Sometimes luxury retailing can seem like a tabloid story, which is what happened three years ago when Barneys and Prada announced that they had parted ways. Industry watchers were dismayed, to say the least, when it was announced that the retailer would stop carrying accessories and women's apparel from the luxury brand whose rise in prominence during the 1990s parallelled its own. How could you have Barneys without Prada? Well, they never totally split as the store continued to carry women's shoes and all the men's collections, but still, there seemed to a glaring absence at Barneys as it went about its dramatic makeover. That rupture has now been healed as the store quietly announced the return of Prada womenswear this week with dramatic Madison Avenue windows inspired by 20th century German cinema (pictured above) and new adjoining boutiques for Prada's Men's and Women's clothing on the fourth floor. WWD's Bridget Foley goes behind the scenes in today's issue, though seh never fully explains how the two parties resolved their differences beyond proclaiming that they are stronger when working together than apart. Though Prada was booted from the store when it insisted on leasing its women's clothing and accessory spaces —a practice that Barneys does not engage in as a matter of policy— Foley declines to elaborate on the arrangement that brought the label's womenswear back to the store. Prada now leases its accessory department in Saks, as well as separate men's and women's accessory boutiques in Bloomingdale's which have opened subsequent to its departure from Barneys. More than likely, Prada saw that the volume of business Barneys does with the brand was not made up by other doors after the change was made, and so it softened its insistence on leasing. Foley notes that Barneys still does not carry Prada's handbags, which leaves Bergdorf Goodman as the only department store that carries all of its product categories, which are all also found in smaller assortments at Jeffrey downtown. When Barneys and Prada went on a break, Bergdorf Goodman had only just fully repaired its lengthier and deeper rift with the label which had left the store without any of its products for nearly a decade. Bergdorf's has an equally strict non-leasing policy, and the structure of its new agreement with the brand may have informed how Barneys and Prada got back together, but this rapprochement may ultimately say more about how luxury department stores and lease-happy key labels will deal with each other in the future. Stores like Barneys, Bergdorf's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom tend to avoid lease arrangements, making a singular exception for Louis Vuitton who does not wholesale at all anymore. Saks and Bloomingdale's, however, have become increasingly hospitable to them. Gucci recently took over all of its boutiques in Saks with the exception of shoes, and the store has several other leased departments sprinkled throughout its New York flagship. Bloomingdale's has added prominent leased Prada and Gucci shops recently in addition to its longstanding LV boutique and other accessory brands that have added luster to its main floor. More quietly, it also has several leased apparel departments throughout the store including ones from hot contemporary labels like The Kooples, Maje, Sandro and Zadig & Voltaire. When Prada left Barneys, it was thought that major luxury vendors would begin to have the upper hand with retailers in demanding how their wares are presented in stores, but its new arrangement suggests that the stores may still be able to call the shots if they can maintain their prestige and, more importantly, prove that they can sell goods at a level that is ultimately indispensable to the big brands. Ultimately, we are guessing that it was sales volume that brought Prada's women's collection back to Barneys, because as much as both parties like to talk about fashion and art, business is business after all.
As we have mentioned, Baz Luhrmann's 3-D extravaganza adaptation of The Great Gatsby which opens a week from today, is being marketed as aggressively as a superhero franchise, if not more so. How successful the director and Warner Brothers will be at making a Summer movie tentpole out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald classic with no possibility of a sequel —one that has already been filmed at least four times before— remains to be seen, but they seem to be pulling out all the stops to reach a fashion-minded audience. In fact, here in New York, it almost feels like anyone with functioning senses is being clobbered with a barrage of Gatsby promotion and related merchandise as if it will irresistibly compel them to buy a ticket next weekend to the movie. If you have been hooked, here are all the stores to visit that participating in Gatsby promotion, or if you are already sick to death of hearing about it, think of them as stores to avoid for the next month.
BROOKS BROTHERS: We mentioned this a couple of weeks ago. Brooks Brothers worked with Gatsby's costume designer Catherine Martin to produce hundreds of costumes for the film's male characters from leads to background actors. The store's Madison Avenue flagship has been completely Gatsby-ized along with nearly all the windows (pictured above) featuring displays of costumes from the film and promotional placards placed throughout the store. A special Gatsby-inspired capsule menswear collection featuring pastel linen suits and vintage-style formalwear has reportedly been selling well.
TIFFANY & CO.: Tiffany also assisted in costuming Gatsby. Perhaps you noticed the humongous blue Tiffany gift box constructed over Rockeffeller Plaza's ice rink last month for the store's lavish "Blue Book Ball" gala ostensibly celebrating its catalog and launching its "Jazz Age Glamour" diamond, platinum and pearl jewelry collection tied to the film. We haven't seen Tiffany launch a product line with that kind of fanfare since, well, ever, so it's safe to assume that Warner Bros. footed the bill for that one to promote Gatsby. The collection is being displayed in Tiffany's windows, and, in what seems like another first, the store's iconic 1940 facade has been festooned in Art-Deco scroll pattened decals in an attempt to retro-ize it a few decades.
PRADA: Designer Miuccia Prada also contributed costumes for the movie, several of which are currently being displayed in the luxury brand's SoHo Epicenter Plagship, the site of yet another recent gala party promoting the movie. What's on the Prada homepage right now? A film still of Gatsby stars Carey Mulligan and Leonardo di Caprio.
FOGAL: You'll see Gatsby in the windows at Fogal's stores and since it also provided hosiery for the film, it gets the rights to produce, you guessed it, a special collection of 20s-style hosiery featuring seams and deco-patterns.
THE PLAZA HOTEL: The hotel figures in the movie and hosted yet another recent party for the movie, its New York premiere. The hotel's website has been taken over by the movie, and features an "F. Scott Fitzgerald" Suite for anyone who wants a total immersion experience. In addition, there are Gatsby themed dishes created for the Plaza's restaurants and Food Halls
MOET & CHANDON: You will see the champagne's product placement in the film as well as amongst the other retail tie-in display for even more cross-cross-promotion. For example, Brooks Brothers' Gatsby mannequins are posed next to pyramids of the brand's bottles.
MAC: Among the quieter of the movie's promotional partners, we haven't seen as much in-store promotion from MAC, but it provided makeup support for the film and has been promoting Gatsby makeovers in the press over the past weeks
So there you have it all. Just try and avoid this movie while you are shopping this week, and we aren't even counting the relentless marketing of the movie's totally period inappropriate soundtrack album. Don't worry. It'll be over in a few weeks, so you can be ready for the marketing onslaughts from The Wolverine and Man of Steel.
Though the massive overhaul of Bloomingdale's main floor designer accessory boutiques is only about halfway finished, the store is boldly positioning itself to take on its biggest competitors once it is done. The most impressive change will be the addition of major Prada and Christian Dior boutiques as well as the just-opened Jimmy Choo shop to the already heady mix of handbags on the Lexington Avenue side of the floor. This puts Bloomingdale's on a better footing to compete with stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman whose limited distribution arrangements with most luxury brands left the East Side favorite out of the loop, until now. A big, expanded Chanel shop recently opened alongside newly refreshed spaces for Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Chloé.
While there was a time when Bloomingdale's would have been first place a a hot brand would want to be seen, the store's prestige took a critical hit during the recession of the 1990s when management made a decision to trade down and de-emphasize its high end assortments. While the store hung on to sterling labels like Chanel and Giorgio Armani, it lost its place in the pecking order for emerging brands and missed out on much of the status "It" bag business as the century turned. It has been a long, hard fought battle to rebuild the store's snob appeal, and the store's ongoing renovations appears to have helped convince picky vendors like Prada and Dior that it has the proper environment for their labels. Sharp-eyed shoppers will have noticed that earlier in the year, cluttery counters were removed from the Lexington Avenue entrances, giving the floor a more genteel, elegant feeling while more aspirational labels like Burberrry, Longchamp and Coach got kicked half a flight upstairs to the cosmetics level. That leaves the lower section as pure luxury player that will ultimately be anchored by Prada at one end and Louis Vuitton at the other.
We are guessing that the new accessory shops will be completed sometime before the Holiday season, so we should see the reults of the overhaul in a few weeks. Settled firmly in the city's wealthiest zip code, Bloomingdale's should now have a lot more enticement to lure back the nearby customers who abandoned it for tonier options years ago.
Oh come on. we couldn't resist the little pun.
Anyway, what we are talking about is that Prada's fabled sample sale, which we have been missing for the last few seasons, is changing strategies and locations.
Once a complicated affair with set reservation times arranged through an annoying website, the sale will now be a first-come-first-serve event, according to Guerilla Shopper NYC. The sale starts next Saturday October 17th through the following Friday the 23rd at 609 West 51st Street, and will reportedly include Miu Miu and Prada from Fall 2008 and before. As the Guerilla said: If you're reading this, you're invited. No reservations or invitations necessary, just get there early, and if this thing is running for a solid week, there should be plenty of goods to unload. As always, line up early.
Hot Hot Prada News ...if you're reading this..you're invited (Guerilla Shopper NYC)
Prada Sample Sale at 609 West 51st Street between 11th & 12th Avenues
Saturday, October 17th and Sunday, October 18th, 9am - 6pm
Monday, October 20th- Friday October 23rd, 10am - 7pm
Registers close promptly at 6 PM and 7 PM respectively.
We figured that it was only a matter of time before Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson got around to Prada. The only question was, which one? Would it be the hushed, Madison Avenue multi-level location with its signature pistachio hued walls (otherwise known as the one that does all the business)? Perhaps she would take a shot at the busy Fifth Avenue location, or the flashy Soho showplace, the billboard for the brand.
Well, flashy SoHo won out, of course, in today's Thursday Styles. It hardly seems like nearly seven years have passed since Prada's "epicenter" store opened, and, apparently, it's looking a little worse for the wear:
Neither the corner nor the Koolhaas has improved since then. Outside, SoHo has devolved into a gritty stadium-crowd mall. The zebrawood paneling is beginning to get the scratchiti veneer of a grade-school desktop. Rugs are stained, corners are scuffed; the staff looks frazzled. The music is angular and nervous.
And La Cintra is in full "impress me" mode.
We have always said that no matter how wacked out a Prada show might look, once you get to the boutique there is always plenty of wearable, appealing merch. In this case, there is also an overly aggressive and underly perceptive salesperson to push it.
Knock, knock. “How’s it going?”
The door slid open. I loathe being barged in on while half dressed.
“We can alter that. Try this!” Zelda handed me a shirt I had rejected with her earlier.
She left the door open. Male sales assistants stomped by. I dug to find the items I wanted.
“Yes?” (Translation: “Come in! Bring a guest!”)
I stood in my camisole as Zelda exposed me to the seamstress: a small woman with a pin-filled tomato on her wrist.
“She’s leaving,” Zelda cried. “Can you come back tomorrow?”
“Yes. Could I get some clothes on, please?”
Zelda left the door wide open. A construction engineer in work boots walked by. I tried the lock again.
This article could be used as a case study in how to kill a sale that was practically dropped in your lap.
Knowing what we know about the three big Prada stores, it's not so terribly surprising that this happened in SoHo, however. Considering the neighborhood, this store tends to attract the tourists and some downtown regular customers, but the serious Prada-philes shop uptown, usually at the Madison Avenue store, and the downtown staff is both starved for serious customers and under pressure to make sales. This doesn't excuse the bad service that Cintra recieved, but it may give a frame of reference. Frankly, we don't particularly like browsing in the SoHo store, which is saying a lot because we will browse anywhere. For all it's open space, the lower level, where all the goods are, is cramped and tiny. It's a great display opportunity, but in terms of actual shopping pleasure, it has always left us pretty cold.
And, surely a greater offense, it left La Cintra without a purchase.
Critical Shopper: Prada - Better Angel, Out of the Dressing Room! by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Prada 575 Broadway at Prince Street, SoHo
Here at The Shophound, we have always joked that, in Manhattan, people are so blasé that a guy can walk down the street in a ballet tutu without anyone anyone taking much notice. We have never actually said it directly to Miuccia Prada, but she, apparently, is trying to prove that point with her Fall 2008 men's show. Generally, we understand that it's not always fair to judge a collection on internet photos, but we're going to do it anyway because, in this case, we just can't resist. Typically, whenever Prada shows get kooky, you can rest assured that the boutiques will have plenty of classic, easy to wear clothes and shoes on hand to buy. In this show, however, precious double collars, tiny ruffled overskirts, back-buttoning silk blouses, cropped halter tops and some disturbing, thong-y undergarment worn over the shirt but halfway under the pants give a clear message of "Don't try this at home," or better yet, "Try this only at home".
This is only the frst men's show we have looked at. If this is any indication of things to come, it should be very entertaining.
Prada Men's Fall/Winter 2008 runway pictures can be seen here.
• This just in! Prada finally, officially, definitely going public for real. (WWD)
• Is Hedi Slimane ready to rejoin LVMH to finally launch his own label? Time will tell. (DNR)
• Tired of New York Shopping? How 'bout a trip to Rotterdam? (Refinery 29)
• H&M recruits a host of designers and celebrities for an awareness raising "Fashion Against Aids" collection to debut next year. Will this just raise awareness, or contribute to a cure? Exactly who shops at H&M who isn't aware of AIDS? (Style File)
• Procrastinating? Here's an extensive last minute gift guide from a discerning source. (Coolhunting)
• Having trouble finding French made-to-measure shirts? Listerougeimagine.com has come to your rescue. (Material Interest)
• Costco is coming to a mall near you to fill up all those empty May Company spaces. (WWD)
It's been a strangely cold and dreary bunch of days feeling more like April than August, so The Shophound would have thought that a Prada Sample Sale would have been an excellent way to brighten the day.
Prada's sale is a more exclusive affair than your average "line up in front of the showroom with the masses and rummage through boxes as fast as you can before someone else gets the good stuff" event. You have to log in and register online and choose a particular one-hour appointment for your shopping time. You also have to know when to do this, because the site is non functional during the rest of the year, and you may not get a notification when it comes alive again.
So, this morning we traipsed up to the second floor of the Fuller Building at 57th and Madison to see what we could score, only to discover that they should have been paying us to cart what little they had away.
Now, we have been to many a sample sale in our day, and we know the hazards. Sometimes odd items form previous seasons get tossed in with the extra stock, as well as damaged items and, of course, the actual samples.
At Prada, we found a remarkable assortment of the shopworn and the too-ugly-to-sell. We all know Miuccia has a penchant for the shoe with too much going on. It's too bright and too chunky and too weird, but it appeals to her perhaps in a perverse way, as palate cleanser after all the pretty things. Nobody actually buys those shoes, so they wind up at the sample sale, aparently in abundance. And that goes double for the menswear, which contained a lot of items that were in disturbingly poor condition, from who knows what season. As for the bags, customers were allowed to purchase only one, and most of the selection consisted of one small style of white nylon shoulder bag. It looks like this is what's left after they unload the decent stuff to Bluefly or their outlets.
Having said that, there were probably gems hidden here and there for those lucky few with the patience to rummage through, and thanks to the not terribly strictly enforced appointment schedule (we were late for ours, but nobody seemed top mind) the place is not crowded in the least, allowing a refreshingly relaxing experience.
Our guess is that the good stuff goes fast on the first day, which is further restricted to specially invited customers.
Our advice? Go make friends with someone at Prada for next season.
We have known for a while that working for Prada in nearly any capacity can be a holy nightmare. In fact they offered to hire The Shophound for their store in Miami just over a decade ago, and we shocked ourselves by turning them down despite our devotion to the brand (Hey, it was the mid-nineties when Prada was golden - before it was everywhere). Apparently, they felt that the honor of working for Prada would compensate for the incredibly small salary they were offering. Like we were working retail for fun or something. Since then we have heard one horror story after another about goings on at all levels of the company, and now comes a scandalous first-hand report from Jezebel about life at the Prada Epicenter store in SoHo. Even after taking standard retail sales associate bitterness and disgruntlement into consideration, it's a shocking yet amusing tale.
All day long, you smile at the grayed sixtysomething rich guys as they escort their dewy faced young girlfriends into the high-tech dressing rooms for a little pre-splurge BJ action. You smile at fourteen year olds carrying handbags that could pay your rent for a semester. You smile at tourists who mistake Prada for a cultural attraction -- it did, after all, used to be the Guggenheim -- and the other tourists who mistook their fake Prada bags for real ones they could bring in for repair. And you smile as Kimora Lee Simmons DEMANDS that you furnish her with a skirt two sizes too small for her and throws a tantrum when it doesn't fit.
In a marked contrast to the media hurricane surrounding the launch of the iPhone, that other magical touch-screen phone is slinking into the marketplace with nary a peep. In fact, it's not going to be officially available in the United States at all. It seems that no major U.S. wireless carrier could be convinced to support the LG/Prada phone.
The attractive device is being sold through several outlets online including Amazon and eBay for various prices ranging from $549 up to nearly $800. In Sunday's New York Times we caught J&R advertising an unlocked Prada phone for $549, but when when we visited the store later that day, a salesperson told us they were sold out of them and had no idea when they would be getting more. The next step was to go directly to the source, and at Prada SoHo, an informative staff member was surprised to hear that other stores were selling the phone. "We were supposed to get them in April or May," he told us, "but our orders were canceled, and we had list of people waiting for them."
Does this make it a bomb?