Shopper: Trying on a Persona By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
3.1 Phillip Lim 48 Great Jones Street between Lafayette Street & The Bowery, NoHo


Boho Brides In NoHo Edition

12zCRITICAL2-superJumboIn order to fully appreciate Alexandra Jacobs' Critical Shopper column in today's Thursday Styles, one might have to have more of an interest in the peculiar rituals of the bride-to-be than The Shophound does. Even if one finds such pursuits enthralling, as so many reality TV shows would seem to demonstrate, the bridal shop is really something that one can really only make use of a few times in one's life, hopefully, and it sounds like Stone Fox Bride is really more interested in the honeymoon anyway —or as many honeymoons as any happy couple is willing to take. Not so surprising for a store whose name comes from dated '70s slang, and suggests $18 penis-shaped candles (link NSFW) as a complement to one's trousseau. This sounds like a place for the Vera Wang-averse. Even so, the store does have its limits,

...I encountered only one contradiction to the anything-goes house philosophy espoused by its co-founder, Molly Guy. “You can see the pasty,” a salesclerk asked to a blooming young brunette, referring to the minimal nipple cover. “We don’t want pics with pasties staring at us.”

Of course, for the bride whose fashion role model is more Rihanna than Princess Di, pasties would have been rendered unnecessary anyway, and this would have to be the bridal store for her.

Critical Shopper: You Can Skip the Fitting, Mom By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
Stone Fox Bride 611 Broadway between Bleecker & Houston Streets, NoHo


Downtown Heritage Edition

05zCRITICAL5-superJumboAfter a couple of weeks off, The Critical Shopper is back in today's Thursday Styles as Jon Caramanica gives us the report on two new arrivals downtown. Filson (at right), is the archetypical American heritage label that is entering the "flagship expansion" phase of its resurgence, while the 84-years-younger Will Leather Goods comes from Eugene, Oregon with a similarly rugged aesthetic, but far less history. Both stores seem to bring a different piece if the Pacific Northwest to downtown Manhattan with the eternal hippie thriving on Will's product laden walls, and Filson's rugged outdoorsman holding court at Filson. It is here that Caramanica discovers the hazards that a specialized, sportsman's brand will face when broadening its market to include fashion cognoscenti. It turns out the the "updated" slimmer cut apparel is no improvement over the roomy authentic original styles "From a distance, the silhouettes were the worst. Even when a piece fit snugly, it still managed to seem oversize and clung to the body in unpredictable ways." And then there are the customers, or, more specifically, brand enthusiasts,

The Filson clerk relayed a story about a customer who had recently come in and complained that the store wasn’t true enough to the brand’s essence, that it wasn’t carrying the most rugged of the company’s offerings. Brands like Filson, which are bolstered by history but also burdened by it, tend to inspire this sort of keep-it-real-itis.

Some people will never be satisfied.

Critical Shopper: Two Paths to the Great Outdoors By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Filson 40 Great Jones Street between Broadway & Bowery, NoHo
Will Leather Goods 29 Prince Street at Mott Street, NoLiTa


Original Penguin's New NoHo Flagship Launches The Brand's Next Phase

It may have seemed like a simple relocation when Original Penguin moved its SoHo boutique a few blocks North to Broadway and Bond Street, but there's a little bit more to it than that. Yesterday afternoon, The Shophound was invited downtown to see how a charming, vintage-y label that has done very well by trading on its history of dressing stars like Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra for the golf links is ready to evolve into a modern lifestyle sportswear brand with a new store concept ready to lead the way. Any heritage driven brand will hit the wall with nostalgia appeal at some point, and the folks at Original Penguin are cleverly broadening their appeal with updated design for both its products and its stores to reach a millennial customer who may be getting maxed-out on all that vintage inspired style any minute now. To that end, the retro-style orange-accented interior scheme of the SoHo store has been replaced with sleek walnut wood and crisp white walls with a giant, blue backlit logo on the rear wall for maximum branding effect. A little more space makes for an easier shopping experience as the new shop now has space to highlight the signature "Earl Polo" shirt, a new basic khaki program in updated colors and fits and expanded accessories collections. This isn't just a store relocation, however. The new NoHo store is now Original Penguin's global flagship, and the concept will eventually be rolled out to all of brand's stores (including the other New York City location on Sixth Avenue opposite Bryant Park) as well as the 20 or so units planned to open worldwide this year alone. The updated Original Penguin has been tapped as an expansion vehicle for parent company Perry Ellis International, so expect to see more of the brand's stores appearing in malls and shopping areas soon. Full disclosure: for our trouble, The Shophound was invited to pick a few pieces of the line for ourself, but we didn't need much encouragement to shop. If the brand has gone overboard with '50s-style novelty looks in the past, customers will find a more modern, slimmed down look to the product line as the company positions itself at a new level and gets ready to take on the Banana Republics and J.Crews of the market. See a few more views of the new store in the gallery below. 

Original Penguin now open at 654 Broadway at Bond Street, NoHo

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Atrium To Transform As
Nick Wooster Takes A Stake

Wooster-mcnairyEverybody loves a makeover.
Look for a whole new Atrium at Broadway and Bleecker Street soon. Veteran retail executive and and style-blogger favorite Nick Wooster has puchased a partnership in the mini-chain and will become the creative director for its NoHo and Brooklyn locations. To underscore the change in direction, the stores will be renamed Atrium Wooster. The third location in Miami beach will not be renamed and, presumably, will not be affected by the changes. Atrium owner Sam Ben-Avraham admitted to WWD that the 20-year-old store had peaked somewhat around 2005-7 with the explosion of the premium denim market, but has slowed down sice then. Earlier this year, Atrium dropped women's merchandise, becoming a men's only store, making it a good fit for Wooster, whose background is primarily in designer menswear. “I’ve always thought of myself as a retailer. Anybody can pick fantastic product, but you have to be able to make money too,” he tells WWD, “I’m very interested in traditional men’s wear and nontraditional men’s wear, and the store will reflect that.” Most recently the senior vice president of brand, trend and design for J.C. Penney during the brief tenure of Ron Johnson as its President, Wooster has also been Men's Fashion Director at Nieman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman as well as an adviser for Gilt Groupe. In addition to that, he has been behind a variety of menswear collaborations including swimwear with Orlebar Brown, cashmere knitwear with Drumohr, accessories with Want les Essentials de la Vie, Hamilton Shirts and luxury shoe store Leffot, but it is his ever growing popularity as an internet style icon beloved by bloggers that is likely to have brought him to Ben-Avraham's attention. He ranks among the most photographed figures during Fashion Week, and is also active on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. He even made his runway modeling debut for designer Mark McNairy earlier this week (pictured above).  Wooster is expected to increase the internet presence of the new Atrium whose homepage is currently under construction. While his full impact on the store won't be felt until next Fall, expect to hear more and more buzz about the once fading store now set for a promising transformation.

Nick Wooster Buys Stake in Atrium (WWD)
Nick Wooster (Official Tumblr)


The Odin & Pas De Deux Clearance Is Better Than Barneys Warehouse Sale
What Goes Around Comes Around
& DKNY Sales

Normally, The Shophound doesn't report on special sales in the middle of their runs, but when The Odin and Pas De Deux Clearance Sale began, we were busy bitching and moaning about how much the Barneys Warehouse Sale sucked. Usually, the Warehouse is the grand finale for our clearance shopping season, but as it was such a disappointment this season, and since the fine folks at Odin -one of our favorite NYC stores- reminded us of their two-week long clearance consolidation, we trucked on down to East 11th Street to see if what they had to offer.

Stuffed into Odin's tiny Annex, the sale is a little bit cramped and crowded, as we expected, but we would rather squeeze our way into an undersized space full of good bargains than wander around around a Chelsea basement looking for something, anything, that we would want. Odin's tight racks included great pieces from last Fall and previous seasons from designers like Duckie Brown, Mark McNairy, Engineered Garments, Todd Snyder, Burkman Brothers, Thom Brown, Oliver Spencer and others. Even after a week, there were still worthwhile buys left at around 75% off the original prices. The center tables were still piled high with sweaters, and throughout the store, there were shoes from Florsheim by Duckie Brown and Common Projects. A few feet away on the Pas De Deux side there was slightly less merchandise, but still good pieces from Richard Chai, Carven, Thakoon Addition and Alexander Wang. Another plus: since the space is tiny, you can tell pretty quickly if there is anything you will want, and then you can stop next door and check out what's new for Spring at the side-by-side brother and sister stores.

If you want to make a day of shopping downtown, this week also offers a DKNY Sample Sale at 260 Fifth Avenue that by all reports is stuffed full of merchandise at deep discounts. For the quirkier minded, vintage emporium What Goes Around Comes Around is celebrating the last week of its Lafayette Street pop-up store (pictured below) by taking 70% off the ticket price of everything in the store. That includes vintage items, which will now sell for thrift shop prices, and lots of brand-new never worn items from the store's vintage inspired private label collection for men and women. That's three good sales in one week, which should please anyone whose hankering for bargains was left unsatisfied by Barneys Warehouse

The Odin and Pas De Deux Clearance Sale Ends Sunday March 10th at 330 East 11th Street Between First & Second Avenues, East Village
DKNY Sample Sale Ends Saturday March 9th at 260 Fifth Avenue at 28th Street, Flatiron District
What Goes Around Comes Around Pop-up store Ends Saturday March 9th at 440 Lafayette Street at Astor Place, NoHo


Super Curated Edition

Z-CRITIC-SUB-4-popup The Shophound is feeling ambivalent about today's Critical Shopper column. Jon Caramanica has landed at C'H'C'M' (how do we pronounce this? As initials or gibberish?), a new store devoted to curating well-made, classic items from long established manufactures around the world. It sounds like an international twist on the "heritage" movement that has vaulted humble, quality minded brands like Alden Shoes, Red Wing, Quoddy, Woolrich and Pendleton into the forefront for a certain type of clothing geek. C'H'C'M' turns its attention outward, bringing in similar labels from France, Italy and other corners of Europe and beyond. On the surface, it's all basic, classic stuff, but our shopper asks, "How can such incremental adjustments to the sorts of staple garments that have always been around — and seemed perfectly fine — make so much difference?"

The store showcases hardy labels from faraway lands like France's Paraboot, Italy's Valstar and Belgium's Sunspel. Caramanica is especially taken a black, rubberized cotton mackintosh jacket for $1095, which sounds to us like a beautifully tailored perspiration accellerator, but, hey, to each his own.

On the one hand, we have appreciated seeing brands with with real integrity experience such a revival over the past few years (Don't take away our Woolrich Woolen Mills shirts!), but on the other, it seems like this movement has reached a peak of sorts. A visit to some menswear trade shows is starting to look like a vintage fair, and while we will always love brands with a strong history and tradition behind them (and we are pretty sure that we will want to take home plenty of stuff from C'H'C'M'), we can't help wondering what's coming next after an almost fetishistic period of looking back.

Critical Shopper: Basic Tools to Make Your Own Magic By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
C'H'C'M' 2 Bond Street at Broadway, NoHo


Unfortunate, Unexpected
Sign-Off Edition

Z-CRITIC-A-articleLarge This week's Thursday Styles takes Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson to NoHo's United Nude shoe store where we learn, among other things that there are two Rem Koolhaases. One is the famous Dutch Architect, and the other one is his nephew, Rem D. Koolhaas, the other Dutch Architect. We're still trying to wrap our head around that bit of promotional misdirection, but, in truth, we can't be bothered too much with the dueling Koolhaases and their funky shoes because it turns out that this is officially Cintra Wilson's last Critical Shopper column!

Fans will remember that a while back, La Cintra was unceremoniously excused from her Critical Shopper duties as the New York Times pared away freelance writers like Wilson in favor of staff writers as a cost-cutting measure. Veteran Times style scribe Ruth La Ferla took over the ladies' portion of the column, but after substantial public outcry and a Facebook petition, better judgement prevailed. Wilson was restored to her post a few months later, and all was right again with the Thursday Styles —for a while, anyway.

For those who never quite got her point of view, the departing writer finally spells it out for everyone this week:

It may sometimes seem that my critical approach to retail fashion has been to go in like Laurence Olivier in “Marathon Man” with a tray of power tools intent on performing involuntary dental surgery on designers while dementedly screaming, “Is it safe?!”
But I have been looking for generosity of vision. I ask clothes questions, like: Who are you for? What do you say about the person who wears you? Are you functional? Have you discovered an empowering, liberating new silhouette — like Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent so nobly did in their days — that calls forth strengths never before realized in the feminine character? Or are you bombing women back to the Goldwater era? Does this line help my life or hinder it? In short: Is it safe!?

United Nude, isn't really knocking her out, but, again this is beside the point as she anounces her departure in the next paragraph with understated grace, and this time, it sounds final:

This will be my last dispatch as your Critical Shopper. This column has been a singular joy and privilege to write, and I will miss your readership.

Why this is happening, we don't know. Perhaps she was once again let go, or maybe she simply felt that it was time to direct her rapier wit in a new direction, which (hopefully) would be her prerogative. The Shophound will miss her, it almost goes without saying, and our occasional personal correspondence with her about the column has been a highlight for us. We just love us some Cintra Wilson, and we look forward to seeing where her byline appears next.

The New York Times now has some big but very chic shoes to fill —probably a pair of sleek and sexy stiletto pumps with a pointy toe that hides a tiny but lethal blade that will pop out if you don't pass muster and the rest of us are very lucky.

Critical Shopper: A Safe Walk in the Dark By Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
United Nude 25 Bond Street (between Lafayette Street and the Bowery)


Khaki Double Header Edition

Z-CRITIC-A-articleLargeCritical Shopper Jon Caramanica is settling into his role by embracing the 'critical' aspect of his responsibilities in the Thursday Styles this week. He has taken a tour of the city's khaki specialists and landed in Tribeca's Grown & Sewn, which we discovered last March, and the Lafayette Street branch of the burgeoning mini-chain, Save Khaki.

While the past couple of decades has seen denim transumted in every possible way for every potential customer, khaki, despite the best efforts of the Gap and J.Crew, has remained a distant second, probably due to its inherent rumpledness.

Khakis are the dress pants of the uncertain, a compromise between comfort and rigor, between insouciance and dignity. Worn right, khakis should solve all of life’s problems. Mostly, though, they’re just masks, something we put on when we’re scared to try harder.

Well, that doesn't make them sound too appealing, and neither featured retailer appears to have come up with a definitive product. Ultimately, Caramanica astutely concludes that Grown & Sewn's rugged and artisanal but limited product range would be better served by Save Khaki's intimate NoHo location, while Save Khaki's beachy, sun bleached range would be far more suited to Grown & Sewn's cavernous Tribeca space. There seems to be a clever merchandiser hiding inside that journalist.

Critical Shopper: Khaki Still Struggles With Commitment Issues By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Grown & Sewn 184 Duane Street between Hudson and Greenwich Streets, Tribeca
Save Khaki 327 Lafayette Street between Houston & Bleecker Streets, NoHo
New In Bottoms: Grown & Sewn Pushes Khaki To The Front

A Word From The Owner:

DNA 2050 Responds

Recently we reported that NoHo boutique DNA 2050 had quietly exited the scene, and naturally assumed that it was a result of the general economic conditions that have closed so man shops in the past year or so.
In response we heard directly from the owner, Iraklis Karabassis of the Washington, DC based IK Retail Group who wished to clarify the reasons for the store's closure. IK runs a burgeoning mini-empire of shops and restaurants around the country including boutiques for Max Mara and Piazza Sempione as well as restaurants like Washington power lunch standby Café Milano. Mr. Karabassis wanted to make it clear that the DNA 2050 retail concept was in fact doing just fine, but that it had evolved into a higher priced format than the area around Broadway and 8th Street was able to support, which is, frankly, not difficult to believe at all. In fact, we suspected that the store might be too pricey for the neighborhood when it first opened. He assures us that the Chicago store is actually doing well and the one that closed was a temporary location. A new unit will be opening later this year at the Arches in Long Island that will reflect the new, revamped concept.
Our thanks to Mr. Karabassis for the clarifications. Excerpts from his communication can be found after the jump.
Departures: A Quiet Exit For DNA 2050
DNA2050 Gets Boutique-y in NoHo

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DNA 2050 Responds" »