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American Apparel is At It Again


As a rule, we try to ignore American Apparel. They are just irksome to us in so many ways,  but our friends at RACKED brought their billboard at Houston and Allen Streets to our attention, so we sauntered over there to take a look It's an interesting new direction and yet it's worse than ever at the same time.
The artsy black and white image is a welcome departure from CEO Dov Charney's Terry Richardson-rip-off snapshot style. We thought for a minute that the new corporate owners The Endeavor Acquisition Corporation were trying to soften the company's visuals, and then we remembered that it's a picture of a topless female model wearing nothing but tights and sticking her bum in the air...like she's waiting for...well...let's just be polite and say a spanking.
Remember when people got upset about Calvin Klein ads?
They seem so quaint now.

Give Whole Foods Lemons and They'll Make...Beer

Wholefoodsbeer_2 Reports from the Bowery Whole Foods have not been encouraging of late. We hear that the spacious store is often bereft of customers, and the management has tried all manner of promotions (Sunday Brunch, Free WiFi) to get bodies in the store.  Just today we saw the announcement for a "Bowery Block Party! (This week's theme: DIPS)" on Wednesday nights from 6 to 8 featuring storewide sampling.
You know things are tough over there if they have to remind people that Whole Foods has lots of free samples. Of course, this being Manhattan, they should have no trouble getting lots of dips to show up.
Oh, they're serving dips! (Look, they set themselves up for that one)
We had suspected that the store might have been a little bigger and more Wholefoodsdipsluxurious than the neighborhood was ready to handle, and there's also the possibility that Whole Foods has focused too much attention on downtown locations (coming soon: Tribeca) while there isn't a single branch north of 59th Street where the city's wealthiest neighborhoods lie.
Anyway, it looks like circumstances could be improving for them very soon. The store was famously unable to negotiate the state's arcane licensing process to open the adjacent wine store  they had planned for the corner of Houston and Chrystie Streets, so rather than let the space go to waste, this Friday they will be unveiling the Whole Foods Market Beer Room. Workers are furiously unpacking cases of all manner of beer, ale and what have you to fill the shelves with cold, sudsy goodness in time for the weekend. They will be providing growlers, half gallon glass containers "used for toting a rich delicious brew to and fro" so you can bring home whatever is on tap, and classes and tastings will be offered so you can learn exactly how to match the correct beer to your meal.
No, we're not kidding. You thought it was going to be just a bunch of racks of beer?
We are betting that this will increase foot traffic dramatically for the store, at least for a few years until full gentrification sets in on the Bowery and the place will be packed all the time.
Whole Foods Market Bowery 95 East Houston Street, Lower East Side

Sample Sale Report: Prada Puts Out The Dregs

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.

ShopVogue Opens Up For Business Online...Sort Of

It happens every August. The bloated steroid-freak sized September magazines come out, and typically Vogue crows the loudest about how much bigger it is than all the others; the biggest issue ever in the history of magazines. Of course, when we see it on the newsstand it's like the horror of seeing that your fat cousin whom you haven't seen in a year has gained another thirty pounds. Pity the poor mail carriers who have to deliver this thing, and try to fit it into people's tiny New York mailboxes. How many subscribers do you suppose have to go to the trouble to pick it up at the post office? We can only buy it from the closest newsstand to our house, because who wants to drag it around all day, defeating the convenient portability aspect of a magazine?
Today, The New York Times tells us that a god portion of those ads padding the magazine to phone book size were sold by connecting them to ShopVogue.TV, a new online initiative that allows Vogue readers to shop directly from its pages, or at least from its ads.
Since it's a miserably dreary day, we decided to stay home and try it.
All of the participating advertisements are uploaded to the site, so we click on a Chloé ad. Each item is identified with a price and further options. We choose a handbag, click "where to buy", and it directs us to the Chloé boutique on Madison Avenue. The rest we have to do ourselves.
Tell us something we didn't know.
We tried again with a Barneys ad for Alaïa shoes, figuring that since they have e-commerce, one would be able to buy the shoes directly. We were eventually directed to Barneys.com which had a picture of the ad and informed us that the items were available in-store.
Well, duh. Did we need to go to the computer to be told to call Barneys? It's a Barneys advertisement!
The question was whether they were available on our computer, which they were not.
The site also offers behind-the-scenes video looks at photo shoots and other original content which interestingly enough is created by Vogue's advertisers and publishing staff. The editorial departements have nothing to do with this particular venture, which is why you still can't "shop" out of the book's fashion pages.
It is also why we don't see Anna Wintour all over the site offering her commentary.
Now there's something to get excited about.
The Web Way to Magazine Ad Sales by Maria Aspan (NYTimes)
ShopVogue.TV (Official Site)

Tom Ford: Why Doesn't He Just Start a Porn Company Already?

Tomford2 Tom Ford tells WWD today that he has switched direction for the launch of his Tom Ford for Men Fragrance later this fall. A more demure campaign by Marilyn Minter has been ditched in favor of a series of photos from pervy photograher Terry Richardson. As you can see from the scan pictured at right, Ford's new direction is 1970s Penthouse magazine cover. Reportedly among the other images chosen was one in which the fragrance bottle is strategically placed between a womans's thighs,  just covering her genitalia.
The last time Ford was so inspired was his campaign for the Yves Saint Laurent men's fragrance M7 featuring a full frontal image of a nude man which nearly every American magazine rejected.
This change in direction is notable particularly because Ford told the same publication last June in, reference to this campaign, that nudity in advertising was a tired concept,

"I think we're living for a moment where maybe we saw so much nudity, at least in the press and magazines, that it doesn't seem the freshest solution; it almost seems too easy right now as a solution for advertising to get someone's attention," he said at the time. "So whenever everything tightens up again, of course, all of a sudden it's going to seem interesting and surprising to see someone nude again."

This is from someone who chose the models for his sunglass line launch from the porn world. Apparently, the easy solution is right again, but at some point, are Ford's dirty-old-man sensibilities going to start reflecting poorly on the international luxury brand he is working so hard to build?
Well, probably not.
Memo Pad: Tom Totally Nude - Again (WWD)

Employee of the Week: Lata Chettri-Kennedy at Flower Power Herbs & Roots

Photo by Brad Paris for New York Magazine
New York Magazine finally gets inspired this week and instead of interviewing your typical shopgirl, finds an ordained green witch.
We're not sure exactly how she differs from a black or white witch, but Lata Chettri-Kennedy doesn't seem like the type to turn an unruly customer into a frog. Apparently, Flower Power Herbs & Roots has appeal beyond the Wiccan set, and let's face it, who wouldn't turn down a nice, natural herbal remedy if it were available.

Q What ailments do New Yorkers want to heal?
A Stress, insomnia, heartbreak, sexual impotence, weight gain, hangovers.

Q And what do they take?
A For stress, there’s vibrational therapy using flower essence. If it’s a mother-related issue, I’d give them mariposa lily. For heartbreak: bleeding- heart flower-essence therapy. Impotent men take oat seed, which is very effective. We also sell a love potion, an aphrodisiac blend … It’s potent.

Lata seems to be a serious herbalist as opposed to a Janie-come-lately Harry Potter fan, and while our doctor might scoff, we say, if it works, it works.

Ask a Shop Clerk: Lata Chettri-Kennedy (NYMag)
Flower Power Herbs & Roots 406 E. 9th Street near Avenue A, East Village

Saks Zip Code Gimmick Opens... Where's Manolo?


Saks Fifth Avenue's gigantic new designer shoe department was teeming with customers today as it made its grand debut.
We're giving credit to the logo.
For about a decade and a half Saks used a dull, lifeless typeface to identify itself, and endured ownership changes and endless business setbacks including a series of aborted renovation schemes that left the store looking neglected and running a distant third behind Bergdorf's and Barneys in the city's luxury race. When they returned to a modified version of their previous logo, things started to turn around rapidly, as if it had some sort of talismanic effect. Numbers shot up, and more carefully thought out refurbishments made the store start to feel like it was back in the game again. Now they are fighting back with volume, VOLUME, VOLUME! 10022-SHOE, the dramatically expanded shoe department is so large, as they have been trumpeting, that it warrants its own zip code. It's an odd marketing scheme to use a qualifier more commonly following a phrase like, "Yo mama so fat she...", especially since mail isn't exactly the first thing that pops into our head when we think of shoes, but they have gotten endless media mileage out of the zip code thing. It's really just a customized suffix; the beginning of a marketing program from the U.S. Postal Service which will allow businesses to modify their zip codes with specially chosen four-letter-words.
Imagine the possibilities.
The frenzy was enough to attract Access Hollywood who sent tanned correspondent Tim Vincent, who, while undeniably hunky, can be reliably expected to mangle any designer name with more than three syllables, sometimes fewer. Maria Menounos must have had the day off.

Continue reading "Saks Zip Code Gimmick Opens... Where's Manolo? " »

It's That Time Again: The Barneys Warehouse Sale


It's one of the sad signs of the end of summer. The Barneys Warehouse Sale started today and will continue until Labor Day. Our usual list of suggestions still applies, but we have to say that it looks like they have cleaned up their act a bit and gotten rid of some of the old merchandise that seemed to reappear every season. The first day, as always, was busy, but not the mob scene we would expect to see this weekend. If you still want a decent choice we would suggest a visit first thing Friday morning.Barneyswarehouse
There's plenty of bargains, but the best buys still seem to be in men's tailored clothing and dress shirts where there is a huge selection and the racks and bins are kept tidier. Just try to find your size in the haystack of jeans. Then try to find a pair that you like. Many of the suits and dress shirts have pre-printed sale price tags which suggest that they may not actually have come from a Barneys store, but were bought off-price specifically for the sale (a red pen handwritten sale price typically means it came from Barneys' regular selling floor). This does not, however mean that 70% off of an elegant Lanvin suit is not a great deal, and anyone who needs to invest in a business wardrobe should definitely make time for a visit.
The booby prize this season goes to the sad little housewares corner, a waste of space which consists of some truly unappealing pillows, shopworn books and random mismatched pieces of beautiful Limoges china from which it is impossible to cobble together a single matched place setting.
But these are minor quibbles. It's air conditioned, and finding a few good bargains is always a good way to offset having to see summer end. And don't forget to wear decent underwear because the dressing room is basically wherever you happen to be standing.
Barneys Warehouse Sale 255 West 17th Street through September 3

Mike Albo Goes Shopping: Olfactory Edition

Photo by Lauren Lancaster for The New York Times
This week's Critical Shopper, Mike Albo, continues his journey of unfortunate personal revelations in the Thursday Styles with the disturbing news that he has been perfuming himself with "a mix of a coconut-y moisturizer, Skin Trip, and a cake-batter-y perfume oil, Tunisian Amber, both acquired from the Integral Yoga store on West 13th Street".
Picture The Shophound recoiling in aromatic disgust.
We have no gray areas when it comes to scent. Either we find them pleasant or, more likely, intolerably distracting and repellent (see concoction above). We are emphatically not the sort to keep our surroundings constantly fragrant with potpourri or incense. The idea of a person scenting himself with a fruity homemade brew of fragrances from the yoga store is nothing short of horrifying. Thus, we are relieved to see that Mike has discovered Le Labo on Elizabeth street. We found it last year when it was suggested to us as a hopelessly pretentious store in need of mocking, but we found it captivating and were impressed with their artisanal yet anti-nostalgic approach.
Also the expensive perfumes smelled good.
There's not so much to say about his otherwise workmanlike profile of the independent-minded company other than noting that they have more than done their job if they have kept one more person from walking around smelling like a pineapple upside-down cake.
Well done.
Critical Shopper: The New Sophisticated-Smelling Me by Mike Albo (NYTimes)
Le Labo 233 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan
Previously: A Whiff Of Le Labo On Elizabeth Street