Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today

New York has had a few Muji stores for quite some time now, but the new 12,000 square foot, two-level flagship (pictured above) opening today on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library is promising new departments and products that will bring the store much closer to the full Muji experience that customers in its Japanese stores have come to know.
For starters, it will have the biggest assortment of clothing yet seen in any of Muji's U.S. stores, including a full selection of children's clothes for ages 2 to 10. Customers will now be able to create a customized scent at the Aroma Bar, and, for the first time, personalize their purchases with monograms or a selection of other designs at the embroidery machine station. Other additions include a Cafe Grumpy coffee bar, plants sold in partnership with Green Fingers New York, and a book section focusing on Japanese lifestyle topics. Most notably, for a store so intensely focused on Japan and its day-to-day culture, the retailer is introducing Found Muji, a section devoted to merchandise curated by its creative staff from around the world, currently featuring France's Basque region (pictured below).
Muji almost always has a few opening day surprised up its sleeve, so today will definitely be a great day to check out the new store, but it sounds like we are starting to see more of full breadth of the products that has made the chain so popular back home in Japan.

MUJI 475 Fifth Avenue between 40th & 41st Street, Midtown
Muji Unveils Experiential Concept in Fifth Avenue New York Store (WWD)
See some more images of the new store after the jump

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Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today" »


The Balmain Blitz Continues With A SoHo Boutique Opening Today

Perhaps no designer brand has benefitted more from an H&M collaboration than Balmain. The publicity onslaught leading up to that launch has turned the it and its current creative director Olivier Roustieng from insiders' niche label to multimedia phenomenons in a matter of months, and, for New Yorkers, the cycle is now fully complete with a Balmain boutique opening on Wooster Street today. This store will have the real stuff —no more cut rate collaboration capsules— with staggering price tags to match, and it's the first Balmain boutique in the U.S., one of only a handful worldwide. Compared to the H&M launch, the boutique is opening fairly quietly, but its arrival continues to fortify SoHo's position as a premier alternative to Madison Avenue or Midtown for luxury brands.

Well, it looks like a misleading item on Vogue.com suggested that the Balmain boutique was opening on the 19th, but a stroll past 100 Wooster Street nearly indicated that is not the case. The store should be coming soon, though. We just don't know exactly when.


Almost But Not Quite Edition

01CRITICAL1SUB-blog427In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica is extra critical.
First, he spends several paragraphs on the typical New York apartment dweller's closet dilemma. Does an over stuffed closet mean you have too many clothes or not enough closet space? Who can say –besides Marie Kondo whom we don't even want to get started with.
This philosophical storage discussion is all to lead us to Tomorrowland, not the section from the Disney theme parks, and certainly not the cinematic misfire from earlier this year, but the Japanese sportswear brand which just opened a sprawling boutique on Broome Street in SoHo (pictured at left).
The problem with Tomorrowland's wares is not that they aren't appealing, but are they appealing enough to try to cram into your already overstuffed closet/armoire/dresser/makeshift under-bed storage apparatus? It seems pretty clear that our shopper has not yet come to terms with his own wardrobe space issues. "What you have to watch out for are inessentials that look and feel like essentials," he writes, "clothes that are elegantly designed, well made, reasonably priced and seemingly unique, but which don’t solve an unsolved problem."
This is a problem peculiar to cities like New York where there is an embarrassment of retail riches to choose from, and one has the luxury of discernment. You might not necessarily have to pounce on the first great thing you see because, in all likelihood, there will be five more great things around the corner, anyway.
So he gets picky.

It was hard not to get excited looking at these clothes, though when I tried them on, that enthusiasm faded slightly. The fabrics felt just a hair too deliberate, even for the colder seasons.

It is all gorgeous stuff, but nothing there sings out "You must have me now!" in the right key. In fairness, our shopper concedes that the store is in its early days here, and given a couple of seasons, could hone its offerings better to the wants and needs of New Yorkers —or maybe just to our shopper. Tomorrowland may be better tomorrow, but The Shophound stopped by for a quick look last week, and we thought that Tomorrowland looked pretty damn good for today.

Critical Shopper: Reason to Keep Coming Back to Tomorrowland By Jon Caramanica
Tomorrowland 476 Broome Street between Wooster & Greene Streets, SoHo


Totokaelo Is The New York-iest Store To Ever Come Out Of Seattle

New Yorkers have not always been kind to ambitious fashion retailers from other cities coming to make a splash here. While a store like Jeffrey can boldly arrive from Atlanta and become a popular city fixture, we can never forget when the widely admired Louis Boston arrived here years ago with a lavish midtown store at 57th and Lexington only shutter within a few years, shunned by city shoppers. Naturally, we were wary when we heard that a designer boutique from clear across the country in Seattle called Totokaelo (pronounced Toh-toh-KYE-oh —remember it) would be opening a five-level store next to the back-side of Bloomingdale's in SoHo. How would such a bold move be accepted by New York's discerning and often merciless shoppers who already have an excess of exceptional stores to shop in? After our first visit, however, it seems clear that the store couldn't be better conceived, not for everyone, but specifically for a certain type of New Yorker —specifically that faction of city dwellers who dress along the Belgian/Japanese axis that eschews runway trends in favor of  loose but inventively styled, usually black garments. In fact, the store's stock appears to consist of about 75% black clothes if not more. The women's shoe section featured only a few styles with high, chunky heels, emphasizing esoteric flats and minimalist sneakers instead. This is not the place for shoppers in search of spindly stilettos or glitzy embellishment, but there are plenty of other places to shop for those things in New York. 
With three levels above ground and two below, Totokaelo makes the most of an unusually long and narrow building with staggered floors and double height ceilings creating a deceptively airy atmosphere. There's an open-air terrace at the top for everyone who makes it up all the stairs —an elevator is conspicuously absent from the store's otherwise clever design. Downstairs, there is a small section for denim and basics, and yet another level below is the men's section with a distinctly different ambiance featuring black walls and louder music. The lighting could use some improvement here as drama sometimes trumps actually seeing the clothes, but as with the rest of the store, staffers are friendly and helpful without being oppressive. You will find many of the same designers as in the women's sections like Rick Owens, Marni, Maison Margiela, Acne Studios, Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto and Dries Van Noten, but while the store is full of familiar such labels, there is also a smattering of lesser known designers for New Yorkers to discover as well.
Every new store has its growing pains, but perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised that Totokaelo is so New York-ready. Its creative and merchandising teams relocated here last January giving them plenty of time to study our peculiar ways and tastes. Opening the store at the beginning of Fashion Week was smartly timed for maximum publicity, and if all goes well, Totokaelo is poised to quickly settle in as a mainstay on New York's shopping circuit.

Totokaelo now open at 54 Crosby Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo.


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

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.


Moschino's New Boutique Is A Double Nostalgia Trip For SoHo

The revival and reanimation of longstanding fashion brands is in air at retail at the moment. Will the new revamped Gucci style create the kind of sensation that Tom Ford's revival did 20 years ago? Will a new designer re-invigorate Balenciaga? Will movie mogul Harvey Weinstein be able to make the Charles James label relevant for this century? Will Schiaparelli accomplish the same feat?
For the past couple of decades or so, the Moschino brand has quietly chugged profitably along, something nobody expected after its irreverent namesake designer died in 1994, but a couple of years ago, its parent company, AEFFE, decided to shake things up by hiring the cult designer Jeremy Scott to take over the brand's creative direction. Gone were the ancillary profit-making lines like Cheap and Chic and Love Moschino, and a return to outrageous runway shows was implemented. Suddenly, the new Jeremy Scott-powered Moschino is the hottest label around especially for celebrities who were already fans of the new creative director like Katy Perry and Madonna.
Part of Scott's creative strategy was to not just to re-interpret some classic Moschino codes, but to bring them back almost entirely. Rarely has a creative director been so in tune with the deceased namesake of his brand, and the merchandise hanging in the new Moschino boutique that opened this week on Wooster Street in SoHo (pictured above) gives shoppers the feeling of being transported back into the designer's late 1980s heyday. Even the original "Moschino Couture!" label has be revived as the familiar Chanel spoof quilted bags and glitzy logo belts are once again on display along with snarky slogans emblazoned on otherwise innocuous LBDs and dinner suits. The sartorial puns run rampant as giant stiletto pumps and handbags provide display space for more humanly scaled accessories and shoes like a pair of sandals made from measuring tape. In fact, the 3,500 square foot shop is designed more like an art gallery than a functioning clothing boutique —which is also a nod not to the late Franco Moschino, but to the SoHo neighborhood of the late 1980s, when it was still full of art galleries and had not yet fully transitioned into the retail destination that it is today. Brobdingnagian hangers suspended from the ceiling form the clothing racks holding carefully spaced garments delicately placed just so in a manner that discourages any casual touching, let alone taking a hanger off the rack. It only amplifies the store' gallery ambiance, which seems to be intentional. A friendly staffer made sure to let us know that there was additional, less extravagant stock in the back that he could bring out if we wanted to see it, but that would have made the place like an actual store. We preferred to enjoy the time machine that Scott and the folks at Moschino have set up for true Moschino fans. Will they turn into actual customers? That remains to be seen, although the folks at AEFFE seem to be very happy with how the revamped label has been performing in recent seasons. For now, anyway the new store is poised to be a must-visit destination for Moschino fans and and anyone else who dreams of fashion's past decades.

Moschino 73 Wooster Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo



The Subtle Detail Edition

02CRITICAL1-master675This week's Thursday Styles features Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's discovery of Craft Atlantic's Greenwich Avenue boutique in the West Village —no easy task as the shop has been obscured by scaffolding for a good portion of its brief existence. Perhaps apropos of this, our shopper takes a while to get to the meat of his story this week, opening with a breakdown of sorts of the current menswear fascination with humble basics once thought relegated to the gymnasium, simple sneakers, tees and sweats. After dropping the names of a few currently admired practitioners, he finally turns his attention to Craft Atlantic, which he places in the center of this trend, extolling the subtle, travel-inspired details featured on the store's self branded goods. 
Our shopper likes it, even if he isn't quite swooning, and is at least sold on the carefully tweaked neckline on a simple tee. "In fact, shopping solely from here may ensure that you don’t stand out at all. Given this, it’s important to remember that the new basics are in actuality a test. Think how easy it is to get credit for flamboyance."
If this doesn't sound like a breathless endorsement, look at it this way: Being a stylish gentleman doesn't mean chasing down every whim of the ever more creative but sometimes ill-advised men's fashion set. The Shophound has been to Craft Atlantic, and we must say that it is the kind of place where the connoisseur will find beautifully detailed basics to admire and buy —they are still the backbone of any well-dressed guy's wardrobe— and also the kind of place where the well-meaning but less confident guy who wants to look up-to-date can rest assured that he can't go too far wrong. Call it a gateway shop for guys who aren't quite ready to navigate slightly more directional stores like Odin or Carson Street Clothiers on their own, playing a vital role in the ongoing effort to get more guys who might otherwise be indifferent to dress better. 

Critical Shopper: Craft Atlantic Puts Modesty on Display, With Surprises By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Craft Atlantic 115 Greenwich Avenue at Jane Street, West Village 


Brookfield Place Is Sort Of Open-ish

Downtown is happening.
The Financial District is a retail gold mine that has been woefully untapped, and when an unprecedented concentration of luxury stores around the World Trade Center opens up, rich people with money burning holed in their pockets will flock to the new mall full of coveted designer brand.
But not this week.
We must make it clear that The Shophound roots for retail projects to succeed, however pie-eyed they may seem. We don't like to see stores fail. It's depressing, so we are as hopeful as anyone that the extremely ambitious retail plan for the World Trade Center area succeeds, but if it happens, it won't happen overnight.
Since yesterday was the official opening day for the retail section that Brookfield Place created out of the old  World Financial Center, The Shophound decided that it was as good a time as any to see what they had made out of it —which leads to obstacle #1: Getting in there.
Unlike most most Manhattan shopping areas, you can't just stroll up to Brookfield place at the moment, at least not from the street. In fact it is easier to access the complex that includes the shopping section, the Hudson Eats food hall/court and the about to open Le District French-centric food hall if you are strolling along the Hudson River Park promenade. The entrances from West Street remain blockaded for long stretches that include the shopping center's main entrance. Even marked crosswalks are closed off, so the most direct way to get inside of the place is to backtrack two blocks east to the PATH train entrance at Greenwich and Vesey Streets and walk the length of the Santiago Calatrava Occulus structure underground to re-emerge at street level inside Brookfield Place. This is annoying but temporary, but it emphasizes the fact that Brookfield place will remain inconvenient to enter even for local shoppers for a little while.
Once inside, however there was no abundance of shoppers on opening day. Crowds were sparse on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, which made it the perfect time to finally grab an Umami Burger up in Hudson Eats without enduring a long line. Of course, not all the stores are ready, and the big luxury names, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Ferragamo and others, are still gestating under plywood. Only about half the stores opened yesterday including bright and spacious new versions familiar shops like J.Crew, Vince, Theory, Bonobos and Diane von Furstenberg. Paul Smith was celebrating a lovely new store with Champagne, macarons and other sweets for all visitors, but, sadly, as with the other shops, earnest salespeople easily outnumbered customers, and we got the impression that this might be the case for some time to come. Many of the customers looked like they probably worked in the complex of buildings surrounding the shops, in shirtsleeves, unencumbered by coats, and probably taking a long awaited look through at the tail end of their lunch hours. That's a good thing. Part of the retail strategy there is to take advantage of the well paid working folk in the area as a captive customer base, but they may or may not be enough to support a mini-Madison Avenue, and it is basically the same sort of group that was there when the World Financial Center opened about 25 years ago. That turned out to be something of a disappointment. Retailers in the newer, reconfigured space will have to be content with a sort of time-release excitement that will hopefully bring more traffic over the course of coming year. Patience and deep pockets will be required because the immediate WTC are is still knee deep in construction which is unappealing to luxury shoppers who frankly don't need to go down there to get anything the mall has to offer. And the neighborhood tourists did not seem to be the sort of folks who would keep such a high-end collection of stores humming. We did not see a single store at Brookfield Place, open or upcoming, that wasn't already represented elsewhere in Manhattan at least once, and in most cases, several times over. In fact most of them are also open not far away in SoHo. It will be a challenge to convince most New Yorkers that they need to come to the Financial District to shop in a mall for things that are easily found in more charming New York-y shopping neighborhoods. And that's part of the challenge. It's a mall.
Nobody comes to Manhattan to shop in a mall, and successes like Columbus Circle are carefully tailored to the local neighborhood.
You can drive to Short Hills for a luxury mall, and, frankly, it's more exciting to stroll along Madison Avenue if you want to go to Hermès and Gucci and Bottega Veneta. There is nothing in Brookfield Place yet that you can't find anywhere else in Manhattan, which puts a lot of pressure on Le District to deliver on its promise. What is being touted as a "French Eataly" is opening a few sections today, most of the others by next Wednesday and is expected to be completely finished by May. It is the one thing there that hasn't been seen before elsewhere, and there is real excitement around it. Wealthy New Yorkers will go out of their way for a new food experience, and if Le District can keep them coming back, it will help the entire complex. Saks Fifth Avenue will probably not be open in Brookfield Place for at least a year, and the World Trade Center's retail projects look to be at least that far off, so if this area is destined to become the luxury retail mecca that real estate industry flacks are breathlessly touting, it's going to take a couple of years to build up to at the very least. We hope that everyone who opened to day can stick it out. We want to see them win in the end, but ravenous luxury shoppers who are expected to make Brookfield Place a success did not show up yesterday.


Forever 21 Fifth Avenue Opens Tomorrow With Little Change From Previous Tenant

Though the doors are actually open right now, Forever 21's new Fifth Avenue flagship officially opens tomorrow. Today's visitors will discover a store that is not quite ready with the top floor still closed to customers and plenty of frantic staffers buzzing about making placing merchandise and making other arrangements for tomorrow's opening. The will also see all the changes that the chain has made to the space from it's previous tenant H&M, which are basically none.
Aside from a coat of paint, the space is still indistinguishable from when it was Forever 21's fast fashion rival, right down to the men's section on the second floor. You might not even notice that the store changed at all from the outside. The reported five floors were obviously something of an exaggeration unless there is some hidden construction happening on the floors above. The layout is basically unchanged. It's not terribly surprising. The home of impossibly cheap trendy sportswear is not known for its extravagances. After all, they have to maintain those slender margins.
Even so, the chain will throw a party tomorrow morning  to fête its prestigious new address tomorrow morning with a giveaways, hot chocolate, snacks, gift cards and tote bags for the first 500 people to line up in front of the store after 7:30 AM. At 9 AM, Pop Sensation Cody Simpson will cut the ribbon and perform no more or less than three songs at 9:45 for what is fairly likely to be an audience of screaming teenagers.
Proceed with caution.
After the showbiz excitement has faded, there will be a nail spa, photo booth, "festive" food and screen printing of limited edition tote bags for those F21 fans who must be there on the very first day.

Speculation Surprise: H&M's Former Fifth Avenue Flagship Going To Forever 21 —Not Nike


DSquared2 Has Also Opened Its Flagship Store Without Notice


So it's a trend now?
Highly anticipated, major designer flagships are quietly opening without fanfare at slightly unlikely moments. Last week it was Goyard's New York outpost only a few days before Christmas, and this week DSquared2's SoHo showplace shed its plywood and opened its doors just a couple of days before New Year's Eve. Even the brand's website still lists it as "coming soon", but the new standard policy now seems to be "Open the doors as soon as they are ready and worry about publicity later". Maybe this is what happens when there's already a first U.S. flagship somewhere in California? Anyway, we heard that DSquared2 was open from our friends at Racked, so we hightailed it down to SoHo to check out the new place. 
We have to admit that it has been a few years since The Shophound was a fully fledged DSquared2 fanatic. Back then, it was just a small menswear cult label created by Dean and Dan Caten, a zany pair of identical twins from Canada, that was beginning to make inroads in the U.S. It seemed like each season they were inspired by a different male archetype plucked from the works of Tom of Finland —grease monkey one season, cowboy the next, etc. We still have the clothes, and we can still fit into most of them, sort of, but our fashion obsession has migrated to other labels since then. In the meantime, DSquared2 has grown up a bit. They still make super-skimpy men's bathing suits and tight jeans, but now offer a line of more classically tailored clothing along with the denim and multichromatic sneakers. Of course, they haven't become as predictable and redundant as Dolce & Gabbana quite yet, and their prison themed Fall 2014 men's collection shows that they can still be blithely provocative and even kind of inappropriate. Though the Caten twins have made their name as master showmen, the new DSquared2 boutique is a surprisingly hushed and subdued setting for their label. Sleek black and brown wood paneled walls make it seem almost minimalistic until they are punctuated by lighting fixtures made of antlers, a nod to their Canadian heritage. Their wit is now more subdued, but open a dressing room door and you'll find the illusion of a woodland alcove, another wink at the Great White North. At the moment, the menswear selection in the store is mixed between a smattering of Fall basics (now on sale) and the first bits of Spring deliveries just coming in with a more complete selection of classic suits and bright sneakers filling out the shelves and racks. You have to go upstairs to the second floor home of the women's collection to get the full effect of the Catens' flashier, campier sensibility. There, shoppers will currently find a capsule collection of vividly colored cocktail and eveningwear with jewel encrusted details along with mink trimmed remnants of the Fall line and more early Spring deliveries. Though SoHo has quieted down substantially this week after the always bustling Holiday season, the new store's staff was pleasantly friendly on a quiet Monday afternoon without, thankfully, being smothering the way brand new store's sales associates can be. Look for some opening fanfare closer to Fashion Week next month. After all, The Catens have never struck anyone as the types to forgo a splashy party, so keep an eye out for some belated fanfare sometime soon.

DSquared2 402 West Broadway at Spring Street, SoHo