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Closeout Alert:

Lot Less Come To Fulton Street

JAMESFRANCOUNDERWEAR You could be forgiven for thinking that The Shophound spends all of our time in designer boutiques and UNIQLO, but the truth is that we are happy to check out any store that looks even marginally intriguing. That is how we happened upon Lot Less, the big new closeout store on Fulton street that has taken the place of the old Strand Annex.
Typically, these sorts of stores are dingy and cluttered with dodgy looking off-brand goods from who knows where. We wouldn't say that we didn't see more than a couple of unfamiliar brands at Lot Less, but the store was clean, spacious and well organized on our visit with plenty of branded goods at gentle prices. We always enter such places with no expectations, and we were just as happy to find a Kitchen Aid bamboo mixing spoon for $3 as we would be to discover any bargain.
We also learned via a sizable display, that tireless, multitasking Movie Star/Graduate Student/Saturday Night Live Host/Soap Opera Star and Possible Performance Artist James Franco apparently has his own underwear line (above right). Talk about making everyone else feel lazy!
What's that? It's just an underwear line that coincidentally shares the same name as the young celebrity?
Nonsense! We like our version better.
Lot Less 150 William Street at Fulton Street, Financial District

Last Chance:

The Season Closes Out

BarneysWHS2010 Barney's has packed up the last of its markdowns in preparation for the big Warehouse Sale which begins, coincidentally, on the same day as Fashion Week. That'll be a good excuse for us to hold off on that for a while, but around the city what's left from Fall is mostly marked way down as Spring collections should be rolling in. Here are a few events worth checking out if you are still in the mood for markdowns.
Dennis Basso's seasonal fur and shearling sale starts Saturday, January 30th at Soiffer Haskin (317 West 33rd Street just west of 8th Avenue. Click HERE for more info) through Wednesday February 3rd, but we know a lot of you are holding out for the next event...
Tourneau's eagerly awaited sale brings big crowds and long lines, but it's usually worth the wait if you are in the market for a new luxury watch at a great price. The renowned jeweler will fill Soiffer Haskin's cavernous space with timepieces from Saturday February 6th through Thursday the 11th. As always, Rolex and Patek Philippe are excluded from the sale, but since Tourneau carries nearly every watch known to man, that leaves plenty to choose from. More info HERE.
BartlettsaleJohn Bartlett's final winter markdowns went into effect this week on his main label as well his penultimate collection for Claiborne, which should make it extra affordable. His shop will resume normal Monday hours this coming week. Click HERE for more info about his West Village shop (143 7th Avenue South)
• Since it is supposed to be horribly cold and dreary this weekend, you can't be blamed for staying in, and in that event, there's lots of good stuff on line. Gilt Groupe is back in form, and has actually been supplanting the Manhattan showroom sample sales for several young designers like Rodarte and Alexander Wang. Coming up are sales for Robert Lee Morris, Reem Acra, Assouline, Jil Sander, John Varvatos USA, Moleskine, Faconnable and Duncan Quinn to name just a sampling. Click HERE for an exclusive invitation.
• That's not all. Rue La La has been stepping up its game after a big infusion of investment. They will be featuring GANT, Timberland Boot Company for Men', and Women, Victorinox, La Perla, Valentino Pret-a-Porter, and even Madame Alexander dolls in the next few days. Click HERE for an invitation.
• Intriguing newcomer One Kings Lane will be offering home furnishings sales for Peacock Alley, Staub, Chelsea Textiles, Aga John Oriental Rugs in the coming days. Click HERE for an invitation.

Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping:

Adult Comparison Shopping Edition

ArticleLargeCritical Shopper Cintra Wilson returns home to Manhattan this week with a special Pre-Valentine's Day edition in today's Thursday Styles. Playing swanky lingerie dealers Agent Provacateur and Kiki de Montparnasse off each other would naturally provides endless opportunities to exercise her dry wit, comparing the haute erotica vibe at Kiki with the rockabilly pinup atmosphere at Agent, with both of them being a far cry from the homogenized soft-core flavor of Victoria's Secret. Her real accomplishment here is in pushing the boundaries of propriety in the Times, including a discussion of Ben Wa balls that is somewhat more descriptive than what one usually finds in the paper. If you are unfamiliar with the various uses of this item, we are certainly not going to walk you through them, although since you are obviously familiar with this internet thing, you can easily find out for yourself with a few keystrokes (hey, that's what it's really for, isin't it?).
The most surprising revelation here is that the staff at Agent Provocateur will, apparently happily model their wares for those too timid to try them on themselves.

I inquired about the price of a ladies’ tuxedo jacket, since I couldn’t find the tag, and learned that the jacket was not sold separately from its matching black satin teddy ($1,700).
“Would you still like to try it on?” one of the tattooed ladies asked.
“I’d rather see it on you, actually,” I replied.
She very sweetly and immediately obliged.
I inspected the peplum and the Balmain-esque shoulder pads. “It’s a very small size, isn’t it?”
“Well, I’m a 32D, so it fits great,” my helper said in response.

Somehow, we suspect that this may start to attract an unwanted sort of customer to the shop, but then that's probably something of an occupational hazard at the lingerie shop anyway.
Critical Shopper | Kiki de Montparnasse and Agent Provocateur: Dressing for Success on Valentine's Day by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Kiki de Montparnasse 79 Greene Street at Spring Street
Agent Provocateur 133 Mercer Street at Prince Street, both in SoHo

Pop-Up Goes Permanent:

JNBY Finds A Home On Greene Street

Chinese fashion label JNBY (which stands for 'Just Naturally Be Yourself' in case you were wondering) has been so happy with the results of the SoHo Pop-Up shop it opened a few months ago (left) that they will be taking a 2,250-square-foot permanent space 75 Greene Street (right). The brand, designed by a 13 person collective, will be using the store as a beachhead for its entry into the U.S. market, and is reportedly looking for a second NYC location as well as offering the collection to selected other retailers as a higher-end contemporary line.
U.S. brand manager Michelle Wohlers knows about rapid expansion, having come from the world of Juicy Couture, and admits that there are some kinks to work out before they hit the U.S. at full force. “The runway shows [have] these very severe-looking Chinese models,” she tells WWD, “I’m helping soften it for the U.S. We are also very sized challenged with the men’s line.”
Chinese Retailer JNBY to Land in U.S. (WWD)
JNBY (Official Site)

Toys For Kids Prevail:

Lego Pushes Brookstone Out Of Rockefeller Center

Perhaps nothing will make our 8-year-old alter ego happier than to learn that LEGO is opening a flagship store in Rockefeller Center this summer. They will be taking over the 50th Street location currently occupied by Brookstone (pictured above) which means that toys and gadgets for grownups have been edged out by toys for kids.
We expect that some might see this as a juvenilization of midtown retail -and we can see that- but we feel strongly that there is no greater toy on the planet than a giant bucket of Lego bricks, regardless of age.
We look forward to seeing the entirety of Rockefeller Center rendered in Legos in the store by mid-Summer.
That kind of thing never gets old.
Between The Bricks (NYPost, 4th item)
LEGO (Official Site)

Upcoming Relocations:

The Conran Shop Gets Ready
For A Major Move To ABC

This bit of news might have been easily missed since it was announced just before Christmas last year,  but The Conran Shop is giving up its riverfront glass house on the East Side for a Flatiron loft at ABC Carpet & Home. To that end, they are currently running a great, big Moving Sale through the end of March with items at 50% to 75% off, including lots of furniture and other design items.
Starting in April, Conran's will be relocated to an 8,500 square foot space in ABC's flagship at 888 Broadway at 19th Street. The reduced square footage will mean the store is shedding quite a few product categories including Bed & Bath, Children's, Kitchen and most of the smaller gift items found in glass cases in its current store. Of course, this constitutes much of what made the store an interesting destination in the first place, but such sacrifices must be made for a better location.
The Conran Shop opened to much fanfare 10 years ago as part of a rejuvenation of the plaza underneath the 59th Street Bridge that included The Food Emporium's Bridgemarket flagship store and Guastavino's, now an event space, but initially a restaurant run by Sir Terence Conran and named for the architect who designed the landmarked vaulted space.
From the beginning, the design store was in a striking, but difficult location that never attracted the kind of foot traffic needed to make it a vital stop for Manhattan shoppers. That should change at ABC, though now, The Conran Shop will be one of many departments under one roof including Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Blu Dot, Frette, Hästens and several other leased areas of various sizes throughout the vast store. We're not sure that this is what Sir Terence ultimately had in mind when he decided to return to the U.S. 10 years ago, but trade-offs have to be made to survive a still challenging retail climate.
A bigger question is who will move into the soon to be available space by the bridge? The swooping greenhouse-like pavilion could still become a dramatic setting for some brave retailer, but who exactly might that be?
The Conran Shop (Official Site)

Two Chelsea Stalwarts Prepare To Exit

It's January, which is a month of reckoning of sorts for retailers and, not coincidentally, the time of year when some stores find themselves packing it in for good if their Holiday season wasn't as bountiful as they had anticipated.
Frankly, we aren't sure if that is the exact reason, but two longtime Chelsea retailers are closing up shop shortly. Mardana and Giraudon, two well established Eighth Avenue boutiques are both running store closing sales, and the signs in their windows would suggest that their side by side locations between 17th and 18th Streets will be available soon from the same landlord.
Giraudon, has been selling stylish shoes since at least the mid-'80s, which makes us nervous for some of the other neighborhood shops that have not yet been converted into banks or burrito chains. Someone please just tell us that Camouflage is still safe.

Coach Makes But A Memory Of Ruehl

With Abercrombie & Fitch's misbegotten Ruehl experiment finally banished to the graveyard of failed retailing concepts, we were left wondering who would take the chain's tiny but well placed accessory shop on Bleecker Street. That question was answered yesterday when we saw that next-door neighbor Coach would be converting the space to a Men's store, following the current Bleecker Street format, followed by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and James Perse, of having separate, gender specific shops along the mini-strip. So far, we can't tell if there will be the same sort of extensive façade renovation as its older sister, or if a speedy retro-fitting will have the shop open by Fashion Week next month. The Women's shop is designated as a 'Legacy' store, carrying higher end, limited edition product from the brand, so it stands to reason that an adjacent Men's store might be similarly merchandised. The store is set to open in Spring 2010.
Coach Bleecker Now Open

Fashion Week Previews:

Ports 1961 Plants The Seeds For Fall

The invitations for Fashion Week are rolling in, and while most of them are fairly straightforward (heavy stock cards with the time and place) there are always those who will go above and beyond to catch you attention and set the scene for their upcoming collection. In the past, Ports 1961 has sent out whimsical yet utilitarian invitations on fans and pleated cotton scarves among other things, and this season they have topped themselves with what appears to be a simple notebook bookmarked to an invitation page. Turn it, and find a packet of actual Rosemary seeds facing a page printed with the motto:
We have great faith in seeds, for in every nurtured beginning lies the future of a blossoming idea.
Clearly designer Tia Cibani is in a contemplative mode this season. What follows is a datebook of Fashion Week with Ports' show and party carefully noted as well as a suggested evening activity for each night ranging from a Knicks game to a Kathy Griffin show at Madison Square Garden (covering all the bases). Ports always puts on an inventive show, often including live performances, so we are extra intrigued to see what they have in store next month.

J.Cew Sample Sale Report:

A Sample Sale Lull

Jcrewjan2010 Regular readers may have noticed that we haven't been posting many sample sale listings for the past few weeks, and that's mainly because we seem to be in a much deserved quiet patch when it comes to those. Frankly, we are a bit Sample Sale-ed out ourselves. At this point, we've really got everything we want for the season, and what shows up by mid-January at some of the sales we get notified about turns out to be seriously picked over dregs.
Even Gilt Groupe, which we continue to follow faithfully every day at noon, has seen some familiar goods repeated to fill up its selling schedule (although today's Gilt Man John Varvatos sale features some refreshingly new merchandise, a promising sign)
For whatever reason, however, we found ourselves taking a detour to Clothingline's J.Crew sale this afternoon, just to see if it was worthwhile. After all, they do one of these things practically every month these days, and while earlier in the year it attracted lines down 36th Street, our typical response when we get those email notices is, "Again?"
We were mainly wondering if there would be any men's shoes, particularly a pair of their nice desert boots. There were indeed tables and tables of women's shoes, and a smaller section of men's including those very boots as well as some Top-Sider chukkas we had been eyeing, but not in our size. Most of the shoes that were there appeared to be damaged, actual, well worn samples, and oddities like a strange abundance of red-soled white bucks in size 11 only.
On to the clothes, most of which appeared to be genuine samples, but racks and racks of them, many with "SAMPLE" scrawled on the inside hem of sweaters or t-shirts. A very appealing reversible down puffer vest in cotton twill and wool flannel is not so very reversible anymore if someone writes "SAMPLE" across the back in thick, black sharpie, is it? This also means nearly everything is a size medium, and often well worn. There's really no telling how old some of this stuff is because much of it was never produced. We did see a single charcoal gray waffle knit henley we bought at the store a year ago, and other things that looked even older.
But here's the big dumb thing about these J.Crew sample sales. The company already has factory outlets for its excess stock. Just after Christmas, we bought some great woven shirts at the Flatiron flagship store for around $14 (down from $59 and $69), roughly half of the price at Clothingline, and there were tons of them, fresh and clean, in every size. The final clearance sales in their retail stores offer far better values than what you will find at these sample sales, and that's before the extra 20% to 30% off you'll get on certain weekends, particularly in New York and other selected markets where the reductions are even a bit heavier than online.
So why would we trek to the dingy Garment District to pick through old samples when there are far better buys in J.Crew's many well stocked Manhattan stores?
Well, we won't again, and, frankly, you probably shouldn't either.