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Neiman Marcus' Cusp Builds a Loft in the Mall


Last month we told you about Neiman Marcus's new contemporary specialty concept, Cusp which is currently being launched as an answer to expanding competitors like  Barney's Co-op, Scoop and Intermix. Well, we have been down to Tyson's Corner Center in McLean Virginia to see the very first of four planned units. If you were expecting a clone of those stores we can report that the fine people at The Neiman Marcus Group have taken all the best elements of their potential competitors and mixed them up into something all its own.
A full report after the jump


The first thing to notice is the interior. Cusp (which is run wholly separately from Neiman Marcus stores) has done a very good job of transforming a large mall space into an urban loft. Step inside and leave suburbia behind. The ceiling is open to ductwork and pipes, and the floor is polished concrete. Rather than recreate Neiman's typically sleek décor, the look of the space is achieved with raw materials like stone and natural wood. Not simply a transplant of the retailer's Contemporary department like Barney's Co-op, Cusp is a completely new concept created from scratch with some vendors not carried at Neiman's and others whose presence is clearly due to the clout of a powerful parent company. Apparel offerings fall firmly in the Contemporary category with well chosen assortments from stalwarts like Diane Von Furstenberg, Juicy Couture and  Rebecca Taylor along with smaller resources like Morphine Generation and Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers. Denim is mixed through the store by style, with newer skinny-leg styles in one corner and bootlegs for the die-hards in another. Cusptag Leggings, the trend du jour, are scattered throughout. From Scoop, Cusp has borrowed the concept of merchandising by style and outfit rather than strictly by vendor, but while Scoop can sometimes seem like two endless, crowded racks, Cusp uses its expansive space to create displays that are much more easily shopped. More unconventionally, the same approach extends to cosmetics, displayed like accessories on open tables in the center of the store. There are no counters or makeup artists, inviting customers to freely browse a range of the best items cherry-picked from a variety of lines. Smaller, new brands like Jemma Kidd Makeup School sit alongside major resources like Jo Malone or Shu Uemura more typically found in carefully controlled vendor presentations. Shoes are found in an open stockroom with shoebox lined walls, and along with contemporary brands that would correspond to the apparel. Cusp raises the stakes with choice offerings from Christian Louboutin and the coveted Manolo Blahnik, tightly distributed labels not usually found mixed in with Contemporary brands, and who likely appear here as a result of Neiman Marcus' importance as a customer.  The same holds true for handbags where we found premier Marc Jacobs bags, Fendi and Yves Saint Laurent along with lower priced Juicy and Andrew Marc stock. The staff is enthusiastic and reflects the energy of just having opened a brand new store under lots of corporate eyes. Neiman's high service standards would easily satisfy a demanding New York customer. Dressing rooms are spacious with a mod edge, and a large sofa for weary companions sits near them. This is not a venture that has entered lightly, and every detail has been carefully considered from the so-right-now skull-printed note cards mixed in with the scented candles to the sturdy corrugated shopping bags. A Los Angeles unit is set to open in Century City this month, and another D.C. area branch will bow early next year in Georgetown. A fourth location is yet to be announced, and while most retail companies like a lengthy out of town tryout before they hit Manhattan, Cusp has emerged fully formed, and more than ready to take on a high profile New York location. Whether they can land the right spot is always a question, but as the trendy specialty chains horn in on its customers, this initial venture shows Neiman Marcus has proved itself more than up to challenging them on their own turf.

Cusp 7863 Tysons Corner Center, McLean, Virginia


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