The Blass Saga Continues:

Bill Blass Brand Officially Sold

Year-End Favorites—
Most & Least Part II

Year-End Favorites—
Most & Least

We're dispensing with our usual obituary list of stores who have left us this year, because at the moment, it's just too Debbie Downer, and, to be honest, there have been so many closures in the past month that we can't keep track. However, we do feel compelled to take a quick look back at 2008 before we charge into '09.
Amid the year end gloom, there was still a lot to look back on and smile.

There were a lot of great new store openings this year, but one stood out. It's not a grand, flashy designer emporium, but a tiny boutique that reflects its owner's genuine fascination and affection for the merchandise. Leffot, an unassuming men's luxury shoe store at the corner of Christopher and Gay Streets in the West Village kept us coming back again and again just to see what new permutation of classic footwear was on display.
Devoted to ultra-luxurious handmade French and Italian labels, many of which are U.S. exclusives, owner Steven Taffel keeps close contact with his connoisseur customers through emails and a blog which chronicles in loving detail the latest arrivals and special appearances by vendors. Taffel is a specialist whose sophisticated taste level makes Prada's adventures in patchwork and metallics look like so much flashy crap.

Juicy Couture Fifth Avenue. Enough already!

Rosa Chá's bikini emporium on West Broadway is a glamorous jewel box of gilded frames and swimwear displayed as art pieces.
Jil Sander's SoHo flagship at Howard and Crosby streets was another stunner.

We have two for very different reasons.
John Bartlett opened his first signature boutique in late 2007, but it has been so impressive that he managed to score the plum job of revamping Liz Claiborne's men's line, debuting early next year. This coup helped him stage a return to the runways featuring his main men's collection in an intimate show in his own home. We love John mainly because he makes great clothes, but also because he consistently demonstrates a level of social grace unheard of in a business saddled with more than its share of prima donnas. He regularly spends the day in his West Village store, meeting customers, and what other designers do you know who send thank you notes to bloggers for attending their shows (or even assigns them seats)?
There's no shortage of press on Marc Jacobs, and his many eccentricities make him tabloid fodder on an almost daily basis. His penchant for posing nude for...well, apparently anyone with a camera would just be so much celebrity crackpot behavior if he hadn't sent out a Spring '09 collection that left even the most jaded showgoers breathless. It was the show of the season to see, if not of the past few years. As a retailer, Marc continues to give us tons of material. Instead of doing a Target or H&M collaboration, Marc knocks himself off with the newly defined Jacobs by Marc Jacobs label of affordable accessories and apparel, and offers it only in his own stores making it both accessible and exclusive.

Nobody needed a revamp more than Bloomingdale's Mens Department. In January they unveiled a new denim and sportswear floor in the sub-basement that opens on to the subway, and this fall, a larger renovation moved tailored clothing and shoes out of a series of cramped alcoves into a more prominent position. Regrettably titled No. 59 Metro and MOMENTUM, They are still only halfway through the renovation, but the improvements are immeasurable, pushing Bloomingdale's back to the forefront after a damaging lack of direction during the '90s.
Saks Fifth Avenue
has only revealed the first bits of its own long overdue third floor revamp, part of a larger program to upgrade the entire store. They are too far along not to finish the floor, but Saks, unfortunately, has a habit of canceling renovation plans at the slightest hint of a business challenge, which explains the moribund physical states of the second and fourth floors and the prolonged renovation interruptus that plagued the cosmetics department for so long. Let's hope they can fully finish their plans this time so that the store looks its best for customers when they are ready to shop again.

There were so many this year that we stopped keeping track. While UNIQLO's Designer Invitation program can be hit or miss, they mostly nailed it this year with Alexander Wang, Tim Hamilton and Loden Dager. H&M created more frenzy with Comme Des Garçons, but UNIQLO's collections were more affordable, and lasted more than a few hours in the store. Let's hope they keep it up.

Again, this trend is proliferating at a dizzying pace, but nobody pulled it off like Target's Bullseye Bodegas, a series of four temporary stores around the city featuring only the mass retailer's exclusive designer collaboration labels
Now, if we could just get a regular full sized Target somewhere here in the city...

We haven't written enough about Gilt Groupe an online retailer that launched this year to run limited sample sales for luxury designers. Such promises can bring all sorts of seasons old merchandise to your computer screen, but Gilt Groupe débuts a new sale almost every day featuring top designers (Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta, John Varvatos etc.), current merchandise and full size ranges, all at a minimum of 60% off, sometimes more. They quickly added menswear, children's and accessories, and have now become an indispensable resource. Click here for an invitation, and shop away, but be quick about it. New sales open at noon, and many items often sell out before the first hour has passed.


Would you happen to have an invitation from Gilt Groupe to give away? Thanks for this entry, too, by the way! Also your blog opened up my eyes to the whole Kira Plastinina scandal. At least online all her stuff is 75% right now!

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