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R.I.P. for 2007

Since the Writer's Guild of America strike seems to be throwing a wrench into most of the end of the year awards shows, her is our own verbal montage, in no particular order, of a few stores who, for whatever reason, have left us this year, or are currently slogging through their final days. We'll miss some of you more than others, but all should Rest in Peace.

And a special mention for one who closed before it even opened,

Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping: La Cintra's Mood Ring Goes Gray

In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson has recovered from her Dolce & Gabbana intoxication and fled to the West Coast to file what we like to think of as a "vacation report" on the new San Francisco boutique, Carrots.
La Cintra is not amused.
We won't be able to visit Carrots ourselves to follow up any time soon, so we will have to trust her impression. She has a penchant for ascribing human personality to a store, if not to the individual items it holds, and in this boutique she find a bland, uninspired soul.
It's hard to say if Carrots is truly a second rate effort, or if Cintra is judging it by harsh New York standards. Not every city has the abundance of inventive stores that we have here, although we understand that the shopping in San Francisco (home of fabled stores like Wilkes Bashford, Gump's and the fondly remembered I. Magnin) is pretty damn good. Still, sometimes what we New Yorkers see as a fair to middling store can be received as a godsend in another city, while another city's crown jewel can become a presumptuous interloper when they migrate here. (Remember Louis,Boston on West 57th Street? Louis would like to forget it.) Of course, Carrots has been open for a scant few months, so perhaps it needs a season or two to develop a more definitive character. We have to wonder if MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing), the veteran San Francisco boutique she holds in comparison, was such a smooth running machine in its first few months. Is she being too hard on the produce heiresses who opened Carrots? We can't help remembering how about 25 years ago, Carolina Herrera was just some socialite who thought she was a designer. Maybe the store is just unoriginal and overdesigned, but a little research on line suggests that the rest of San Francisco appears to be thrilled with the new addition to the scene. Of course, every new shop is entitled to a stupid mistake or two,

I found a nice black dress by Alberta Ferretti ($1,450), and a nice black dress by Narciso Rodriguez ($995). There were also nice black dresses by Helmet [sic] Lang, but I fell asleep before I could price them.
Suddenly ... Eureka!
“I must try that on, or I’ll never be happy again!” I shrieked at a saleswoman, pointing at a strapless nine-pound cocktail dress made entirely of clear plastic gems
“Ooogh, I’m sorry, but you can’t. It’s not ours. We, like, rented it.”
My eyes rolled out of their sockets.

There's no reason to display clothes that you can't sell. This may be the moment when the tide turned for Carrots in Cintra's mind. As she has said, don't poke the cobra.
Critical Shopper - Carrots: Has Vitamin A. Needs a Martini. by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Carrots 843 Montgomery Street, San Francisco

Holiday Week Spree

RACKED was not pleased that the highly publicized UNIQLO sample sale was ransacked at the "Press Preview" on Monday.
Neither were we. (RACKED)
A talk with Villa Moda's Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah, the designer retail king of the Middle East. (T: The Moment)
A visit to the lap of luxury: Daslu, São Paolo's legendary boutique. (The Business of Fashion)
All smelled out. Has the fragrance business finally hit overload? (The Wall Street Journal)

A Moment in Retail Purgatory

In recognition of the day-after-Christmas sale frenzy we thought we would take you to the busiest retail spot in town, so here you are: the shoe department at Saks.
Sakssale1 We have seen some frenzied clearance scenes in our day, but aside from H&M-style  free-for-all events, nothing really compares to Saks' newly expanded behemoth of a shoe floor on a "take 50% off the sale price before 12 Noon" Boxing Day. Confusion, anxiety, craving and impatience all blended in a wintry brew as rapacious customers clamored for overwhelmed salespeople, a scene that would almost make a person prefer to pay more for their shoes of only to avoid the inconvenience and annoyance of shopping in such a manner. Thi s was the scene around 10:30 this morning. We can't imagine that it got much better, epecially considering the abundance of international tourists who insist on shopping with their entire families together at all times.Abercrombieline_2 Not much better were the handbag and accessory shops on the first floor where women were literally loading their arms with whatever they could grab. These are the kinds of crowds we are supposed to (and used to) see the week before Christmas, but now that retailers have trained the public to wait for markdowns, there's no turning back.
Today, The Shophound relaxed our self imposed exile from the most crowded blocks of midtown to see how the stores were doing, and all we can say is that the tourists from foreign lands have basically taken over Fifth Avenue more than ever before, and after sitting out the 25th without being able to shop, they were out in force. Juicy5thave We also noticed some other disturbing developments, most notably that even in the early morning, crowds are lining up just to get into our old favorite bête noire Abercrombie & Fitch. There's really nothing more to say about that other than we can't help wishing we had a pie to throw at each person waiting in that line. Surely their next stop must be the Magnolia Bakery.
We hadn't noticed this earlier, but the giant window posters confirm that the former Mexx store is undergoing renovation to become a giant economy-sized Juicy Couture store, making four boutiques for Nicolefarhithat label in Manhattan, each larger than the previous one.
Finally, on a disappointing note, British designer Nicole Farhi is calling it quits for her shop on East 60th Street across the street from Barneys. Customers will be directed downtown to 202, her Chelsea Market boutique and café when the shop closes after January 6th. Does this include the closure of Nicole's, the popular restaurant downstairs? Perhaps part of the problem was that despite Farhi's chic collections, the restaurant still got all the buzz. We are betting that a hefty rent increase is playing a major part in this story as well.

Merry Christmas from The Shophound

The Shophound hopes everyone has a delightful holiday tomorrow.
Posting may be a little light this week since about half of our readers will most likely be taking the week off to shop the sales (which really seem to be starting today for those who are willing to brave the last minute panic).
Rest up.
You'll need it if you want to attempt to enter a department store on December 26th.

Say Goodbye to Pie

Christmas Eve will be the Little Pie Company's swan song on West 14th Street. Even if you have never gone in there, you can't have missed the heavenly aroma wafting around the Eastern side of the shopping stretch. For all the grousing one hears about gentrification, it's hard to argue that the seductive smell of freshly baked pie is not a superior substitute for the Meatpacking District's more typical rotting meat bouquet. Those more familiar with their menu will surely be missing the signature Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie among other individually sized treats. Fans will be relieved to know that the Little Pie Company counter at Grand Central Terminal's lower level dining concourse will remain open as will the original Manhattan Plaza location on West 43rd Street.
All we can say is it had better be replaced by something good. If the 14th street space gets taken by Sunglass Hut, or another chain of their ilk, The Shophound will be very upset.
We do not like it when our pie gets taken away.

Endagered Sites: Virgin Megastore to Shutter in '09 (If Not Before)

UnionsquareIt wasn't so long ago that Manhattan's record store roster included two Tower Records stores, three HMVs and two Virgin Megastores, not to mention various Sam Goody's, Coconuts or FYEs scattered about the city. HMV was first to flee, then Tower was liquidated last year leaving Virgin the sole survivor.
Not any longer. Virgin announced that the Union Square flagship Megastore will close by February 2009, leaving the Times Square unit as the last major music retailer in the city. According to Variety, the West Hollywood unit is set to close early next year. The closures are a result of the chain's being purchased by real estate interests earlier this year (always the kiss of death for any retailer) who have concluded that the chain's business will not be able to justify coming rent increases. Add to that the fact that part owner The Related Companies owns the Union Square building currently housing Virgin, and is shopping the huge bi-level space around already.
Since natives are typically (and justifiably) Times Square-phobic, the only places left to purchase CDs in person, aside from the few independent dealers who are mostly niche players, will be Borders (which is on shaky legs), Barnes & Noble or electronics chains like Best Buy or Circuit City.
The era of the music superstore is officially over.
Virgin Megastore to close in L.A. New York outlet likely to follow (Variety)
Is The Virgin Megastore Going To Escape From New York In 2009? (Idolator)

Costume Institute's blog.mode is Up and Running

We haven't gotten there yet, but this week, The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its latest exhibition, blog.mode: addressing fashion (intentional lowercase, like k.d.lang). A certain amount of groaning accompanied the news that the show would be designed to be "interactive" with computer terminals allowing visitors to comment on individual pieces as well as blog allowing comment from on line visitors. Clearly, this is a gimmick meant to cover the fact that it is a show of new acquisitions with no overriding curatorial theme, however, after a few days, it looks like the experiment may be an intriguing success, and one that can easily be applied to any sort of exhibition.
Any regular Costume Institute visitor knows that people get very vocal in those galleries, often recalling  clothes they one wore that were similar to those on display, or just expressing their opinions as if they in Bloomingdale's. The blog is an entertaining record of the public's response, and, so far, it looks like the commenters are taking it pretty seriously, although we are pretty sure that the "Gloria Guinness " who offered her opinion on Olivier Theyskens' frothy Nina Ricci ballgown is not the famous socialite by the same name who died in 1980. But, hey, use the opportunity to invent a clever alias for yourself like a favorite character from a novel, or perhaps a porn star.
The blog can be found here. Each day features a new item from the show, like the Nancy Gonzalez bag pictured above, and the opportunity to comment or just lurk and read what random other people of varying degrees of expertise have to say.
The exhibit runs through April 13th which should give them plenty of time to amass a copious amount of opinion, probably more than they actually want.
blog.mode: addressing fashion at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue from 80th to 84th Streets, Upper East Side

Thursday Afternoon Spree

Gucci is creating a special accessory collection for the Beijing Olympics next year - with an Asian Model! So authentic. (WWD)
Cathy Horyn muses about the bland state of today's store concepts. (On The Runway)
Camouflage Tree ornaments for the "Stealth Christmas" look better than they sound. (PSFK)
• Eric Wilson goes behind the scenes with the Queen of the Christmas Sweater. We hope he took a Dramamine. (NYTimes)
• Gisele's reunion with Domenico & Stefano to bring us "Bunchen by Dolce & Gabbana" collection next Spring. (Vogue UK)
South Street Seaport is in for a major upgrade, possibly including the razing of Pier 17. Will you even notice? (WWD)

Hugo Boss to Make Fast Relocation Downtown with 2 New Stores

As they are about to lose their splendid Fifth Avenue showplace to an Armani Megastore, the folks at Hugo Boss have wasted no time in finding other high profile spots to make up for the loss. According to RACKED (and, so far, unconfirmed) they will be taking the rest of the former Western Beef location next to the Apple store on 14th Street as well as a spot at 555 Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets in SoHo that currently houses an Ann Taylor. Boss already operates a store in SoHo for Hugo, it's sportier line, so the Broadway store will presumably be devoted to the main Boss division.
RackedWire: Hugo Boss Landing in Soho (RACKED)