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


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


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

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.


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

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)


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

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)


Delusional Man Files Lawsuit To Stop The Madison Avenue Apple Store

AppleMadisonWell, you can't please everybody.
Since it was discovered that an Apple Store was opening on the corner of Madison Avenue and 74th Street, (pictured at right under construction) a group of neighborhood residents has been protesting that new establishment would destroy the genteel character of the neighborhood and create disruptive lines with the company's periodic product launches. Last week, 89-year-old Herbert Feinberg, a longtime neighborhood resident and the leader of this NIMBY protest, filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court to prevent the store's opening which is scheduled for this Saturday, June 13th. Court papers state, "Madison Avenue is one of the great New York City Streets ... (and local residents) are opposed to the congestion and commercialization of the neighborhood that the store will bring,” as the suit attempts to prosecute complaints about the upcoming store such as the "massive increase in pedestrian traffic" it is expected to bring. According to Feinberg, the neighborhood is only meant for small luxury boutiques and galleries. Despite the measurable drop in traffic since the Whitney Museum at Madison and 75th decamped for the Meatpacking District, The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is planning to make use of the building in the coming months, is expected to make up the shortfall with even larger crowds. The suit also refers to the over 400 signatures Mr. Feinberg has collected to block the store as the leader of group called "Saving the 74th Street Residential Neighborhood." Of course, it has been widely reported that merchants on Madison Avenue above 72nd Street are suffering from the drop in traffic since the Whitney's departure, and are actually hoping that the Apple Store will do exactly what Mr. Feinberg is predicting it will in bringing shoppers to the area. 
According to the Daily News, Mr. Feinberg has taken it upon himself to personally file suit because the city officials responsible for such zoning issues had ignored his pleas to save the neighborhood from this retailing scourge, which would actually suggest that they are ignoring frivolous and unreasonable complaints, hopefully in favor of dealing with more pressing issues. Though The Shophound is not a legal expert, it is hard for us to imagine that any judge not dismissing this case outright , especially since Apple claims to have specifically conceived the store to be in keeping with the neighborhood's hours and character and no actual laws or zoning rules appear to have been violated. It doesn't seem like this will end well for Mr. Feinberg who is likely to have accomplished no more than confirming the stereotype of Upper East Siders as self centered snobs.

Upper East Siders seeing red over new Apple Store opening in neighborhood (NYDailyNews via Gothamist)


Summer Shack Edition

04CRITICAL3-articleLargeIn today's Thursday Styles, our Mr. Critical Shopper, Jon Caramanica, is kinder than we might have expected to the resolutely preppy Vineyard Vines store that recently appeared on what he calls the "lower Upper East Side". It's a brand that offers not so much fashion, but a particular style that remains constant and generally included pink whales on a kelly green background in some form or another. "... it is a label that offers the veneer of dignity in undignified situations: the beach cookout, the college football tailgate, the frat rager, the 9:30 a.m. marketing meeting," he tells us as he proceeds to describe the allowing shirts in a colorful but just a little washed out color palette, toeing the preppy line of not wanting anything to look too new or fresh. The "five-alarm leisurewear" apparently takes classic northeastern summer/weekend wear and gives it just enough of a jolt to look fresh not to jump start the recently completed classic American trend, but to attract the eye of those who never really stopped dressing like that, but there really is no in-between with this stuff. You are either a patrician devotée like Walter Cronkite, Colin Powell or John Kerry whose testimonials hang on the shop's walls —which should give you some idea of the age of the target customer— or you avart your eyes when passing by. We can't say for sure that our shopper this week is truly one of the latter group, but we have read enough of his reviews by now to be pretty certain that he is not one of the former at heart.

Critical Shopper: Vineyard Vines Takes Leisurewear to a Colorful Dimension By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Vineyard Vines 1151 Third Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side


China: Through The Looking Glass
Is Another Costume Institute Hit

You have seen all of the slinky, see-through gowns and crazy headpieces from the Met Ball, but sometimes the actual exhibition that is being celebrated can get lost in all that partying. Not this year. While it is a challenge for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to keep topping itself with its blockbuster spring shows, this year Curator Andrew Bolton has pulled out all the stops with China: Through The Looking Glass, its collaboration with the Met's Department of Asian Art which opens this Friday. The Shophound got a preview on Monday, and we can't wait to go back to see it again. Since being announced last year, the show has undergone a title change (formerly Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film & Fashion) and expanded to 30,000 square feet including both the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries as well as the entire Chinese galleries on the museum's second floor. The whopping show, unprecedented for the Costume Institute, is about three times the size of the department's typical spring shows according to Bolton, and its expansiveness is justified by some of the most striking installations the museum has ever seen. The celebrated Chinese director Wong Kar Wai served as the show's creative director, and his input is felt in the mesmerizing, cinematic way the exhibition unfolds with a deliberately disorienting "Through The Looking Glass" sense of fantasy. Each section is punctuated with carefully selected film clips ranging from Cinema's first Asian screen goddess, Anna May Wong, who had to move to Europe to escape steroptyped roles in American movies, to Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, to clips from Mr. Wong's own classic films like The Grandmaster and those of his contemporaries like Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and Raise The Red Lantern to a jaw dropping clip from Vincente Minelli's 1946 Ziegfeld Follies featuring Fred Astaire in a Chinese inspired dance number that is only slightly less offensive than his famous blackface "Bojangles" tribute in Swing Time —but that's really what the show is about. It's not just the spectacular Chinese-inspired gowns and jewels that are the showpieces, but the ongoing interplay of Chinese aesthetic filtered through Western sensibilities that creates a fantasy of China that has been constructed by both sides equally. Rather than seeing a bastardization of pure Chinese culture, which has been a common point of view of politically correct scholars in recent decades, Bolton and his collaborators take the often highly commercialized fantasy vision of China as its own form of artistic expression that leaves room to discuss things that have rightly raised the hackles of many Chinese like Fred Astaire in truly dreadful "Oriental" makeup, or the controversy created when Yves Saint Laurent named his blockbuster perfume Opium, romanticizing not just addiction but the Opium Wars of the mid 19th Century.
Ultimately, it's doubtful that Saint Laurent's perfume got anyone addicted to narcotics, and the curators leave the abundance of dazzling images they present up to the viewers' own interpretations —and dazzling they are. In some ways, the show focuses on some of the usual suspects, devoting an entire room to Saint Laurent's lavish 1977 Chinese-inspired Haute Couture collection and filling the now darkened and spooky Astor Court with pieces from John Galliano's extravagant 2003 Haute Couture collection for Dior. There is plenty from those two, who may have the most pieces in the show along with famous looks from Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Valentino, BalenciagaRalph Lauren, and several pieces by Tom Ford YSL that paid homage to the '77 Haute Couture collection. Vivienne Tam's ironic Mao-printed dresses are also given prominent exposure (pictured in the gallery below), but the real discovery is Chinese designer Guo Pei whose gilded ballgown commands a room full of Buddha sculptures all by itself, and who has already been lifted to a new level of cultural significance by dressing Rhianna at the ball on Monday night.
Ultimately the exhibition is more than the sum of its parts. British designer Craig Green's black and white warrior outfits might not mean quite as much if they weren't placed in a breathtaking forest of perspex stalks meant to represent bamboo in a room devoted to Wuxia or "Martial Hero" films (pictured above). Over that past few years, the Costume Institute has tackled themes like Punk and Superheroes with mixed results that often seemed either forced or facile, but this time, they hit the right balance of breathtaking images with depth and history underneath for visitors to find. Plan your visit carefully, and prepare for some long lines. China: Through The Looking Glass has raised the bar again for the Costume Institute's annual blockbusters.

China: Through The Looking Glass starts Friday May 7 through August 16th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side

  • MET-CHINA-TomFordYSL-ManchuRobe
  • MET-CHINA-VivienneTam
  • MET-CHINA-BlueAndWhite
  • MET-CHINA-AstorCourt
  • MET-CHINA-ExportSilk


Isaia Claims Donna Karan's Digs

Now we can finally report about something that's going to open rather than close. The sign in the window of Donna Karan's former home at 819 Madison Avenue tells us that it is in the process of becoming the new home of Neapolitan luxury menswear label Isaia. As the sign says:

Stamm' purtann' 'o sole 'e Napule.
nun jate 'e pressa!
We are bringing you the sun of Naples.
Be patient please!

So far, little other information is available about the upcoming store other than it appears to be the label's first North American standalone boutique, so we should probably expect a showplace. Over the past decade or so, Isaia has grown its U.S. business substantially, and its little red coral logo can now be found in Barneys, Bergdorf's, Saks, Neiman Marcus and about 30 or so of the country's best specialty stores. Known for its impeccable hand tailored men's clothing and shirts, the new store will form a luxe menswear mini-district of sorts with Lanvin's and Bottega Veneta's men's shops as well as fellow Neapolitan Cesare Attolini all within a couple of blocks of each other. Sadly that other esteemed import from Naples, Luigi Borrelli has closed his shop at nearby 790 Madison, so fans will have to look elsewhere for those handmade shirts, but, for now Isaia and Attolini will have to represent southern Italy's renowned sartoria on Madison Avenue's most luxurious stretch.


Tidy New Start Edition

08CRITICAL2-articleLargeThe Thursday Styles has rung in the New Year with a new set of Critical Shoppers. Matthew Schneier's take on the new COS store in SoHo got lost in our Holiday Hiatus, but this week, our other newcomer, Molly Young, stops in at Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier's new Madison Avenue flagship and is immediately struck by ...Its cleanliness?
Well, it is true, the store is, indeed pleasantly austere. She cleverly assesses Maier's aesthetic "as if Bottega Veneta had teamed up with Ikea on a diffusion line", which is not far off the mark given Maier's sense of real, practical clothes for grown-ups with real bodies. Not everything item is a triumph, however. One cotton shirt tried on made our shopper look like "an old paper bag twisting in a subway-grate blast". Our shopper's discerning eye is no less pleased by the presence of Maier's very subtle palm tree emblem on his shoes and handbags, but the misses seem to be outweighed by the buttery leathers and the trend-transcending separates.
So far, on her first trip to the market, Ms. Young seems to have slid nicely into the Critical Shopper's seat. While she lacks the carnival-freak-crazy sensibility of Alex Kuczynski, she does show just a hint of the indispensable wit and skepticism that still makes us miss our #1 Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson, which is a promising sign. Let's see how she settles in.

Critical Shopper: At Tomas Maier, a Vision of the Closet as Toolbox By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Tomas Maier 956 Madison Avenue bet. 75th & 76th Streets, Upper East Side