COSTUME DRAMA:

The Met Takes A Turn Toward The Technical With Manus x Machina

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Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, Lower Level Gallery View: Tailleur and Flou © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met Ball is tonight, and, for the first time, you will be able to watch the red carpet arrivals on E! just as if it were the Oscars or the Golden Globes. What with a splashy documentary about last year's blowout in theaters now, you might be forgiven for forgetting that this weekend, long after the gala detritus has been whisked away form the museum's galleries, there will be a exhibition opening, and this year's entry, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, is just a bit different from the lavish extravaganzas of past spring seasons.
The pre-publicity for the exhibition has put the emphasis on the "tech" of the title, which has been underscored by having Apple as a major sponsor, but the shoe is less about "wearable tech" than it is about how technology has shaped the clothes we wear, or maybe, as it focuses mainly on Haute Couture and extremely deluxe Ready-to-Wear, the clothes that just a select few of us wear —or sometimes just the clothes that models wear on the runway.
We aren't sure if the neoprene couture wedding gown by Chanel that sits at the center of the exhibition has ever been worn by anyone in real life, but it is the emblem of the exploration into the merging of cutting edge materials technology snd high fashion that is the concern at hand. In his remarks to the press previewing the exhibition this morning, Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute talked of re-evaluating the exalted status of hand-made objects versus the more mundane view of machine made products.
So the actual exhibition is not the grand, glamorous display we have seen in the past few years, though its emphasis on the inner workings of construction owes something to the recent Charles James retrospective which presented a surprising focus on the engineering structure of his famous sculptural ballgowns. Manus x Machina is a somewhat smaller affair contained entirely in the museum's Robert Lehman Wing which has been transformed into a gauzy white space by a striking arrangement of taut scrims designed by Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York. Organized around the disciplines of Couture, it highlights the innovations that technology has made possible by juxtaposing vintage fashion with its modern counterparts made in materials that Coco Chanel and Christian Dior could not have dreamed of. See a vintage Chanel tweed suit alongside Karl Lagerfeld's 2015 versions made with an 3-D printed overlay that creates a quilted effect in a mix of high-tech, machine made materials and traditional hand-finished embroideries (pictured above). This is an opportunity for some of the most avant-garde designers to shine and shine they do, chief among them, Iris van Herpen, the Dutch designer who has made a name for herself by pioneering the use of cutting edge materials and 3-D printing to create ensembles that range from elegant to outlandish, but are never less than fascinating, especially when the museum delves into her unusual manufacturing techniques. This is one exhibition where reading the item descriptions really pays off as each item is described by which elements are handmade and which are made by machine. Also well represented is Japanese innovator Issey Miyake, whose famous pleated garments are shown alongside the gowns of the often overlooked Mary McFadden who pioneered the heat-pleating process to great commercial success in the 1970s and 80s, and Mariano Fortuny, whose technique for creating his early 20th Century pleated silk gowns remains a fiercely protected secret still held by his heirs. Also on view are Proenza Schouler's remarkable forays into fabric research, Raf Simons' elaborately constructed creations for Dior, Hussein Chalayan's mechanically automated dresses and more. It is a particularly scholarly detour for the Costume Institute, but it is encouraging to see that the museum is making a move away from some of the exhibitions of the past that had alluring themes but maybe not quite as much much depth as one might have hoped for (remember Punk? Superheroes?). This time, the flash is backed up with real substance.

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 5 through August 14th.


TRIUMPHANT RETURN:

Sonia Rykiel Is Back On Madison Avenue With A Splash

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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

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Image courtesy of Sonia Rykiel

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Sonia Rykiel Is Back On Madison Avenue With A Splash" »


YOUR WEEKEND PLANS:

Go See The First Major Retrospective dedicated to Marie Antoinette's Royal Portraitist —Who Happened To Be A Woman

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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


MENSWEAR MOVES:

Brioni Is Heading To Madison Avenue This Fall Amidst A Men's Designer Shuffle

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It may have just lost its creative director, but that won't stop Brioni from opening it's newest store on Madison Avenue this Fall. It's not totally clear if this store is meant to be a replacement or an addition to the Roman-founded label's flagship on East 57th street, but it's certainly about time that the revered brand joins its colleagues and competitors like Isaia, Berluti, Ermenegildo Zegna and Cesare Attolini on New York's most luxury-concentrated shopping strip. Brioni will be taking the northern corner shop of the recently refurbished Carlton House at 62nd Street, just one block from Barneys. Presumably, the store will open with Brioni's Fall 2015 collection which was the last one directed by Brendan Mullane who added a more directional edge to the label's classic Italian tailoring. It may have been a little bit too directional as Mullane was dismissed last month while Ermenegildo Zegna also parted ways with its designer, Stefano Pilati. Rumors swirled that the designers' innovations, impressive though they may have been to critics, were neither resonating with the labels' existing, traditionally minded customers nor attracting enough new ones. Zegna managed to poach Alessandro Sartori, the designer who originally developed its Z Zegna collection, away from Berluti where he oversaw the merging of the artisanal shoe brand with the Parisian custom tailor Arnys to make a new men's luxury lifestyle brand. Sartori will now oversee all Zegna collections. Will Brioni, now owned by luxury conglomerate Kering, try again to find someone new to add some more youthful zing to its image and attract more fashion forward customers or fall back the impeccably hand tailored traditional clothing that has always been its stock in trade? Whatever it chooses, it will have a prime Madison Avenue location to display it.


NO, NOT LEFTIES:

Italian Contemporary Label Pinko Coming To Madison Avenue

PinkoSS16Generally, we would suggest that Pinko, derogatory midcentury slang for lefty communist sympathizers, would not be the best name for a contemporary women's apparel line, but we have all gotten used to a fashion line called Acne by now, so we suppose that all bets are off in that respect.
Anyway, Pinko (pictured at right), an Italian based sportswear chain is making what appears to be its U.S. debut on the north-western corner of Madison Avenue and 80th Street in the former home of a Comptoir des Cotonniers unit. The line, whose prices appear to be comparable to Sandro or Maje, has an abundance of stores throughout Europe, the U.K., the Middle East and China, but has not yet ventured into North America. The Commercial Observer tells us that its debut store will be roughly 1,000 square feet, and that's all we got fro now. No opening date has yet been set, nor have plans for further expansion been released, but the upper reaches of Madison Avenue right on the pedestrian route to the Metropolitan Museum should be fertile ground to launch this sort of brand in the vicinity of Vince, J.Crew, Nanette Lepore and their ilk. Stay tuned for more details.

Italian Women’s Fashion Brand Pinko Making Foray Into USA (Commercial Observer)


MOLLY YOUNG GOES SHOPPING:

More Than Goth On Madison Avenue Edition

29CRITICAL1-articleLarge-v2À propos of the days before Halloween, Critical Shopper Molly Young makes an excursion to the recently opened Givenchy boutique in today's Thursday Styles. Riccardo Tisci's version of Givenchy is offering possibly the darkest, witchiest vision in luxury fashion these days, and while it is frequently described as "Goth", it has really evolved into more of a moody, baroque aesthetic with tinges of mysticism. Our shopper seems to enjoy her visit noting that the gallery-like boutique seems to welcome all,

Givenchy is also a great place to encounter beauty, no matter what your tax bracket. Looking is free, after all. The salesmen are warm and offer coffee. You can stare at $22,000 velvet dresses and silk blouses with an all-over centaur print ($4,195). You can flip through books by Marina Abramovic.

It's the sort of successful brand statement that makes sense of the fashion in-joke of using competitor Donatello Versace as this season's campaign model, and given the dodgy job security of running a Parisian couture house these days, a strong brand image is Tisci's best form of employment insurance.

Critical Shopper: Givenchy on Madison Avenue Mixes Metaphors, Beautifully By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Givenchy 747 Madison Avenue at 65th Street, Upper East Side


JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

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


TRIUMPHANT RETURN:

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

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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.


RAPID EXPANSION:

Roland Mouret Is Already Moving To A Bigger Store On Madison Avenue

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Though it has only been open for less than a year, WWD tells us that Roland Mouret's flagship store on Madison Avenue is ready to move to a new space nearby that is nearly four times the size. The new store, a 5,250 square foot 6-floor townhouse at 1006 Madison (pictured above) is said to better reflect the feeling of Mouret's London boutique with 20 foot ceilings and multiple levels to house the designers' expanding array of product offerings. Located a block or so north of his current store at no. 925, the new space will still be within the section of Madison Avenue that is under extra scrutiny lately as it includes the newly opened Apple Store as well as the Whitney Museum's recently vacated Breuer Building that will soon become a satellite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even more foot traffic is expected to be directed above 72nd Street. Other neighbors include Christian Louboutin, Missoni, and the Carlyle and Mark hotels, making the former home to the Peress Lingerie boutique something of a sleeper location waiting for a better use. There's no word on when the store will be ready to move, in fact, new os the lease comes not from Mouret but the owner of the building, Thor Equities. For the moment, expect Roland Mouret to stay right where it is for at least another season or two while its expansive new home undergoes what is expected to be some major renovations.

Roland Mouret Flagship to Quadruple in Size (WWD)


CLEAN SWEEP:

Elie Saab Will Wipe Away The Ghost Of Juicy Couture On Madison Avenue

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The former Juicy Couture boutique at 860 Madison Avenue


See that old old Juicy Couture store above that never quite seemed to belong on Madison Avenue and 70th Street?
It's about to get a nice upgrade with real couture —no juice.
After sitting empty for quite a while in that unfortunate way that prime Manhattan real estate will do these days, The New York Post has announced that Beirut-based designer Elie Saab will be taking over the 4,000 square foot space for his first American boutique. The new store will put him just a few steps away from Prada, Céline, Tim Ford and Gucci just to name a few, so he really couldn't have asked for better company. The Post suggests that Saab is probably paying less than the $3.5 million asking rent for the store, but, really in Saab's world of over-the-top luxury couture, money has never been much of an object. There's no projected opening date mentioned, but we should all just sit back and wait for the glamor to materialize.

Elie Saab brings first store in the US to Madison Ave (NYPost)