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UNIQLO Opens Its Second Largest Store In The World On Friday

So perhaps you have been daunted by the crowds at the new, gigantic UNIQLO World Flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Don't worry, because phase two of the Japanese company's latest efforts, a second world flagship store (or third if you count the original SoHo store as a World Flagship, as it was called when it opened) will open on 34th Street tomorrow at noon with a special ribbon cutting and traditional Japanese ceremony.

Of course, at the moment, workers are still hammering away, and they probably will be installing finishing touches up until the doors open tomorrow. While Uniqlo had nearly two years to construct its Fifth Avenue store, the 34th Street location has only been under construction since April, and at 64,000 square feet, it is still a sizable undertaking.

Expect everything to be perfect tomorrow, however. The white exterior paneling has now been installed, so the store no longer looks naked from the street. In fact the store only has a few thousand fewer square feet of actual selling space than its uptown sibling, and shares the same design elements from architectural firm Wonderwall including a soaring central atrium and countless LED screens throughout. It will also be sharing the same opening specials including the $9.90 jeans which have been flying out of the Fifth Avenue store as well as cashmere sweaters in 25 colors from $49.90 to $59.90, Ultralight down jackets for $59.90 and Heattech items starting at $12.90. In addition, the first 20,000 shoppers at 34th street will recieve a free original tote bag featuring the now iconic red and white logo.

We just toured the newest store with Shin Odake, the US CEO of Uniqlo, who though he has given countless interviews over the past couple of weeks, was gracious enough walk The Shophound through. We watched as the flying mannequins which will be traveling up and down the three floors were activated for the first time (pictured above). This particular feature is unique to the 34th street store, and can be seen only in one other Uniqlo store in Japan. In fact, there are nearly twice as many mannequins in this store as there are on Fifth Avenue, showing every possible way to style the brand's wares.

Some may even find this particular store easier to shop than the one on Fifth Avenue, with featured items including the Uniqlo Innovation Project collection on a main floor split between men and women's merchandise, a full floor for women on 2, and menswear on the third floor shared with a separate section fully stocked with Jil Sander's swan song for +J. We shared with Mr. Odake one last lament about the demise of everyone's favorite designer collaboration line, and he promised us that we would be happy with the upcoming team-up with designer Jun Takahashi's Undercover label. As for more Uniqlo stores around the country, he told us, "As soon as possible!" probably for the thousandth time. He did confirm for us that now that they have so much more space, they would be bringing back children's clothes sometime soon.

His main concern, however, is obviously getting this store ready for its opening on Friday, after which he gets a well-earned rest while the rest of us get shopping.

UNIQLO's other World Flagship opens on Friday October 21st at Noon at 31 West 34th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues, Midtown


Scandinavian Sensory Overload Edition

20CRITIC1_SPAN-articleLarge-v2The Tmes' Critical Shopper column threw us a bit of a curve today by assigning Jon Caramanica to review the new Marimekko flagship store instead of the other chick. That is not to say that he does not have some pointed things to say about the store. After all, lately he has been emphasizing the 'critical' side of 'Critical Shopper'. While the ongoing craze for retro style made a revival of Marimekko's bold, graphic prints an inevitability, Caramanica is not convinced, and to him, the whole enterprise looks dated. He sees it as a glorified fabric store, best suited for the D.I.Y. crowd, and it is the clothing offerings that seem to irk him the most.

Almost everything here begged for a belt or a rope or a handful of safety pins, even the plain but charming pieces done in Breton stripes, especially the maxidress dangling near the back of the store like a challenge, one that had been (willingly?) accepted by a saleswoman, who cinched it with a wide belt, augmented with strappy clog sandals: the chicest prison outfit possible.

Epic run-on sentences aside, this week's column proves that Caramanica is wittier when unimpressed, and he lets loose more than a few zingers, so we are all for sending him outside of his menswear-centric comfort zone. We're not really sure that Marimekko is as bad as all that, but we're happy to let him go to town on them.

Critical Shopper | Marimekko: An Outspoken Elder, Very Now By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Marimekko 200 Fifth Avenue at 24th Street, Flatiron District


Macy's Taps Doo.Ri For The Next Impulse Line

Macy's has been parsing out information about its designer collaboration lineup, but couldn't have better timing for its latest announcement. Doo.Ri, who just received a nice publicity boost for designing Michele Obabma's most recent state dinner gown, will create an exclusive collection for the department store's contemporary Impulse department. The line will focus on designer Doo-Ri Chung's signature draped jerseys, and will appear in 225 Macy's stores on February 25th for an eight-week run at prices ranging from $39 to $159.

Target's recent Missoni extravaganza shows that consumers are in no way tired of designer collaborations —as long as it is the right designer. Macy's is winding down a high profile line by Karl Lagerfeld, and Doo.Ri will follow one from Giambattista Valli which launches next week to sell through the holidays. Macy's officials seem to have more in store for the series of collaborations, but they are keeping their cards close to the vest. Unlike Lagerfeld and Valli before her, there was little going through the rumor mill about a Doo.Ri line for Macy's. The designer tells WWD, “The customer is very different from whom we’ve catered to before, but I really didn’t have to adapt. Macy’s wanted to keep the design level high. I didn’t feel the challenge was very different,”

Doo-Ri Chung Next Up for Macy's (WWD)


Preview Circuit With DKNY & Kenneth Cole

DKNYtightsYes, folks, it's time for Spring Previews again, and the schedule can be almost as busy as Fashion Week at times. The Shophound will admit that sometimes we go to these things just for the hors d'oeuvres and free drinks, which is how we ended up at an event for DKNY Hosiery to launch a special collaboration with Gossip Girl costume stylist Eric Daman. Frankly, we were really interested in checking out the Dream Hotel in Chelsea where the event was held. For some reason, much to our and the security staff's confusion, we were directed to enter the subterranean Electric Room through the loading dock (despite the presence of a perfectly serviceable staircase from the lobby),  but inside we found a fairly cool bar underpopulated with guests (in fairness, we were there pretty early). There were sullen models looking leggy in their tights (right), but the excitement had yet to kick in and we had to go uptown to...

KenethColeSS12-1Kenneth Cole's Hell's Kitchen showroom on Eleventh Avenue for a more conventional sort of preview. With a brand like this the interest is not so much in what's new, but what's filtering down to more accessible labels. In this case it is bright color blocks and the spectre of the '80s (left) including a unlikely mash-up of snakeskin pattern printed on leather haircalf (or cavallino for those who find 'haircalf' too graphic a term) (below). This material made it into shoes, handbags, a skirt, a dress and billowing silk scarf. KennethColeSS12-2For men there were the not terribly surprising but well executed multi-colored boat shoes as well as suede buck chukkas with eraser red rubber soles (right). Overall, it looks like fashion-at-a-price will be well served by Cole next Spring. We were only charmed more when upon exiting, we were presented with a little box from Ladurée containing three macarons, a green pistachio, a pink one that smelled like roses, and a creamy caramel one that made us fully understand the appeal of the famous French sweet shop. Our aversion to standing in line on the sidewalk has kept us from sampling the new Ladurée on madison Avenue, and this little bit of swag saved us the trouble, so Yay Kenneth Cole!

Click all images for a larger view in a new window


GILT Home Heads Toward Full Price
While Flash Sites Feel The Squeeze On Luxury Merchandise

Regular customers of Gilt Groupe's popular home furnishings flash sales got a surprise this week as the off-price site gave way to Gilt Home's newly revamped web presence featuring full priced merchandise available, presumably, on an ongoing basis.

The flash sales are still there, of course, and accessible from both the revamped Gilt Home site and the relatively unchanged Gilt homepage, but the development suggests that Gilt, still the largest among the U.S. based flash sites, is taking steps to nudge its free-spending upscale customers toward full price shopping. While this may seem counter-intuitive, Gilt wouldn't become the first upscale retailer who successfully traded up to luxury and prestige from humbler beginnings. Barneys certainly comes to mind, and J.Crew seems to be moving in that direction as well. An article published by Reuters this week suggests that lofty ambitions may not be the only reason for this direction.

In it, Alistair Barr reports that as Flash sales grow, the demand for off price luxury goods increases. At the same time, both designers and luxury retailers are keeping inventories tight due to challenging economic conditions, providing for fewer of the overstocks and overruns that fueled the growth of flash sale sites over the past few years. That's why a visit to any of the popular sites including Gilt, but also Ideeli, HauteLook and RueLaLa, shows fewer pure luxury designers these days and a greater array of less expensive bridge and contemporary resources than customers have come to expect. In addition, the original flash sale site, Vente Privée is expected to start operating in the U.S. any time now in a partnership with American Express, which is sure to squeeze the supply of coveted labels even further.

Sites have responded by broadening their assortments and, in some cases, working with designers to produce special merchandise expressly for off-price selling, not unlike the way some of them already do for their own oultets and retailers like Loehmann's and Filene's Basement. What? You didn't know that a good portion of the designer goods you find at Century 21 were never mean to be sold at "full price"? Sorry to disillusion you.

Gilt seems to be the only one moving in a full price direction. Earlier this year, they launched Gilt Taste led by former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl, as well as Park & Bond, a luxury men's apparel site which is utilizing the talents of prominent menswear figures like well-known editor Josh Peskowitz and Nickelson Wooster, the internet style icon who has decades of luxury retail experience under his carefully chosen belt. In particular, Wooster's move to Gilt from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman indicated that company would be moving in new directions.

Though Gilt has not yet announced a full priced women's venture, given the current direction of its other categories, it seems inevitable that sometime soon, the company will announce the flashy hiring of a Well Known Fashion Figure that will eventually lead to the launch of a new women's retail site. We're on alert.

Online Flash Sales Less Flashy As Inventory Shrinks by Alistair Barr (Reuters)
Gilt Home (Official Site)


C.Wonder's Doors Remain Closed
For A Bit Longer

The folks behind the upcoming concept store C.Wonder installed some great big green doors at the entrance to their debut store on Spring Street. Those of us expecting the store to meet its projected opening date of October 15 found those colorful doors solidly closed and the windows covered in brown paper all weekend. It looks like that date was just a tad too ambitious for a store only announced last June. It would have been less noticeable had the store not taken out a sizable New York Times ad recently announcing the (missed) opening.
Well, you won't have to wait too long to see what Chris Burch (the former Mr. Tory) has under his hat. The store is now expected to open this Saturday the 22nd.
Fingers crossed!

COMING SOON: C. Wonder Brings Heavy Hype To Former Kate's Space


Rick Owens, Delman, Tucker, Rag & Bone, Thomas Pink, Frette, Missoni, Escada, Calvin Klein Collection, Dolce Vita, Cuisinart, Tucker

Here is your weekly sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites this week. You should click over to the sites themselves for a full schedule of events, and be sure to check for the correct start time for each sale. Happy clicking!

Rick Owens, Elie Tahari, Via Spiga, Delman, Lafayette 148, AG Jeans, Trina Turk/Thread Social, The Cue, Tucker, Walter, Design History, French Connection, Rebecca Minkoff, Missoni Shoes —join HERE
Rag & Bone Shoes & Accessories, Kenneth Cole Shirting and Suiting, Michael Kors Collection, John Varvatos ★ USA Accessories, New Balance Underwear, Spiewak, Nudie Jeans, Edun, Domenic Vacca, Boot Sale, Thomas Pink, Hickey Freeman/Pierrepont Hicks, Psycho Bunny, SeaVees, Jan Leslie Cufflinks & Accessories —join HERE
WMF, Karlsson Klocks, Frette, A. Rudin, Espacio, Anichini, Missoni Home, Michael Aram, nuLOOM Overdye, Interior Illusions, Colin Cowie Picks, BergHOFF, Cashmere Shop —join HERE
Bruno Magli, Escada, MICHELE, Sanita, [BLANKNYC], PUR Cashmere, Donna Morgan, Timberland Boot Co., Shae, Raffi, Villeroy & Boch, Swiss Diamond, Sofiacashmere, Skagen Denmark, Lisa Pliner, Blissliving Home, Mephisto, Calvin Klein Collection, Oakley, Elaine Turner, Dale Dressin, Hartmann, CASS Luxury Shapewear, Jack Victor —join HERE


UNIQLO Parties In A Big Way

So last night, months of escalating publicity and promotion came to an apex as UNIQLO threw a big opening party to launch its immense, new Fifth Avenue Global Flagship which finally opens its doors at noon today. And boy, it was big.

The last time Uniqlo threw such a bash, it was almost five years ago, and most people weren't quite sure what this big Japanese store opening in SoHo was all about. They do now, even though this is still only the company's second store in the United States (with an only slightly smaller third one on deck to open in a week's time), and the event attracted an impressive crowd eager to celebrate with free flowing Sake-tinis. Well, everyone's always eager to celebrate with an open bar, but among the revelers we counted major retail figures like Saks Fifth Avenue president Ron Frasch, designers like John Varvatos and the Costello-Tagliapietra team who have had two well received collaboration collections with the store and other fashion crowd mainstays like Lorenzo Martone and stylist Robert Verdi.  Those who were at the previous launch would still recognize the traditional sake barrel breaking. This time, Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai did the honors with actress Susan Sarandon, who is starring in the company's "Made For All" campaign. In fact there were sake barrels throughout the store and the beverage was once again served not in glasses, but traditional little square wooden tumblers (We skipped the sake this time for a crisp basil lemonade with vodka).

Though there was an enormous crowd, the store's 89,000 square feet accommodated everyone nicely, and the vast space was well used with lots of bars everywhere so nobody really had to wait too long for a drink —truly the mark of a well organized event. Even so, with in the huge space it still took a god bit of texting and instructions for The Shophound to make contact with a friend who was also at the party. The production was turned over to nightlife promoter Josh Wood who did not disappoint with the entertainment choices. We would happily brave a crowded party and more to see one of our very favorite soul singers, Brooklyn's Sharon Jones who was backed not by her usual band but the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Wood also brought in Santigold (pictured above),who performed two songs —though we're still not totally sure she actually sang them— and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who DJed.

The up-only escalators were running both ways for guests at the event, so as we made our descent and exit we were presented with a special white nylon tote printed with Uniqlo logos in its own zip pouch. Ok, last time we got cashmere scarves, so this was a teeny bit of a let down, but we recognize that in this day and age, it is churlish to bitch about party swag (and The Shophound already has plenty of scarves). That doesn't usually stop us, but considering the size of the guest list, we're not terribly surprised that the gift bag was somewhat more humble. The real prize comes when the store finally opens today. If you can make it through the inevitable crowds, you might be able to get ahold of the $9.90 jeans. We wouldn't blame you for waiting a couple of weeks for the hordes to thin out, though. If there's one thing this store tells us, it's that Uniqlo plans to stick around for a while in a very bg way.

A User's Guide To UNIQLO's New Fifth Avenue Store,
Cashmere & Sushi: UNIQLO's Broadway Opening (11.10.2006)


Eddie Bauer Charges Ahead With
A New Look for Spring

EddieBauerSS12-AClick all images for a larger view in a new window

Though Fashion Week is long over, this is the time of year when other brands less reliant on runway shows and trade shows unveil their upcoming offerings to the press. Last season, the eminent outfitter chain Eddie Bauer debuted a new design team who gave a much-needed update to the retailer's formerly innocuous apparel lines.

EddieBauerSS12-DetailsSpring 2012 finds the team hitting its stride and continuing with their archive focused-heritage approach while adding a potent dose of color that is right in sync with recent trends from the runways. It might take a while for customers to think of Eddie Bauer and Fashion at the same time, but the company has enough faith in its designers to eschew the services of a stylist and let them present their work the way they conceived of it themselves. They made a great case for the brand as a youthful sportswear resource. The entrance of Happy Monkey Studios in Midtown was covered in moss to remind everyone of the brand's roots as a rugged outfitter, and they are even offering camping tents in the season's bright accent colors.

EddieBauerSS12-looksThe collection's great strength remains outerwear, with lots of functional (many reversible) pieces inspired by the Eddie Bauer archives including details taken from vintage backpacks. Other standouts included anoraks with drawstring details in heavy knit or chambray, superlight MicroTherm down pieces from the First Ascent label, a long casual skirt in ripstop parachute silk and lots of newly slimmed-down and brightly colored jeans and pants that should go a long way toward banishing the old frumpy image of clothes from Eddie Bauer and give resurgent heritage brands like Gant a run for their money.

EddieBauerSS12-bagsWhat's still missing? A New York City flagship store (though there are locations in Forest Hills and in several surrounding New York, New Jersey and Connecticut suburbs). For most of us in Manhattan, the only opportunity to see the company's new look in person is at a press event like this one. Otherwise, it's an online experience. We think it's about time for at least a pop-up store to reintroduce New Yorkers to the brand's new direction, so consider that request submitted. In the meantime, we will be happily carrying around the bright yellow backpack we received on our way out.

Don't Call It A Comeback: Eddie Bauer Revamps And Upgrades for Fall 2011 (04.22.2011)


Jean-Michel Cazabat Fêtes His Bleecker Street Boutique

Last night, French shoe wizard Jean-Michel Cazabat celebrated the opening of his new flagship boutique on Bleecker Street with a glittery cocktail party. The Shophound stopped by for a glass of Champagne and some hors d'oeuvres (served exclusively by a crew of gorgeous, willowy black women. Make of that what you will).

What used to be the gloomy home of the Pure Dark chocolate store (seriously, it might have survived if they added a few light bulbs to that place) has now been transformed into a luxe salon with tufted walls, a "virtual" fireplace at the center, and a gilded grid on the back wall to display M. Cazabat's wares.

We have to admit that we used to think of Cazabat as a pricey label along the lines of Brian Atwood or Giuseppe Zanotti, but somehow (probably through the marvels of Chinese manufacturing) he has brought his prices down to the $250 to $350 range for his women's line, which now looks a lot more expensive that it is. Oddly, his Italian-made men's shoes still run in the $500 to $600 range for a small but smart selection.

There was only so much room in that place, so we didn't hang around too long. We missed R&B singer Maxwell, Naeem Khan and Bergdorf's Linda Fargo, but we did manage to glimpse current fashion icon Shala Monroque in a furry sleeved dress, and designer Ralph Rucci with muscle-y former Project Runway castoff Jack Mackenroth tagging along. Make of that what you will.

Jean-Michel Cazabat now open at 350 Bleecker Street at West 10th Street, West VillageJMCazabat-2