This week, the Westfield Corp. unveiled its most spectacular shopping center in what is possibly its most controversial and likely the most expensive location to construct in the city, if not all of America. The Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus is the dramatic centerpiece of World Trade Center redevelopment with a multi-billion dollar price tag that has left New Yorkers scratching their heads as if to say "Wait, we said we would pay how much for that thing?"
People will debate the return on that investment for years to come, until it no longer becomes relevant, but along with the opportunity for regular folks to finally walk through that strange, spiny structure comes a reason to be there, which is, of course, shopping at the Westfield World Trade Center. The financial district has become the white hot center of attention for New York City's real estate community for several years now, and the area is finally starting to bear fruit as the vast transit hub is finally ready to show off its dazzling tenant list —even if some of those tenant aren't quite ready to open their doors yet. Like in any new mall, not every store is finished, but we can see what will be arriving in the coming weeks, and the question is, do you need to go out of your way to go shopping in the newly retail-packed financial district?
Our answer: Maybe? Maybe not.
Like its also-highly touted neighbor Brookfield Place, which we understand is doing well with its collection of contemporary-to-luxury retail boutiques, There is no store open or coming to Westfield World Trade Center that isn't open somewhere else in the city in what is probably a bigger and more convenient iteration. That is not to say that the stores are unwelcome. The mall's biggest store appears to be the city's umpteenth Apple Store, and while we have several of those already here, this one should easily be kept busy with it its captive customer base in the surrounding area. That is probably the same story for all the other stores there. Did we need a new Kate Spade boutique? No but the women of the financial district will probably be happy to see the store in the neighborhood which, up until now has mostly leaned towards men's retailers, given the still predominantly male industry it serves. Though it is a jaw dropping setting, the Oculus is still a glorified transit hub, and the shops inside are geared to serve the vast numbers of workers who will stream through on a daily basis from the subway and the PATH trains, as well as the gawking tourists who have made the location a must-visit stop on their tour. If it is the most convenient shopping neighborhood to your location, then yeah, it's not a bad collection of stores at all, but if you live uptown, or even downtown, many of the stores are already more conveniently well ensconced with flagships in Midtown or SoHo or the Flatiron District or the Upper East Side. What you may want to travel to see is the spectacular building itself. The scale is dizzying, literally. There are some areas that are vertigo inducing, like a wide curved set of stairs on the east end whose lack of railings is a bit unsettling, and there are many areas of the building where the scale is oddly off-putting, but the structure is indeed a sight to behold, like the set for a futuristic movie yet to be filmed. The long-rumored remake of Logan's Run, perhaps? The space is majestic and thrilling, and its sprawling connectivity with the other new and redeveloped structures and transit systems make one feel a bit like one is in an enclosed community large enough to never have to leave. It has the immaculate perfection of a set from a Star Trek movie —the big budget new version, not the original series— but while that architecture is usually computer generated, this one is all real with the same cold perfection that always hints at something less pristine underneath. The vast concourse (pictured below) seems almost too empty, as if any week now, it will be furnished with the kiosks that dot the interiors of every other mall. Time will tell if the need for more profits calls in a Proactive stand or Piercing Pagoda. How the dust settles will determine if it becomes a vibrant city landmark or a dreary boondoggle of taxpayer resentment, but for now, Westfield World Trade Center still has the cool glow of its nascent weeks.
A few flashes of lightning in the sky weren't enough to keep VIP sneaker heads away from the opening party at the new Adidas Originals store last night. This sub brand of the athletic wear giant made waves several years ago when it debuted its previous store on Wooster Street with an open air storefront and an abundance of those nostalgic sneaker styles we all remember from our collective youth. The brand —the one with the original Adidas trefoil insignia— has evolved quite a bit since then, and while still able to wield enough promotional power to launch a full-scale revival of its classic Stan Smith tennis shoe a couple of years ago, it has grown to encompass more modern cutting edge design as well as exclusive collaborations with influential stores, designers and, yes, pop stars. Having outgrown its SoHo showplace, Adidas has finally opened a new one on Spring Street with much more room to show off its latest revivals –the "Gazelle" is the vintage model du jour now— as well as hot collaborations and vastly enlarged wall of shoes (pictured above) to peruse.
It's a lot more store for Adidas lovers to shop, and that's saying something significant these days when every retailer is seriously reviewing the returns on its square footage. Standouts from last night's opening included graphic womenswear from Rita Ora's ongoing collaboration with the label as well as our personal fave, the White Mountaineering x Adidas collection (pictured below), a team up with the influential Japanese men's label.
Last night's party centered around a short film made in collaboration with rapper Joey Bada$$, and Adidas hung on to its old store just enough to usher guests there for a private concert but the hip hop performer and his crew before it gets turned over to a new tenant —kind of like throwing one last blowout party in your old apartment before you move out.
Hopefully Adidas will get their deposit back.
Well, maybe they don't care.
Adidas Originals now open at 115 Spring Street between Mercer & Greene Streets, SoHo
Summer will officially begin next week which is the perfect time for a swimwear store to open, and so Orlebar Brown, the cult brand that has been instrumental in banishing baggy board shorts from beaches everywhere, has opened its first New York store in SoHo.
Known for their sleekly tailored bathing shorts that are hemmed a a good, healthy distance above the knee, the brand has earned a faithful following by finding an alternative beach look somewhere between the unflattering aforementioned surfing shorts and the skimpy racing or square-cut suit. Their bathing suits are so well-made that they come with a 5-year guarantee. As the swimming shorts have taken off, the label has expanded into a full sportswear line but always with a beachy, resort-style attitude. In fact, the new SoHo store is but a taste of the label's offerings at a compact 395 square feet. The real show is at the East Hampton store opening this weekend at around 3,000 square feet also carrying the women's and children's collections. For those who prefer to shop in the city, however, a trip to Broome Street will be at the top of the to-do the list for gentlemen who are putting together an impeccable vacation wardrobe.
Orlebar Brown, 451 Broome Street between Broadway & Mercer Street, SoHo
Nobody loves a catchy trend name more than the fashion industry, and nobody loves a portmanteau word more than the internet, which makes Athleisure an instantly annoying concept. Having said that, there's no denying that Lululemon, the yoga-focused athletic wear brand that has spurred crazes and backlashes at a headspinning rate, is partially responsible for the popularity of wearing yoga-pants as everyday-wear. It stands to reason, then, that the logical next step for the label would be to simply expand into sportswear made with no particular performance purpose, so now we have the brand new Lululemon Lab boutique that opened last week on Bond Street on NoHo.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the store is the near banishment of company's actual name, as if it is somehow manifesting its own corporate shame over recent controversies by suppressing its very name in favor of its circular insignia that is subtly imprinted only on the inside of garments. Even the sign outside shows only the symbol and the word "lab".
Inside, there is not a yoga pant to be found. Instead, high tech athletic fabrics are fashioned into minimalistic sportswear pieces that are meant to look more at home out on the town. To the brand's credit, the sophisticated materials look good in their Rick Owens-lite incarnations offering bonded seams and laser cutting that wouldn't make anyone look like they just dashed out of the gym.
This is Lululemon Lab's first U.S. store —it has one other in Vancouver— and it is smartly nestled amongst some of the most notable condos in NoHo just a few doors away from Billy Reid. Though the merchandise is sportswear, several of the women we saw shopping there yesterday afternoon were obviously on their way to/from yoga class drawn in by the logo on the sign not knowing that the store was a new brand concept. Athletic companies branching into sportswear is nothing new. Adidas has its SLVR and Y-3 collections, and Moncler has transformed its image with its designer Gamme Rouge and Gamme Bleu collections, but time will tell us whether or not Lululemon has enough clout to join their ranks and dress its customers for the rest of the day.
Lululemon Lab 50 Bond Street between The Bowery & Lafayette Street, NoHo
It's been tough going for Hickey Freeman in recent years what with changes of ownership and creative direction coupled with some uncertainty in the men's suit business that has caused a store like Barney's New York to dramatically reduce the space devoted to the category it built its business on to one measly floor in its Madison Avenue flagship —from the original three. Things seem to have stabilized at Hickey, however, and to prove it, the label has opened a modest but noteworthy new store at Brookfield Place right in the middle of the neighborhood where suit-wearing has never wavered. Not a big flashy flagship, the 900 square foot store is devoted to the company's made-to-measure division, a service that falls just short of full custom tailoring, but allows customers to make their own fabric and model choices as well as offers special sizes and fit adjustments that can minimize final alterations. Though there is a selection of ready-to-wear items showing the company's updated look, the new concept store also displays 180 bolts of fabric for tailored clothing and shirts as a part of its sleek, design. It is the first Hickey Freeman retails store created by the brand's new management, Grano Retail Holdings which purchased Hickey Freeman's assets including its famed Rochester NY factories, as well as a long-term license for the brand name which still belongs to Authentic Brands Group. It's a complicated arrangement, but it has kept one of America's great menswear brands alive after a couple of bankruptcies of its past parent companies Hartmarx and HMX. New management is dedicated to revival, and chose Brookfield Place to join in the renewal of lower manhattan but also to give the label more visibility in a market where it believes it is underrepresented. The other obvious part of the store's goal is to show off Hickey's new fashion direction, “. . .so when retailers come through New York City, they can see how we display and present it,” Grano CEO Stephen Granovsky tells WWD.
But what of the Madison Avenue flagship between 54th and 55th Streets? Shouldn't that be the site of brand's high-profile re-introduction? It turns out that that store continues to be owned and operated by a different company controlled by Hickey Freeman former CEO which accounts for its more traditional look and ambiance. That state of affairs may change in the future, but Grano is actively looking for looking for more New York locations to open stores of about 1,500 square feet as well as continue to grow Hickey Freeman's business in the specialty store channel that has historically been its strong suit (no pun intended). The Upper East Side is another target location, so perhaps we will soon see Hickey going head to head with Italian powerhouses like Brioni, Isaiah and Cesare Attolini. If it can stand up to to that rarefied competition, then its future should be as bright as its new yellow logo design.
We see a lot of designer boutiques here at The Shophound, and they always have something in common. They are generally designed to be tasteful and neutral backgrounds for the rarefied products they display. They may use luxurious and even innovative materials and have specially designed details that elegantly express their brand's image, but, generally without the clothes, they are a blank.
Is always refreshing to see someone willing break that pattern which is what we encountered this morning at the just-opened Sonia Rykiel boutique on Madison Avenue. Rykiel, the Parisian designer with the unmistakable mane of flaming red hair whose soigné collections amassed a cult of devoted fans over the past several decades, has been absent from Madison for a few years now as her label underwent some transition including her own retirement and the installation of new creative director, Julie de Libran. Rather than remaking the company in a wildly different direction, de Libran has successfully given the brand a shot in the arm but still pays tribute to the house signatures like those familiar striped knits and fluffy, colorful furs. When it came time to return to Madison Avenue, rather than reverting to Rykiel's traditionally sedate black and cream design scheme, de Libran and the company went for bright red lacquered shelves and a bookstore/café theme that appears in the brand's other international locations and serves as a delightful alternative to the parade of self-conscious opulence that has come to characterize Madison Avenue. The walls of the 1,900 square foot shop that was most recently a short-lived Kent & Curwen boutique, have been almost entirely covered in bookshelves which have been duly packed with all manner of literature ready for your perusal —as long as you read French. There are even a few racy volumes waiting for more private examination in the dressing rooms. Matching red lacquered mannequins bring the clothes to life, and a whimsically designed carpet by artist André Saraïva underscores the upbeat ambiance. The "café" corner in the front (pictured after the jump) shows off the newest accessories including the new "Le Copain" mini-bag (only $490) in all its colorful permutations. In short, Rykiel's return to Madison Avenue is inviting and fun, especially on a gloomy winter morning. Of course, Sonia Rykiel is no second tier brand. The clothes hanging on the racks are as luxurious and costly as anyone else's on the street, but it's amazing how a coat of red paint and a little bit of humor can vanish that that sense of self-important preciousness that seems to glaze over so many designer brand palaces in New York. See for yourself starting today.
Sonia Rykiel now open at 816 Madison Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets, Upper East Side
Have a look at some more images of the store after the jump
YOUR WEEKEND PLANS:
Go See The First Major Retrospective dedicated to Marie Antoinette's Royal Portraitist —Who Happened To Be A Woman
If you think that 18th Century painting is something that will make your eyes glaze over, then think again. If you haven't been to the Metropolitan Museum in a while, then it's time to stop by to discover one of the period's finest portrait painters. Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France is the first major retrospective exhibition devoted to Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (pictured in a self-portrait above) who made her reputation in the court of Louis XVI with her vibrant likenesses of Marie Antoinette and other members of the aristocracy. It's hard to imagine anything other than institutional art-world sexism that might have kept Vigée Le Brun out of the spotlight for a couple of centuries or so. Self-trained and excluded from Fench art institutions because of her gender, she found favor with the French royal family not just because of her talent and skill, but also because of her personal charm and ability to entertain her subjects throughout what would otherwise be tedious posing sessions. This also resulted in representations that were particularly lively for the period, showing dimensions of humanity not always evident in portraiture of the time. Forced to flee because of her associations with royalty during the French Revolution, Vigée Le Brun made her way to Florence, Naples, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Berlin, painting her way through a good portion of Europe and leaving remarkable portraits of each region's aristocracy in her wake before ultimately making her way to back to Paris as the revolutionary climate cooled. The 80-piece Exhibition includes major works from private collectors including Queen Elizabeth II well as from the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Musée du Louvre that are rarely if ever lent to other museums. It's an illuminating look into not only the art of one of the French royal court's most lavish eras but also one woman's very real story of surviving turbulent, even life threatening times.
If you go this weekend, you will also get an opportunity to catch a glimpse into the life of one of France's modern aristocrats. The Costume Institute's Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style closes on Sunday at the Anna Wintour Costume Center, so it's your last chance to peek into the estimable wardrobe of Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, one of the world's most stylish women, so think of it as a multi-era French art and fashion doubleheader.
Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France through May 15th and Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style through February 21st at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side
A heavy snow was not anywhere near close enough to keep excited shoppers away from the new Barneys New York flagship that (their designation) that opened Monday on the site of its original men's store on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixteenth Street. Barneys' management has been very clear that they had no intention of recreating the old store, and they certainly have not. It is best to go in without looking for the Chelsea Barneys you once knew and loved, and judge the store on its own terms, but the new store does point out just how far current Barneys management has taken the store from its roots now that it has returned to the scene.
Let's begin with what's good about the store. For starters, Barney's current, extremely minimalistic interior design style looks a lot better in Chelsea that it does on Madison Avenue. While slabs of marble, steel and glass have made parts of the home base mother ship look disturbingly like the lobby of a very expensive office building that has been filled with handbags, similar elements have been employed to much better effect downtown in a much smaller space. A broader array of materials and more generous use of carpeting on the upper floors give the store the more intimate ambiance that befits a luxury establishment. The decor is also much more integrated, continuing from floor to floor as opposed to the Madison Avenue location where one floor may feel well appointed and another may have been stripped down to the point where the 'minimalism' just feels minimal (read: cheap). New display fixtures with freeform shaped bases appear throughout the store and with the central spiral staircase they both create unifying visual elements. In an uncharacteristic move for the anti-nostalgic store, the staircase deliberately recalls the Andrée Putman designed steps from the former women's store which still stands around the corner on 17th street as part of the Rubin Museum. As for the merchandise, the women's floor does a fairly good job of condensing many of the offerings from uptown on a single floor. There is some fine tuning left to be finished, and some collections had clearly not yet found their final placements on the floor, but the presentation was strong. In fact, though the Meatpacking District is several blocks away, the new Barneys looks to be some serious competition for Jeffrey, the only real high-end designer level multi-brand store currently remaining in that rapidly evolving neighborhood. Though the main floor is designated for Women's and Men's accessories, it does recreate the "sea of handbags" effect from uptown and the men's section is pushed into a smaller section toward the back —which brings us to the store's drawbacks, chief among them being the way that Barneys, once New York's greatest all-around men's store, has marginalized its longtime core business.
It's not that, the men's department is totally pushed aside. It gets all of the selling space on the third floor. Unfortunately, it has to share that floor with an as yet unfinished Fred's restaurant, so overall, there are substantially fewer square feet devoted to men than there are to women. This may have been something of a miscalculation, because as it happens, when The Shophound visited the store on Monday afternoon, all floors were busy with shoppers curious to see the new Barneys, but the men's floor was packed like it was the height of the Holiday season. Chelsea is, after all, still Chelsea. And one of the not particularly well-kept secrets of Barneys success as a store for adventurous men's fashion was that it was situated right near a couple of neighborhoods known for their predominantly male populations that tended to be more interested in fashion that the average guy (read: gay). Though Chelsea has changed since the 90s, it hasn't changed that much. What's glaringly missing from the store, however, is any hint of the traditional men's clothing that once filled the entire space that the new store occupies. Except for a very modest counter of casual shirts and sweaters on the main floor, the entire men's offering is comprised of high-end designer collections. While the Madison Avenue store still has a floor devoted to pricey European tailored clothing for men, Barneys has, in recent years, essentially walked away from broad and deep assortments of men's clothing that made it a shopping destination even before Chelsea was a bustling gay neighborhood. There is not a Brioni blazer to be found in the new store, nor is there a Kiton suit or a Zegna tie (or any ties at all as far as we could tell). The new store makes it very clear how Barneys management cares about traditional clothing as a core business which is not at all. On the other hand as a men's designer collections store, it is excellent, and the spacious shoe department —again, totally devoid of traditional, classic footwear— is much more comfortable and easier the shop than the renovated one on Madison Avenue, and the fancy sneakers were moving briskly. Another element borrowed from uptown is the lower level beauty department which also includes a small branch of the Blind Barber. Unfortunately, here is where the dramatic spiral staircase falls flat. It's landing takes up so much space in the middle of the somewhat less expansive floor that it pushes the counters to the edges, making the otherwise well merchandised department feel cramped. It also points out the fact that the renovation of the space included the removal of the escalators. While they may not be essential to a store this size, they are rarely unwelcome to customers who may occasionally tire of waiting for elevators or climbing stairs. Also missing is the well liked home section, so any hopes of seeing the Chelsea Passage department return to its namesake neighborhood will be disappointed.
Criticisms aside, the new Chelsea Barneys succeeds in filling a void that was left when its was shuttered on the same spot about a decade and a half ago. Once again Chelsea has a premier fashion shopping destination that can serve as an anchor for the surrounding blocks which, surprisingly, haven't changed a great deal. Despite the fact that Barneys has so little regard for the original store that once stood there that it completely redesigned the facade which had been pretty much untouched, the store still manages to recapture the feeling of being in a special, off-the-beaten-path establishment far removed from the bustle of midtown luxury shopping. Though it is sure to attract its share of tourists, it feels again like a unique, luxurious neighborhood emporium that could only exist in New York. That's no small feat, and it should be enough to make it thrive again —perhaps enough to expand back into the available corner building on 17th street that completed the original men's store and allow it to present a full representation of the Barneys concept.
Barneys New York Downtown 101 Seventh Avenue at 16th Street, Chelsea
WEST VILLAGE INS & OUTS:
Paul Smith Is In
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Remember when Bleecker Street was such a hot retail address that the older stores were being pushed out and replaced with new designer boutiques at a breakneck pace?
Well, that's over.
As luxury labels retrench in the face of economic uncertainty, Bleecker street is suddenly looking less like a hotspot and more like a tony neighborhood in a holding pattern, perhaps a couple of years behind the neighboring Meatpacking District where once precious retail space is now available in greater abundance. Since the Holiday season, A few more Bleecker Street storefronts have gone empty. Mulberry has quietly exited its outpost at 387 Bleecker leaving it with larger stores on both Madison Avenue and Spring Street in SoHo. Perhaps a tiny store that benefited from Bleecker Street's hotspot-of-the-moment glamor is no longer such an imperative when there are other bigger stores in more heavily trafficked neighborhoods with more potential for sales volume and brand visibility.
Mulberry is not the only company reconsidering its retail strategies. Marc Jacobs is in still the midst of re-inventing his own label. Since the Marc by Marc Jacobs label that made up most of his Bleecker Street stores' offerings has been discontinued, his West Village colony of shops is in a transition of its own. It was always a kind of free-flowing arrangement with stores regularly switching places. With Want Les Essentials de la Vie having already having taken over one of the designer's former shops, the latest branch to bite to the dust is the teeny tiny men's store whose windows are now blacked out. That leaves Jacobs with only his original shop at 403/405 Bleecker, Bookmarc across the street at #400 and the beauty store at #385, which is still a strong showing, but we are still wondering how things will settle retail wise for Marc. His men's store has always been problematic. Having bounced around from one of Jacobs' West Village locations to another, it always seemed to wind up in the same stall-like space that could only hold a few customers at a time and seemed like a poor setting for one of America's premier designers to present his collections. Part of this probably results from the fact that Jacobs has been candid over the years about his personal disinterest in menswear as a designer. He rarely if ever wears his own brand, preferring more attention getting outfits from labels like Comme des Garçons and most recently being very vocal about buying copious amounts of Alessandro Michele's first Gucci collection. His lack of interest is reflected at retail where the label has little traction in menswear, and industry watchers are wondering if the men's division has many more seasons left at all without stronger direction. Closing its store couldn't be seen as a sign of faith in the division.
While once it was incredibly difficult for a retailer to even acquire a space on Bleecker Street in its most desirable stretch between Christoper Street and Hudson Street, now a prospective retailer has something of a selection. Since Brooks Brothers has sadly discontinued its Thom Browne designed Black Fleece collection, its boutique at 351 Bleecker at the corner of West 10th Street has also been shuttered leaving another prime spot open, and more space at 345 Bleecker will be available soon as Comptoir des Cotonniers has posted a closing notice in the window of its unit there. In addition, the empty where the neighborhood favorite Manatus Restaurant once served up classic diner fare is still empty after it was forced out nearly two years ago in hopes of attracting a higher paying tenant who has yet to show up.
It's not all bad news, however. As promised, Paul Smith has opened up a temporary store at 357 Bleecker Street (pictured above) to replace his original Flatiron store. As reported, it's smaller than the shuttered lower Fifth Avenue boutique, but Smith promises a bigger permanent unit on the way. So far the store is only carrying early Spring deliveries heavy on his lower priced label, PS. Perhaps even after a more impressive space presents itself, Smith, who has also streamlined his profusion of labels, should consider hanging on to the Bleecker Street store as a PS-only shop. It would fit in perfectly with the street's more recent focus on slightly more accessible designer labels, and it would fill up a shop that might otherwise not find a tenant a swiftly as it might have a few years ago.
See a gallery of closing notices after the jump.
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