Let's just put it out there, The Shophound can sometimes be easily swayed by food.
The prompt offer of hot chocolate and cookies from the nearby City Bakery upon our entrance to Nautica's Holiday season pop-up store (pictured above) in the Flatiron District a couple of days ago was a smart move on the part of the moderate department store mainstay brand. We declined the cookies, mainly because we didn't want to look like too much of a hog, but who can pass up City Bakery hot chocolate? That's not some cheap cup of Swiss Miss, and besides, it forced us to browse for at least long enough to finish sipping our rich and creamy treat.
Oh, yeah, the store. Why we found there was a bit different from what you'll come across in pretty much every Macy's in America. Nautica, like nearly every middle of the road menswear brand is looking to capture an upscale customer who won't be caught in a moderate department store. That's why they have made a special collection for the shop, which features luxurious cabled cashmere sweaters and a sweet raw denim peacoat in place of the more prosaic chinos, windbreakers and polo shirts that the brand is known for. To complement the offerings, Nautica has added Jeans from 7 for All Mankind and Jansport backpacks instead of counterparts from their own brand to mimic the label mixing at the stores like J.Crew and Club Monaco whose customers it hopes to attract. In addition, the store is relaunching the Nautica women's line in the U.S. with similarly uplifted items. Will the gambit work? Nautica's signature navy and white palette has classic appeal at any price point, and boating as a pastime always has an air of the upper classes about it. It remains to be seen if Nautica will be embraced by the more affluent customer it is chasing after so many years of stylish runway shows snd presentations of collections never seemed to fully materialize at retail, but the store shows that the brand can make a case for a more elevated product line if they manufacture it and give people a chance to see it up close.
A similar strategy is under way on a larger scale at the Lands' End temporary store at the long empty Fifth Avenue site (below) that has been home to a string of former Liz Claiborne-owned brands (Liz, Mexx, Juicy Couture) for the better part of two decades until that conglomerate broke apart a few years ago. Most of Juicy's glitz has been finally erased from the space except for the elaborate wrought-iron and brass railing on the staircase connecting the two levels. Stripped down to concrete floors, the store's makeshift ambiance is emphasized by unfinished wooden fixtures and installations (pictured above) which is the perfect backdrop for. . . more cashmere!
Eager to shed the association with its former parent company Sears, Lands' End is also looking to upgrade its fashion image along with its customer base, and what better way to do that than with the multi-ply cashmere poncho that greets customers as they enter the store or maybe a surprisingly trendy navy and white sailor stripe crewneck? With some high profile new execs with tonier backgrounds, the company has hinted that it may stick around at its current Fifth Avenue home permanently. At the moment, it is offering a highly curated array of classic items from its vast inventory in addition to the cashmeres. Chief in the offerings is outerwear, a Lands' End staple. The menswear in particular is showing the touch of its new creative director with more colorful jackets and classic heavy flannel shirts in in updated prints. There are plenty of Holiday gift items, of course, but, more importantly, Lands' End has a whole bar and lounge serving hot chocolate along with its own chocolate mint and salted caramel cookies. After all it will be important to keep your energy up during the upcoming shopping season.
Nautica Pop-Up Shop 134 Fifth Avenue between 18th & 19th Streets, Flatiron District
Lands' End Holiday Pop-Up Shop 650 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, Midtown