It's Hollister, Dude!
July 16, 2009
Well, there are worse things to experience than being greeted with cheery smiles by one gorgeous person after another. That's what happened to The Shophound at the new Hollister "Epic" Flagship (Manhattan's first unit from the chain) that opened today at Broadway and Houston Street in SoHo. We almost burst into guffaws when a matched of pair polo shirted models flanking a doorway chimed "Hey, What'sup?" in perfect unison on the top floor. Another genetically gifted shirtless dude high-fived us. Seriously. We are not kidding.
"Hey What'sup?" is the prescribed greeting of choice at Hollister, and we easily heard it 50 times or more as we wandered through the massive new store. It would be annoying in the extreme if it weren't delivered with such breezy charm by the fetching staff members who are strategically placed at every available nook and niche throughout the store. They, after all, are just doing their jobs. If there isn't an obvious standing place, they simply congregate in chatty groups stopping to "What'sup" any passersby. There's a shirtless surfer on each staircase landing with a beach babe in tow, and, of course, there are the lifeguard/doormen we shared with you a few days ago, who get their own special greeting: "Hey, welcome to the pier!" We did see the one bikini clad girl at the door who made The Cut so uncomfortable, but truthfully, the ratio of girls in swimsuits to shirtless guys here is about one to a zillion.
The store's design conceit is that it is a vintage California pier, and a look below the railing at the entrance finds piles of sand, approximating a beach while the "windows" throughout the store are really a crafty live feed from Huntington Beach, California. Hollister is an astonishing feat of art direction and casting. In lieu of any actual original product design, the folks at this division of Abercrombie & Fitch have put all their resources in creating an interactive performance piece masquerading as a retail store. Any clothes you might buy are merely a souvenir of your time hanging with the sexy kids at Hollister. It outdoes even the huge Abercrombie Flagship on Fifth Avenue. The store is divided into a confusing, mazelike series of interconnected small rooms, seemingly designed to get you lost in the immense four-level store. Unlike it's brother store's earsplitting dance mix soundtrack uptown, Hollister's background music is a less oppressive beachy pop, and the lighting, kept at cocktail lounge levels at Abercrombie, is spookhouse dark in places here. Brighter spots are provided by large crystal chandeliers hung at eye level, a whimsical trope we have seen before. The décor is the vintag-ey hypercluttered look we have seen in so many places that even Ralph Lauren, its originator, seems to be moving away from. It hardly seems possible that the brand has the breadth of merchandise to fill a small department store sized space, so they instead have filled it with beautiful employees, and not just the salesmodels we have come to expect. As The Shophound meandered through the crowded store, it seemed hard to believe that on its first day, it had attracted so many shopping bag carrying customers dressed head to toe in Hollister gear, and yet there they were, ambling through the store in excited groups with their purses and backpacks like typical lower Broadway shoppers. But wait, could they really all have coincidentally decided to put on madras shirts this morning?
No. No they could not, and by the time we had made it through the store it seemed clear that Hollister had not only hired a blindingly gorgeous staff, but also a bunch of damned good-looking (but not quite model-stunning) customers to roam through the store and mill about on the sidewalk as well!
Nothing pleases us more than having our expectations exceeded. Not content to cast the store's staff, Hollister has also handpicked our fellow shoppers as well. Any product for sale seems so beside the point.
But who cares? Let's go downstairs again to see how many different ways the kids can say, "Hey, What'sup?". "HEY What'sup?" "Hey, WHAT'sup?" "Hey, What'sUP?"
Hollister 600 Broadway at Houston Street, SoHo
Hollister Update: Hunks Installed
Abercrombie Under Pressue: A First Look At Hollister
Yeah, this sounds as bad as Abercrombie's "club".
Posted by: Rozdeen | July 16, 2009 at 03:55 PM
Um those 'paid customers' as you called them, are actually managers of Hollisters/Abercrombies from the east coast, there to see the store on it's opening day.
They weren't paid, they were there to support the opening of this really great flagship store.
Posted by: Ryan | July 18, 2009 at 02:00 AM
Sounds like Ryan Laginess is butthurt
Posted by: Mike Jeffries | July 20, 2009 at 10:01 AM
Their sales have been off to a dismall start, far below the ANF 5th Avenue store and barely above most mall stores. This is going to be a huge loss for them.
Posted by: Walker | July 22, 2009 at 04:49 PM
And I'm surprised those people in the picture are managers. We used to not invite people to interview with our district managers if they looked like that or faced getting yelled at.
Posted by: Walker | July 23, 2009 at 12:21 PM