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Cintra and Mike Go Shopping:

Catch-Up Edition

19critic-600 We have been a little slow on the uptake following the New York Times' Critical Shoppers for the past few weeks. We usually don't have time to follow up during Fashion Week, and this past week, we decided that it was high time we made a visit to the stores they covered ourselves, which we haven't done in a while. Of course, we went to a different branch of Bird than La Cintra did, but more on that later.
So here's how it went:
Earlier this week we found ourselves in NoHo, and it seemed to be a good time to stop into Billy Reid, which Mike Albo visited last week.
Reid has been on our list of stores to check out for some time, but we kept missing it.
Mike saw the store as "the closest approximation in this city to that kind of dressy-casual whiskey-soaked style" he discovered on drunken students from below the Mason-Dixon line in college. We immediately recognized this subgenre of drunkard flair, and yet we found Reid's vaguely vintage-inspired clothes enormously appealing without benefit of cocktails. There's lots to like there, particularly the subtly detailed shirts in quirky fabrics. The scrupulously appointed interior made everything all the more appealing, but naturally, what struck our eye was the cupcakes.
Strategically placed around the store were plates of red velvet cupcakes, a tantalizing décor choice. Suddenly we felt like a vampire in a blood bank. The we spied a note next to one of the plates inviting us to help ourselves. The attentive sales staff was momentarily preoccupied with other things, and we could totally have made a break for it with a whole plate full of baked goods, but restraint (and concern over our halfhearted dieting attempts) kicked in, and we actually left without any cupcakes at all, although we will be keeping Billy Reid in mind for afternoon snacks.
26critic.600After reading Cintra Wilson's assessment of the new branch of Bird in Williamsburg, we went right to the store's website. We knew of Bird as the archetypal independent, newly upscale Brooklyn boutique serving up designer goods in slightly humbler surroundings, but we hadn't actually visited the store. We didn't even know they carried men's clothes at all, but when we saw a pair of Earnest Sewn jeans in our favorite cut on sale for less than $50, we sprang into action. What a fortunate find since we had just discovered our current pair had developed a hole in a most unseemly location. Why wait to have them delivered, when we could simply get on the F train and pick them up ourselves? Off we went the Park Slope branch where we had the last pair of Kyrre XX jeans in raw, unwashed denim in our size reserved for us. We didn't encounter the “Ocean chewed” atmosphere that Cintra found in Williamsburg, but rather a cozier ambiance on Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue. The long single bar rack holds labels like Vena Cava and Trovata among the more recognizable labels for women, and Loden Dager, Acne Jeans and Steven Alan for men. We can see how the store's artsy, bohemian luxe style wouldn't quite jibe with La Cintra's more urbane tastes, but it's the kind of small shop that seems more curated than merchandised, which is an agreeable change from the ever more corporately directed stores in Manhattan. The staff couldn't have been more cordial despite the fact that all we were buying was a single pair of jeans marked down below cost. We really were planning to stop in at the Williamsburg store as well, but when it was decided that the easiest subway route there was to go back through Manhattan, we wound up back at home instead, but thoroughly satisfied that we had gone out of our way. The right jeans will do that.
Critical Shopper | Billy Reid: Dressed to Impress, With a Southern Drawl by Mike Albo (NYTimes)
Billy Reid 54 Bond Street at Bowery, NoHo

Critical Shopper | Bird: When Your Clothes Have a Backstory by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Bird Williamsburg: 203 Grand Street near Driggs Avenue
Park Slope: 316 Fifth Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets
Cobble Hill: 220 Smith Street at Butler Street

A Reader's Query:

Where Are The Men's
Online Sample Sales?

We get a lot of emails here at The Shophound. A lot of them are from publicists trying to push products that we are not remotely interested in plugging. Some of them are from publicists who want to make sure we know that B-list Celebrity X wore Designer Y to Event Z. And, of course, a few of them are from kind people in faraway lands who apparently have a lot of money waiting for us.

Occasionally, we hear from readers who want help finding a particular, obscure item because they think we are some kind of shopping service. Unfortunately, we are not. In fact, if you are writing to us, that means you have access to a computer, so you would be using the same tools as we have to look for stuff.
Every now and then, however, we do hear from a faithful reader with a fair question like Steven from Houston, Texas who is looking for online sample sales for Men’s items:

I’ve been invited to join several sample sale sites – TopSecret, etc. – but the sales are mostly for women. Any suggestions?

Good question, Steven.
In the past year, quite a few online sample sale sites have sprung up, but they mostly offer women's designer clothes and accessories.
We would direct you to Gilt Groupe, which has been a tremendous success. Though they initially launched with women's wear, they have been offering men's for a while now, and appear to include at least one men's label almost every day. At the moment, they are featuring, Ted Baker Shoes, Hickey, Richard Chai and Vince for men. In the past have held men's sales for Ralph Lauren, Tim Hamilton, Sergio Rossi and many others but the sales are for a limited time only, and things sell out remarkably fast. You can get an invite by clicking here, or on the link to the right. They will email you daily to let you know which sales are starting, and you have to act fast. At the moment, they are the gold standard (no pun intended) and your best option.
There are a few other sites that have been adding men's items as well. Ideeli tends to feature accessories, and occasionally includes men's resources. Join by clicking here.
By and large, however, most of the other sites are still aimed primarily at women.
Here in New York, we are spoiled by sample sales. We could probably find one to go to every week, but that doesn't really help Steven in Houston.
Discount sites like Bluefly can be tricky to navigate, and while there are good buys to be had, often we find that the merchandise is several seasons old, and, particularly in the case of the most desirable labels like Gucci and Prada, the discount is far less that you might find at a sale in the labels' own boutiques.
Gilt Groupe has been a great success, so we hope others like them will follow suit and offer more menswear. Our other suggestion for discount shopping on line would be to keep an eye on the designers' own websites. Some brands like Hickey, for example, offer clearance sections all year round with merchandise priced at 50% or more off. If your favorite designers have e-commerce sites, it's not a bad idea to sign up for emails and let them notify you when the sale starts.
We hope this has been helpful to you, Steven, and anyone else who is interested.
If anyone else out there has more suggestions, please don't hesitate to use the comment section.

The Long Awaited Topshop:

The Scaffolding Is Down
The Posters Are Up

We have seen the renderings. We knew the building, but somehow we still couldn't quite visualize the sparkling new Topshop flagship planned for SoHo.
Topshopunveiled We can now.
Sometime last week, the construction crew removed the plywood covering the site of Topshop's American flagship, finally revealing the ornate cast-iron building that had been hidden under the city's grime and previous tenant Yellow Rat Bastard's intentionally graffiti laden exterior.
Now it's like some sleeping gem that was waiting to be unearthed. The building has been painted a pristine white, so it looks like the store will be almost as big as Bloomingdale's, and it would seem far more likely that it should have no problem finally readying itself for its officially announced April 2nd opening date.
To make sure that everyone who has spent the past 18 months sealed in a cave is aware of the upcoming store opening, the posters are quickly being hung all over SoHo. They are careful to note that the store is to include TopMan as well, directing the public to the stores' websites to familiarize themselves with the company's offerings.
They are worth checking out, because a lot of people are still under the impression that the company's mass-market sounding name positions it as a sort of H&M/Zara competitor. Anyone expecting those kinds of throwaway prices will be disappointed. Banana Republic would be a better price comparison from what we have been able to tell, which is still relatively affordable with a much higher fashion profile.
Anyway, let the countdown begin:
35 days and counting.

Sport/Lifestyle Opening:

Adidas SLVR Makes
An Understated Début

It wouldn't be Fashion Week without an Adidas store opening, and last week they launched another lifestyle division. Adidas SLVR (just say silver) is positioned to fall somewhere between the Y-3 Yohji Yamamoto collection and the Originals line that features all the classic styles. As Y-3 has become ever more fashion oriented, SLVR fills the demand for more basic, but still relatively luxurious ($115 for a striped polo shirt) sportswear for a sneaker company.
Adidaspolo The bright, minimal store design almost fooled us into thinking we had walked into Y-3, which is exactly one block east of SLVR. An enthusiastic salesperson had the accent and overqualified demeanor that said, "I came from Europe to help launch this new division," without literally saying it, and made sure we didn't leave without a brochure (as if we ever would!). In her zeal, she did tell us all sorts of things about SLVR without our having to ask, like the effort to use organic and eco-friendly materials in the line whenever possible, and she showed us the new footwear made with fewer pieces of leather and an airy construction that increases comfort. The sneakers, in fact, were especially appealing in a minimalist sort of way, and conspicuously lacked the brand's signature three stripes. The circular Adidas logo created for Y-3 has been expanded to cover this line as well, but it is subtly applied. The price, at just under $200 was, unfortunately, a bit more maximalist, and a bigger jump from our Gazelles and Stan Smiths than we were prepared to make. Overall, however, the products were crisp and modern looking, making them a good basic complement to the brand's other labels, though, like most environmentally conscious brands, still at premium prices.
Adidas SLVR 108 Wooster Street between Prince & Spring Streets, SoHo

Bleecker Street Report:

Marc Jacobs Now Offering Porsches
...Sort Of

We are still not quite over the bitter disappointment over not making the 700 person cut for Marc Jacobs' dramatically reduced runway show list (that's disappointment, not actually surprise), but since we are in pretty good company, we won't hold too much of a grudge.
AnarchyMarc There have been all sorts of things in Marc's Bleecker Street store's window –giant swans, Santa, The Easter Skunk–  but so far, this, to our knowledge, is the first automobile auction it has hosted. Well, it's not a complete automobile. Apparently, it's just the shell of a Porsche 924 painted with a new logo design combining Marc's name, a fist and the circle-A Anarchist's symbol. For those of you feeling subversive, countercultural and revolutionary but not in need of a non-working Porsche, the design is also available on a $24 t-shirt and a backpack.
The car really is available for the best offer, and proceeds will go to the New York School Of Medicine Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group. Delivery, however, is not included, or offered. You get to haul it away yourself.
Marc by Marc Jacobs 403-5 Bleecker Street, West Village

Specific details after the jump

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Marc Jacobs Now Offering Porsches
...Sort Of
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Long Awaited Openings:

Ports 1961 Finally Launches

There are so many store openings during Fashion Week that it will take a bit of time for us to cover them all, but we did put Ports 1961's new Meatpacking District boutique on the top of our list. After all, we have been expecting this shop to open for almost a year. Apparently, merging the newly built section of the boutique with the older building on the corner took a bit more time than anyone expected, but the shop is now finished and open for business at the windy convergence of Ninth Avenue, Gansevoort and Little West 12th Streets.
The airy, skylit space is now featuring the Spring collection designed by Tia Cibani, who has moved the Ports brand from a classic sportswear label to a much more adventurous fashion house with a growing editorial and retail following. On the shelves inside, we even found some of the fantasy hats by Karen Henriksen from the Spring runway show (pictured below), for anyone in search of a woven straw spiral to perch atop one's head. Chapeaux aside, Ports is now a slightly less expensive alternative to the Pradas and Jil Sanders of the world with plenty of sophistication. Currently, the interior is graced with sculptures from the Berlin Artist Mathias Hornung, and, even more importantly, when we visited, there was a big bowl of candies from La Maison du Chocolat in the center of the store, which were delicious with the champagne we were offered.
Could you possibly need any more encouragement to visit?
Go, before the chocolate is gone.
Ports 1961 3 Ninth Avenue at Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District

Oscars 2009

The Best And The Worst


Click all images for a larger view in a new window

So everyone will be talking about the Oscar Fashions for about the next 24 hours. At the risk of disagreeing with the Bozos who will be reviewing it on E! tonight, we will get our opinions out with as little fuss as possible. More people looked good than bad, and there were some exceptional choices by Anne Hathaway in Armani, Halle Berry in Marchesa, Taraji P. Henson in Roberto Cavalli and even our lady of the waxy forehead, Nicole Kidman in L'Wren Scott. We liked Kate Winslet in Yves Saint Laurent, but we suspect many people didn't. The gaffes weren't horrific (Sally Kirkland, we miss you!) but considering the professionals involved, the results should have been better.

• The Most Improved From The Screen Actors Guild Awards Award goes to the Jolie-Pitts, Brad & Angelina, who managed to pull themselves together. Brad's still got the unflattering mustache, and he has added a goatee which is equally distasteful. However, he found an appropriate tie, and his trousers appear to have been hemmed at the right length. Angelina, for her part, has rediscovered her shapely figure in Elie Saab, to everyone's relief, and finished off the look with some spectacularly huge emeralds for which she cannot be faulted.
• The Second Most Improved From The Screen Actors Guild Awards Award goes to Meryl Streep, who actually got a dress this time, a very flattering Alberta Ferretti, prepared for the possibility that she might actually win.
• The Third Most Improved From The Screen Actors Guild Awards Award goes to Robert Downey Jr. who shaved and found some proper shoes.
• The I've Been Failed By Prada Award goes to the ordinarily gorgeous Jessica Biel whose otherwise simple white strapless dress appeared (in the words of a dear friend) to be throwing up fabric in the front.
• The I've Been Failed By Carolina Herrera Award goes to Amy Adams whose skirt was strangely pinned between her boobs in an otherwise attractive dress.
Lesliemann_1 • The FedExed From The Runway Show Award goes to Leslie Mann and her sparkly Pamella Roland.
• The Who Needs A Stylist Award goes to shoo-in winner Penélope Cruz in vintage (real, decades old vintage) Pierre Balmain, which she claims to have discovered years ago.
• The Most People Won't Get It Award goes to repeat winner Tilda Swinton, true to her own sophisticated style in Lanvin.
• The Quietly Adventurous Award goes to Natalie Portman who may be the first person to wear Rodarte to the Oscars. For their part, The Mulleavy sisters, Rodarte's designers, proved they could adapt their artsy style in a more commercial way.
• The Dyed To Match Award goes to Melissa Leo. At a fragrance launch last week, Mark Badgley and James Mischka told us they were making a dress for an unnamed Best Actress nominee. They didn't tell us it was going to match her hair. Overall, not their best work.
Dior • The Why Must We Be Subjected To You At Every Turn? Award goes to Miley Cyrus in a copy of a copy of a copy of a famous, classic Dior ballgown from Zuhair Murad that was far too ornate for a teenager ...or maybe we are just sick of her... or both. At any rate, it pales in comparison to the original (right).
• The One False Move And It's The Boobs Show Award goes to Sarah Jessica Parker for her genuine Dior Haute Couture gown, and, hopefully, some double stick tape.
• The High Drama Award goes to Marisa Tomei who pulled off a spectacular Versace gown with what appeared to be the largest train of the evening. 
• The Well-Advised Costume Change Award goes to Queen Latifah who ditched her ungainly Georges Chakra Red Carpet gown for something much more flattering when it came time to sing.


Fall 2009 New York Fashion Week:

Final Fashion Week Thoughts

We are finished with one of the weirdest Fashion Weeks we have experienced.
Above are pictures from Rad Hourani's Fall show, our last, which we dashed to after Chado Ralph Rucci on Friday. It was our last chance to catch a glimpse of our favorite Sessile Lopez, who officially ascended to the top ranks of models this season. Hourani's collection was sleek and modern looking, and he always has an impressive model lineup. We had never managed to make it to his show before, partly because he holds it far away on Mulberry Street, but since we had no where to be afterward, we figured it was worth a shop.
As for the rest of the week, overall, there was an underlying tension to the proceedings, but everyone tried to put the best face on things that they possibly could. Nobody was bragging about how fabulous their business was, and a lot of press and buyers were naturally concerned about their professional futures. Many runway show regulars like Lynn Yaeger, formerly of the Village Voice, were operating in new capacities, and some other prominent characters were missing altogether.
The designers, however, faced with retailers' tightened budgets, generally stepped back and reassessed what their customers loved them for. This was not the season to lead them down a new and adventurous path, so many labels found themselves returning to their roots. This proved to be a good thing most of the time, as designers worked to make their lines as appealing as possible. Some designers, like Tracy Reese, cut their invite lists and moved their popular shows to smaller, less expensive venues, which worked better for some than others. Some opted for more casual presentations, which could either be highly efficient like at Generra or Spurr, or simply a crowded mess where you couldn't see the clothes, but you could have your fill of free drinks.
Prabalgurung3 For Prabal Gurung (at right), the former Bill Blass assistant, a presentation was a smart way to debut his collection which was well received by the press especially the New York Times' Carthy Horyn, whom we saw getting a guided tour from the designer.
Last season, we spent a lot of time observing the disappointing representation of minorities in the ranks of runway models, which turned out to be something a lot of people were concerned about. We expected to cover it again, but it became clear after a few days that the situation had improved noticeably. Things may not be perfect yet, and many shows may not actually have had that many more Black or Asian models, but there were many more in the mix besides the usual three, Sessilee, Chanel Iman and Jouran Dunn. Designers were clearly making an effort to be more inclusive. In this economy, they need to reach out to every possible customer of every color. Black models Kinée Diouf, Georgie Badiel, Aminata Niaria, Joan Smalls and Gracie Carvahlo were much more visible, and Tao Okamoto emerged as a breakout star with her neo-Vidal Sassoon bob. In fact it seemed like only a few of the interesting new faces were white. We stopped calculating racial ratios pretty early on because it seemed obvious that things were moving in a better drection, and we were happy to reallocate our time.
The scene in the tents was noticeably austere. There were fewer gift bags, and they were even more often restricted to the front row. Many designers eschewed them altogether. While the tents at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week are usually full of sponsors throwing their products around, this was a dry season for swag. Even the big press bag had fewer items, and sponsors who have regularly had representatives distributing cookies, yogurt, cosmetics samples or even beer withheld their products this season. We definitely missed the comely individuals who used to hand out cold bottles of Peroni beer in the afternoons, and we may actually have to start buying our own shampoo again.
Ironically this lack of promotional activity made the tents feel a bit more civilized and less like a trade show, but we would totally exchange that for more free stuff.

Goodbye Trucker:

Von Dutch Wipes Out

Look, we were can't pretend were too thrilled when this place opened, and it looks like we weren't the only ones. The Von Dutch store on Spring Street is closed after a little over two years.
All aesthetic prejudices aside, the brand's appeal seemed to have long since peaked before this store even opened. Its customers had already transferred their loyalty to the even less appealing Ed Hardy leaving Von Dutch in a state of diminished relevance.
As we have mentioned before, this isn't really a great time to cheer a store's closure, but, obviously, we aren't exactly weeping over this loss.
Shakeouts have their purposes.

New York Fashion Week Day 8:

Chado Ralph Rucci
Gets The Standing O

It's always good to end on a high note, and you can't get much higher than the masterful Chado Ralph Rucci collection that hit the runway this afternoon.Chado4 Rucci has the most skilled atelier in New York, and possibly the world, and he invites an audience that is ready to applaud spontaneously for a particularly impressive feat of workmanship, or just for a startlingly beautiful dress. It's full of loyal customers and retailers who expect technical marvels from him, and he didn't disappoint.
 Like most designers this season, Rucci wisely stuck to what he does best, which is unapologetically luxurious clothes. His customers would want nothing less. This time, he abandoned his usual U-shaped arrangement for an extra wide runway with three ramped platforms. This allowed models to pose on a pedestal in an old-school sort of way, and also gave the audience and photographers a few extra moments to absorb the details of each exit. It was a clever way of speeding along a whopping 59 look show that often brought three models to the runway at once.
Rucci couldn't dispel the underlying tension of the season. Most of the retailers in the audience were surely quaking at the thought where their next customers would come from, but Rucci's show was inspiring enough to remind them, for at least a moment, of why they are in the fashion business in the first place.

Details and more pictures after the jump

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Chado Ralph Rucci
Gets The Standing O
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