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The Spree:

Topshop Preview and More


We're having a few light days here at The Shophound to prepare for Thursday's massive Topshop Opening. That's our excuse, anyway. If you can't wait (and who can?) WWD has the first look inside the store with lots of pictures. (WWD)
In other news:

Billy Reid is coming to Gilt Groupe this afternoon! Other sales happening in the next few days include Ali Ro, Kwiat, Rafé, Women's Sunglasses, Ted Baker Clothing and Watches, Twenty8Twelve, Anthony Nak and Chloé. For an invitation, click HERE now.
• We don't believe in cheap sunglasses, unless they are from Cheap Monday, but you have to go to  Alter in Brooklyn to get them. (Refinery 29 Pipeline)
British Vogue's relatively low-key EIC Alexandra Shulman discusses the future of magazines. (The Business Of Fashion)
• Still popular Project Runway Runner-Up Daniel Vosovic takes the quiz. (The Fashion Informer)
Sascha (Borat) Baron Cohen's Bruno movie about a zany Austrian fashion designer has been slapped with an NC-17 rating! Expect scandal. (TVGuide)
• A rare J.Mendel Sample Sale runs through Wednesday at The Hudson Hotel at 356 West 58 Street, 3rd Floor. (Shophound Inbox)

Living Windows:

Live Yoga Windows
At Lululemon

Depending on your point of view, Lululemon is either promoting yoga with live demonstrations or luring customers in with young, attractive people on short pants contorting themselves into various positions. Either way, the past few weekends have brought live yoga to the windows of its Upper West Side store. Naturally, they are attracting all sorts of attention. While the narrow window space might not seem like the ideal location for a yoga demonstration, who doesn't love a live display?
Lululemon Athletica 1928 Broadway at 64th Street, Upper West Side

Fashion Exhibitions:

Valentina Returns To The Spotlight

We don't often get to the Museum Of The City Of New York, (in fact we had never been there before) but a gloomy Thursday seemed to be a good opportunity to see Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity, an exhibition devoted to one of the most famous designers of the mid 20th Century who, to younger generations, seemed lost to the obscurity of the past. Valentina left no great house or collection of licensed products to be carried on. When she closed her haute couture business in the late 1950s, her label was never to be applied to another product, even though she herself would live until 1989, but that was not unusual. She didn't think of her name as a brand to be preserved and exploited. It was her signature, to be retired along with herself, when she saw fit.
Valentina3 Much of what is shown is taken from Valentina's own wardrobe. Her own best model, she was photographed for magazines as often as if she had been a movie star herself, and was given to droll pronouncements that made for good copy ("Mink is for football games" said the sable devotée). She was famous enough in her heyday to be interviewed on television by Edward R. Murrow, an excerpt of which is included in the show. The exhibition shows how much has and hasn't changed about fashion in America. Though she never had the kind of multi-million dollar brand business that we are used to seeing today, celebrity and personal connections had just as much to do with her success and fame as it would now, even though the contexts have changed. Valentina was most infamous for the intimate relationship that she and her husband, theater producer George Schlee, had with the then reclusive Greta Garbo, the nature of which sparked endless speculation. This only increased after George's death, when the designer and the star seemed to have a falling out, adding to both of their mystiques, though by that time, Valentina had long since retired.
Fashion was a smaller industry then, and Valentina was exclusive, often rejecting potential customers who fell short of her standards. She could afford it, since her clients included luminaries of the stage and screen like Lynn Fontanne and Katharine Hepburn among many others for whom she often created performance costumes, much like Halston did a generation later. The show deftly demonstrates how both aesthetically and culturally, Valentina was his forbear if you trade Garbo for Liza Minnelli and Liz Taylor. She set the template for his success as well as that of designers like Donna Karan or Carolina Herrera, combining exacting technical innovation with a glittery public face. It's easy to see the appeal of her soft, light tailoring, usually devoid of elaborate embellishment that would draw attention from a famous wearer. The clean lines of what is displayed still looks modern and contemporary.
The Museum Of The City Of New York is a little out of the way at 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue, but it's well worth a visit to see how fashion has evolved and yet remains exactly the same.
Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity at the Museum Of The City Of New York through May 17th at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, Upper East Side

Project Runway Update:

Champ Leanne Marshall
Preparing Exclusives For Bluefly

Leanne_Marshall As we wait to see if Project Runway will ever return to our TV screens, Bluefly reminds us that we still have the most recent winner, Leanne Marshall's collection to look forward to.
Remember Leanne?
She made the winsome, intricately constructed dresses, not the glitzy gowns with the hair.
The softspoken winner will be launching her label with an exclusive collection for the online retailer much the same way Christian Siriano did a season before. His line sold very well, and appears to have been a solid start for a viable business, which bodes well for Leanne.
So far, only one sketch (at left) has been released on Bluefly's blog, Flypaper, but it clearly reflects the sculptural aesthetic she showed on the program. So far we have no launch date, but we will keep you all posted.
Leanne Marshall (Official Site)
First Look: Leanne Marshall's Exclusive Bluefly Collection (Flypaper)

Window Update:

Inven.tory Pulls Down The Patches
And Lets In The Light

Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought that Inven.tory's clever denim patched exterior made the new Lafayette Street location a little too easy to miss. A little porthole was not quite enough to let the public know that there was a whole store behind all those patches.
Now, the lower half of the decorative textile adornment has been removed (as pictured above) so passersby can see that there is a store inside. The limited edition ripped and patched Cheap Monday jeans appear to have sold out, but there's still plenty of good stuff there, and the cheery staff seems grateful to no longer be deprived of sunlight. After all, it was a shame to waste those nice big windows.
Inven.tory 237 Lafayette Street, SoHo

The Spree:

Thom Browne In Trouble? ...And Other Stories

Will our love/hate for Thom Browne get cut short? The acclaimed designer launched his first ad campaign this season, but it may be his last, at least for a while. The New York Post is reporting that the acclaimed designer is in desperate need of additional financing to keep his signature label afloat as retailers are buying more conservatively and the market for high fashion $5,000 suits shrinks. This affects only Browne's own company, not the Black Fleece collection he creates for Brooks Brothers, which has been extended through 2011.
Despite our ambivalence about Browne's line, this is disappointing news to us, if not terribly surprising. Browne is experiencing the pitfalls of the uncompromising designer who has allowed too great of a disconnect to form between his increasingly avant-garde presentations and a fairly narrow selection of salable products at retail. His products show continual refinement, but not much actual evolution. How many tight, cashmere varsity sweaters does a customer really want, especially at $1,500 or so? His look keeps coming back to the same shrunken suit and schoolboy furnishings, and he may have hit the wall with it.
We really do hope he gets the financial support he needs. We certainly enjoy writing about his work, and he adds a lot to the  industry. Perhaps it's time for the figure of himself in the middle of his new advertisement (pictured above) to remove the blindfold and focus less on inventive presentations and more on developing product.
A Fashion Wedgie (NYPost)
...And in other news:

Lauren Conrad promises that her fashion collection is only on a brief hiatus and will return for next Spring. Oh, we can't wait.
We're counting the days. (The Cut)
Here's a video of Matthew Williamson talking about his new upcoming H&M collection. (YouTube via RACKED)
Nautica skipped a runway show this season in favor of a presentation on the U.S.S. Intrepid Aircraft Carrier. (WWD)
Alexander McQueen is getting mouthy again. He's full of opinions, most of them negative. (Fashionologie)
• That Crocs store that's supposed to be built in SoHo might never happen, as auditors doubt the company's financial viability for the future. Will we miss the ugliest shoes in the world? No. (5 Blogs Before Lunch)
• Why do LVMH and Hermès seem to continue thriving while other luxury brands are struggling? (Wall Street Journal)
• The Hermès sale, however, is a lot less crowded this year, but there's still a limit on scarves and ties. it continues on through Saturday the 28th at Metropolitan Pavilion. (RACKED)
• Today's and Tomorrow's GILT GROUPE sales include Burberry Prorsum for Women and Men, James Perse, Kim Seybert, Mary Louise, Linda Farrow Sunglasses for Women and Men, Miguelina, Vellum and Shipley & Halmos. Click HERE for your invitation.

TOPSHOP Giveaway Alert:

Look For The Truck Downtown

20090325_topshoptruck_146x97 The Cut tells us that Topshop Gift Cards up to $500 are being given awauy at the corner of St. Marks and Third Avenue from a truck that reads "Everybody Loves Topshop". It looks like promotional activities are focused on downtown neighborhoods around NYU.
RACKED has dissected the contents of the giveaway bags that today were distributed in Washington Square Park.
These are your tips, people.
Go out and collect!
Top O' the Afternoon: Inside Topshop's Giveaway Bag (RACKED)
Free Topshop Giveaway Right Now (The Cut)

Brand Extension Du Jour:

Phineas Cole Lets The Light
In At Paul Stuart

Paul Stuart has always existed in its own never-changing world. It's an elegant, refined world of impeccable taste (and a really beautiful selection of shoes), and its consistency is no doubt comforting to its loyal customers. Sometimes, however such dependability can thrive for decades, but then one day abruptly become "Grandpa's Store", scrambling to find a way to become relevant again. Looking to avoid that fate, Paul Stuart introduced a younger, sleeker (but no less expensive) label, Phineas Cole a few seasons ago, and has now expanded it to a new corner on the first floor for sportswear and accessories.
It must be noted that in Paul Stuart's world, merchandise doesn't move around the store. Ties go where ties go. Sweaters are always kept on the same shelves, etc. A regular customer could walk into the store after an absence of 5 or 10 years (perhaps for insider trading) and barely notice the passage of time, so this sort of merchandising move is nothing short of revolutionary. On top of that, the store has remodeled the new Phineas Cole shop to open up the store's corner windows, allowing real sunlight to actually permeate the store's otherwise hermetic interior.
This reorganization also moves the shoe department to a bigger space on the other side of the Madison Avenue entrance, so call it a double bonus. Longtime family owned businesses aren't always quick to adapt to changing times, but it's encouraging to see that the folks at Paul Stuart have an eye to the future.
Phineas Cole at Paul Stuart Madison Avenue at 45th Street, Midtown

Today In Relaunches:

Looking for Claiborne

This weekend we checked out the relaunch of Liz Claiborne's signature lines, and to do that, we had to go someplace we usually avoid...Macy's.
It's not that we have anything inherently against the giant department store chain, it's just that shopping at the Herald Square flagship often feels like a chore, if only because schlepping from one department to another requires a walk of several city blocks —literally, and then there are the tourist hordes, but we hit it on a relatively quiet Sunday when there were no major sales happening (a rare occasion), so it wasn't too painful.
We entered on the Seventh Avenue side —the men's side— because we were most interested to see how John Bartlett had revamped the previously moribund Claiborne men's collection. Regular readers know how fond we are of John, and although we knew he was selling the label at his own West Village boutique, we wanted to see how it looked in its natural habitat: the mid-range department store.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait for that experience.
We went up to the second floor, where the sportswear collections live. It's like a giant brand mall up there, with a big shop for Tommy Hilfiger, another big section for Calvin Klein, a Perry Ellis area (featuring nothing that resembles anything from the Spring runway collection we saw last fall), all with their own vendor-supplied fixtures and graphics. They are all dwarfed by a massive Polo shop which is larger than many of Ralph Lauren's own freestanding stores, but appears to be filled only with endless permutations of the label's signature polo shirts, jeans and khakis. Further back, there was DKNY, Lacoste, some private label brands and then, the dreaded Tommy Bahama (Really? Tropical shirts and baggy cargo shorts? Still?). There was no sign of Claiborne, and after I scoured the rest of the men's department it was pretty clear that the line wasn't in the store yet. We were a little bewildered. After all, if anyone would be selling this label, we thought it would be Macy's, but we pressed onward towards the women's side of the immense store.
After a full crosstown walk across a surprisingly tidy and well kept third floor (Really. In Macy's!), we had no trouble finding Isaac Mizrahi's revamped Liz Claiborne collection. There was no mistaking Isaac's signature white-on-white shop design or his favorite lemon/lime/grapefruit colors that had taken up residence along the Broadway wall and extending well into the floor. After a sticky few years with Macy's, Liz has been given a place of honor presiding over the other moderate brands like Lauren and Michael by Michael Kors. Unlike Bartlett, Isaac's name is not on the label, but his influence is plain to see, and the quality is a major jump from his line for Target (which always looked pretty rumpled to us in the store). There are few cutting edge looks here, but Mizrahi's stock in trade is colorful, updated classics which he appears to have delivered in abundance. The line looked appealing and wearable with just enough whimsical accent pieces to keep displays interesting. While the prices are much higher than Target's they fall firmly within the moderate range, and the overall set-up was impressive and attention-getting with lots of signs reminding customers that Isaac himself will be on hand this Thursday evening March 26th at 6 PM to kick off the new shop.
But what of Bartlett's men's line? Later on we hit his shop on Seventh Avenue which, as it turns out, is the only place in New York carrying the Claiborne line for Spring. Apparently, there is some real disappointment that Macy's is not on board, although we found a small selection of the more basic looks available online at Macys.com. It's too bad, because what we saw in John's cozy shop was classic enough for any guy but, updated and smart looking, including some well cut casual pants —and if anyone knows how to cut men's pants, John Bartlett does. We are generally waaay to snobby for anything as mass market as Claiborne, and we would would wear any of it. Plus, the prices are good, and a pop-up shop to promote it may be in the works. We hear Lord & Taylor is thisclose to picking it up, and we hope they do, because the kind of blandness we saw at Macy's could easily use a shot in the arm from John.
Isaac Mizrahi for Liz Claiborne New York (Official Site)
Claiborne by John Bartlett (Official Site) and at

Giveaway Alert:

TOPSHOP Is Handing Stuff Out

Well, they may not be doing it right now, but yesterday we heard that there were major Topshop giveaways in Union Square going on, and we certainly don't think that will be the last we hear of it during the next week and a half before the big opening. Keep your eyes peeled, folks. This is the kind of pre-opening promotion of which we heartily approve. Our friends at RACKED reported that lucky passersby were getting tote bags with catalogs, student discount cards and water bottles, but a commenter chimed in to inform us that the real draw was the big stack of gift cards,
Free stuff!
Look alive, people! It's going to happen again, we just don't know where.
Topshop! (RACKED)