Seattle Comes To SoHo edition

24CRITICAL5-articleLargeThis week's Thursday Styles sends Critical Shopper Molly Young to SoHo for a survey of Totokaelo, the vertically sprawling new boutique from Seattle that has become an auspicious addition to Manhattan's shopping roster. Our shopper, a Pacific Northwest native, offers an illuminating interpretation of Totokaelo's abundance of luxurious but loose, often shroudlike garments, "There’s something about the temperature and moisture content of the air there that makes a person want to swaddle herself in garments that are half hug, half anesthetic." The same appeal holds in New York, which has its own pressures that might make a person want to spend the day swathed in something cozy.
After a detour into the store's subterranean men's department —a literal man-cave— Young ascends the many levels of women's offerings to further explore. Totokaelo's signature look is not to be approached without some expertise, however, as our shopper describes some of the items she has encountered as making her look like "a sack of cornmeal" and, comfort benefits notwithstanding, "uniquely unflattering to all of my body parts". As for a peculiar preponderance of jumpsuits, our shopper writes, "If you’re in the mood to hit the playground or just to obscure your secondary sex characteristics, any of these will do the job."
Well, that is a very specific customer, but as we know, in New York, there is a store for every kind of person.

Critical Shopper: Jumpsuits, 7 Days A Week at Totokaelo’s SoHo Store By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Totokaelo 54 Crosby Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo.


Signs Of Sale Life With Sferra, Links Of London & More

Experience tells us that there will be a consistent but low grade of Sample Sale activity for the next several weeks before things heat up again, but there should be one or two bright spots every week.
You still have a couple more days to catch the WP LAVORI sale in SoHo featuring racks of well priced, classic outerwear from BARACUTA and SPIEWAK and shirts from BD BAGGIES. We visited yesterday, and it had not yet been discovered by eager shoppers, so there is likely to be plenty of merchandise. Shoppers will also find a small selection of luxury knits form Avon Celli as well as a few items form the Lavori-produced Woolrich John Rich and Woolrich Woolen Mills labels. You have until tomorrow to shop until the same space gets turned over to LINKS of LONDON on Thursday evening. This sale is promising up to 75% off watches and semiprecious jewelry through Sunday the 27th.
If it's your bed that needs dressing, you have from today until Sunday to head to 260 Fifth Avenue to get a big discount on SFERRA's luxurious Italian linens for bed and bath. This is always a popular home sale, and has now moved to a reliable but new venue for the label.
The week's big name won't make an appearance until Sunday when LORO PIANA makes its seasonal appearance at Soiffer Haskin. By now we are pretty familiar with this sale featuring an ultra-luxe assortment of Italian-made selection of sportswear, accessories and, most importantly, cashmere knitwear and scarves for men and women. Loro Piana starts out at the highest of the high end price wise, so even at a discount it goes for a big chink of change. However, it is classic stuff, and a worthy investment if your style runs toward the traditional side of things. Bolt of luxury fabrics will also be available for those who like to make their own clothes. Ends on October 1.

Next week, get ready for some civilized pandemonium over the first Paul Smith sale in several seasons as well as gently used and even more gently priced frocks at Rent The Runway's seasonal clearance. As always, keep an eye on our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for details and late breaking events. Shop well!


Paul Smith, Catherine Malandrino, Miu Miu, Victorinox, Liebeskind, Prada, Z Zegna, Rebecca Minkoff, WeSC, Rebecca Taylor, Wolverine

Here is your weekly sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites this week. You should click over to the sites themselves for a full schedule of events, and be sure to check for the correct start time for each sale. Shop well!

Miu Miu, Catherine Malandrino, Elorie, Paul Smith, Prada, Joomi Lim, Mackage, DL1961, Splendid. Tumi Luggage, Moncler, Vintage Shoe Company, Dockers, Z Zegna, Nick Graham, Sebago, WeSC, Citizen Watches, DeSanto Accessories, Matteo Bedding, FlashPoint Candles —join HERE
Aquatalia by Marvin K, Jared Lang, I. Reiss, Illestava, BluePrint Cleanse, Wade & Belle, 7 for All Mankind, Kitchen Aid, Seda France, Kate Aspen  —join HERE
Balenciaga, Cullen, Gucci, Ray-Ban, AquaSwiss, Jill Stuart, Joe's Jeans, Longchamp, T.Tahari, Via Spiga, August Silk, Emilio Cavallini, Enzo Angiolini, Rebecca Minkoff —join HERE
Hudson Jeans, Kenenth Cole, Wolverine 1000 Mile, L.K.Bennett, Tommy Bahama, Triple Five Soul, Adolfo, Lafayette 148, Illamasqua, Laundry by Shelli Segal, Vince Camuto, Rebecca Taylor, Love Stitch, Liebeskind Berlin, Tahari, Victorinox, Rogue, Milk26, M Missoni —join HERE
Prada, J.McLaughlin, Stella McCartney, Primsport, Hale Bob, MARC by Marc Jacobs, Alicia Adams, Givenchy, Yosi Samra, Mezlan, Head, Tom Ford, Emporio Armani, Acquaviva, Hickey Freeman, Borrelli, Puma, Alternative Apparel, ElevenParis, Maison Margiela, Thomas Earnshaw Watches, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Armani Collezioni, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bruno Magli —join HERE


Fancy Feet Edition

17SHOPPER4-master180-v2Today's Thursday Styles brings us Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's visit to shoe guru Louis Leeman's new boutique on Madison Avenue. Before taking on Leeman's store, Caramanica takes the opportunity to assess the current craze for extremely expensive, highly embellished designer sneakers. The term sneaker is relative here, as none of these shoes are actually meant for real athletic activity, but then, most of the covetable instant sell-out Nikes that get customers to camp out on the sidewalk for days in advance will never see the floor of a basketball court either. Our Shopper is more amused than appalled, and he calls Leeman the love child of his Madison Avenue neighbors, combining the craftsmanship of John Lobb with the unbridled glitz of Giuseppe Zanotti.
Ultimately, this is what seems to flummox our shopper. We never really thought he would go on a spree there, but it turns out that, along with noticing some consistency problems, Caramanica finds that the Leemans he tries on are neither  flamboyant enough to be outrageous nor classic enough to be elegant.

Maybe it was the lighting — diffuse, soothing, slightly yellow — but in the mirror, they seemed almost dull

It turns out that on Madison Avenue, the middle of the road takes you nowhere.

Designer Louis Leeman Puts a Swagger in His Shoes By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Louis Leeman 793 Madison Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side


See The UNIQLO x Carine Roitfeld Campaign by Steven Meisel Including U.S. Prices

We have been focusing so much of our attention on the upcoming Uniqlo and Lemaire collaboration that we almost forgot about the other big team-up the Japanese mega-chain is debuting this Fall —the one with superstylist and editor, Carine Roitfeld. The line's ad campaign images leaked late last week on the blogs, DesignScene and Fashion Gone Rogue, and feature model Lexi Boling photographed by Steven Meisel and styled by La Roitfeld herself reflecting her own personal style right down to the tousled side parted hair and signature smoky eyes. Prices for the items pictured range from $49.90 for a faux leather shirt to $199.90 for a wool Chester coat. As you can see above and after the jump in the five images that have surfaced, Roitfeld's sleek, urbane and body conscious style has been translated intact. You can almost smell a faint race of cigarette smoke just by looking at them. The line officially drops on October 29th, though an exact store listing is not yet available (the line's dedicated web page is not yet activated). We'll keep an eye out for more details for all those wannabe louche Parisiennes out there who are no doubt waiting with mascara wands at the ready.

All images by Steven Meisel for Uniqlo


See The UNIQLO x Carine Roitfeld Campaign by Steven Meisel Including U.S. Prices" »


Just A Few Fashion Week Sales Featuring BaubleBar, Milly & More

Fashion Week has never been a strong Sample Sale time, and this season is no exception. Still, like Friends reruns, there is always some sample sale running at any given moment.

This week's big draw is likely to be the BAUBLEBAR sale starting today at 260 Fifth Avenue. The popular accessory retailer is promising trinkets starting at a mere $10 through Sunday the 19th, so you almost can't go wrong.

Popular contemporary label MILLY will be having a mono-brand sale at Clothingline starting tomorrow the 16th for three days only. Its promised to be the biggest Milly sale ever featuring all product categories including apparel and handbags.

Jewelry of a more precious kind will be offered on Thursday the 17th when Soiffer Haskin opens a four-day IPPOLITA sale, As usual, this venue requests that you leave the kids at home.

Finally, on Saturday the 19th, sportswear mainstay EILEEN FISHER will have her fans flocking to the East Village just for the weekend to offer 50% off samples from the current Fall season. Follow the shoppers decked out in loose, layered tunics and leggings.

See our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for all details and locations as well as late-breaking events. Next week, make time for luxury lines from Sferra as well as debuts from Links of London and WP Lavori's stable of classic labels including Barracuta, Spiewak and BD Baggies.


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.


The New Look Of NYFW Is All Business

When it was officially announced that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week would be leaving its most recent tent complex at Lincoln Center, nobody in New York's fashion community was particularly disappointed. Ultimately, the heavy presence of sponsors and increasingly irrelevant promotional events turned fashion folks against the concept of centralized shows that, at its inception as 7th on Sixth two decades earlier, had been hailed as New York Fashion Week's coming of age.
Well, if an absence of sponsors and promotional activity is what they wanted, then that is wha they got. Now unencumbered of its auto industry title sponsor, the newly renamed NYFW: The Shows is going back to basics in a dramatic way with a spare, bare bones set-up in the raw construction space of the future Moynihan Station and a clean, minimalist white space at Skylight Clarkson Square in SoHo.  Of course, the many sponsor booths that were so reviled are gone in the future train station, except for a single Tresemmé mini-salon discreetly off to the side, and, ever more incongruously, a small balcony studio for E!'s Fashion Police (pictured below), the show that will not die even after the only real reason to watch it did. If you used to look forward to grabbing a bottle of Vitamin Water from a handy bin or refrigerator, you will now have to line up at a single window in each location where an attendant will hand you a single bottle —so no more stocking up on free water on your way out, fashion folks. If you are feeling peckish and need a quick bite to eat, as far as we could tell, you will be out of luck at both locations where the standard overpriced cafe featuring sandwiches and other snacks that had come to be a standard fixture was nowhere to be seen. Even the rack of gratis fashion periodicals, always a popular feature, was hidden around a corner by the bathrooms.
It is a move from one extreme to another. Instead of the padded benches we once saw around the main lobby at Lincoln Center, there are now bleachers in midtown on the back wall for anyone who needs to wait around between shows or just wants to sit down (pictured above). A few press tables are hidden at the top, and the arrangement is indeed practical but could easily have been executed with a bit more comfort in mind. Still, it's better that the Skylight Clarkson Square arrangement. While the NYFW: Men's set up in July in the same location was practical but comfortable with little oppressive promotional activity, the current version is all optic white walls and empty space.
The effect of this stripped-down Fashion Week is that of a palate cleanser to say the least. Perhaps the strategy is to show designers who eschewed the tents over the years that WME-IMG's Fashion Week arrangement could be just as spartan as a raw space in the Financial District if that's the vibe they were looking for. But then, Fashion folks can be, dare we say, a bit fickle. After a few runway seasons without random makeup giveaways and other various free stuff, showgoers may be longing for the good old days of sponsor booths and swag. Be careful what you wish for.


Mary Katranzou, Andrew Christian, Ports 1961, TOD's, Rick Owens, Billy Reid, Patagonia, Prada, Baume & Mercier, Burberry, Splendid

Here is your weekly sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites this week. You should click over to the sites themselves for a full schedule of events, and be sure to check for the correct start time for each sale. Shop well!

Mary Katranzou, Armani Collezioni, 10 Crosby, Nephora Diamonds, Wolverine 2000 Mile, Baume & Mercier, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Katie Rowland, Tart, Rachel Zoe, Fred Perry, Prada, Gordon Rush, Andrew Christian, Hans Kristoff Scarves, WMF Kitchenware, Delsey Paris, Alora Ambiance  —join HERE
Alberto Fermani, Robert Graham, Joyfolie, Kosta Boda/Orrefors, Brioni, Stephen Webster, Elie Tahari, David Yurman Sunglasses, Vince, Neu Home —join HERE
Nicole Miller, L.A.M.B., Joe's Jeans, Yummie by Heather Thompson, Coach, Diesel, Hartmann, Splendid. Tahari, Tiffany & Co. Eyewear, Burberry, Gracia, Reebok, The North Face, Patagonia —join HERE
Joe's Jeans, Façonnable, Cullen, DOMA Leather, Cullen, Arturo Chiang, Cole Haan, Hart Schaffner & Marx, Halston Heritage, Urban Decay, Eileen Fisher, Sea Gypsies, Dune London, Ports 1961, Billy Reid —join HERE
Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Armani Collezioni, Sam Edelman, Schutz, Ellen Tracy, DL 1961, Salvatore Ferragamo, Natori, Charriol, Dolce & Gabbana, Taryn Rose, Robert Wayne, Gitman, TOD's, Isaac Mizrahi, Ben Sherman, J Fold, Simon Spurr, Rick Owens, Burberry, Viyella, Naked & Famous —join HERE


Saks Fifth Avenue Announces Its Latest Flagship Makeover Plan

SFAflagshipAt this point, several announcements about major renovations for the enormous Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store have come and gone with little actual activity, often because top management has changed faster than they have been able to implement the ever more elaborate and expensive renewal projects. The most recent one came earlier this year when then president Marigay McKee presented plans which included a series of bi-level designer lifestyle boutiques that would ring the main floor and extend up to the second level creating what we could only imagine to be a construction nightmare that wouldn't actually solve the store's pressing merchandising problems. McKee's noisy but brief tenure as Saks president ended shortly after that announcement, and the plans were apparently scuttled.
Today, WWD reports that current Saks President Mark Metrick has announced a new 3-year $250 million renovation plan that is even more radical, shuffling floors and adding a lower concourse level and even a dramatic new elevator. Ordinarily we would simply sigh and say, "We'll believe it when we see it," but now that Saks appears to have settled more comfortably as a division of Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, we have a feeling that this plan, or at least parts of it, will stick. Here are some of the main points of what will ultimately be a startling shakeup of every floor in the store.

Handbags and Accessories will take over the entire main floor.
One of Saks' longtime merchandising struggles on Fifth Avenue has been an epic fight for space on the main floor of the original building between cosmetics and handbags. Despite the enormous amount of floor space, there has never been enough room for retail's two most profitable categories to coexist peacefully there along with jewelry, and it would appear that cosmetics has won, taking over almost all of the floor space, and pushing accessories to a series of in-store shops around the store's perimeter and an undersized multi-brand handbag section crammed into the escalator atrium. This forced handbag customers to not only shop in a cumbersome ring around the huge main floor, but also to have to contend with aggressive makeup reps while buying purses.
In a reversal, Accessories have now gained the upper hand, and will not only take over the front of the main floor, but also the Swiss Tower sections behind the escalators currently occupied by jewelry. That department will be divided between the new concourse level downstairs to be called "The Vault" for precious gems and watches and part of the tower section of the second floor which presumably will house semiprecious baubles. It's a big change that will not only make it easier to sell those high-margin accessories, but should also mollify some important luxury brands without their own in-store shops who could not have been happy with the puny accessory area around the escalator atrium. This means that...

Cosmetics will move to the second floor.
Competitors Bergdorf's and Barneys have previously solved space problems by creating expansive makeup deportments in luxuriously renovated basements, but Saks will twist that scheme by moving it upstairs instead for 53% more space. The second floor at Saks is currently dedicated to more separates-oriented women's designer collections (they used to call it Designer Sportswear), but the section in the front of the store hasn't seen a major renovation since the 1970s, which is when the dramatic wooden superstructure you see there now was installed. Presumably, it will finally be cleared out. How will Saks keep what must be one of the biggest cosmetics departments in the world humming without the main floor foot traffic? A new glass elevator with a 23-foot staircase spiraling around it as well as an additional escalator will be installed in the center of the main floor to ferry customers up to two and down to the new jewelry concourse. Having cosmetics on two will trade the main floor's hectic —and extremely loud— ambiance for a more relaxing environment that will encourage customers to buy more. It will also save store visitors from having to brave battalions of fragrance models on their way to the upper floors, which is a win for everybody

Women's apparel will shrink from four to three floors.
With cosmetics moving up, women's wear will lose an entire floor, but the entire women's departments are being re-imagined. No longer to be stratified by price between the second and fifth floors, women's departments will now be arranged by lifestyle, with varying price points and different designer collections on every floor between 3 and 5. In addition, a new department call "The Ballroom" will be created on the 9th floor devoted only to eveningwear including shoes, handbags and jewelry. Bridal will also be included on the floor as well.

While Men's will remain on 6 and 7, it too will be rearranged with more of a lifestyle point of view, and other departments will be tweaked and moved around. The plan is one of the most elaborate store renovation plans we have seen, but, assuming it is fully carried out, it will give Saks some long overdue changes and updates. Don't get too anxious to see the results, however. It is not projected to be completed until 2018. In the meantime, there will be much construction disrupting the store, but when it is finished, it should result in a state-of-the-art ready to do battle just as fierce competitor Nordstrom sails into town.

Master Plan for the Saks Flagship Breaks Convention (WWD)