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Nouveau Knock-Off Edition

01zCRITICAL2-popupIn this week's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Alexandra Jacobs takes on the nascent chain that recently debuted in SoHo, C. Wonder. She notices what pretty much everyone else has about the store: that it is "heavily inspired" by the style of designer Tory Burch, on whose board C.Wonder owner J. Christopher Chris Burch still happens to sit even though he is her ex-husband. While we all continue to visualize cutting glares and frosty exchanges at the next Tory Burch LLC board meeting, Jacobs proceeds to list all of the other labels Mr. Burch is also knocking off at his new chain including Longchamps, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, and in a well observed , multi-generational feat of copying, she describes a cuff as "adorably Verdura by way of Kenneth Jay Lane". Burch makes it all his own, however with his own big flashy insignia.

Mr. Burch is also quite enthusiastic about pinning the ornate house “C” on things, like a quilted red bag that could fit both of Ashley Tisdale’s Maltipoos ($168). Is it meant to indicate his nickname, Chris? Recall faint echoes of Coco and the Rue Cambon? Or is it just a proud marker of the company’s manufacturing processes, since not only much of the stock but the facility itself, its owner bragged to Bloomberg television, was Constructed Completely in China?

On the plus side, the dressing rooms are dreamy, and the china and tableware are well priced and appealing. Better yet, Jacobs finds $30 inside a handbag she is examining. We're pretty sure that, despite its egregious lack of originality, C. Wonder's low prices will keep the store packed throughout the holiday season and beyond, but getting the word out that there's cash hidden in the merchandise? That'll get 'em lined up around the block.

Critical Shopper: At C. Wonder, Something Feels Familiar By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
C. Wonder 72 Spring Street between Crosby & Lafayette Streets, SoHo


Shopping Events This Week From Housing Works, Rag & Bone, Selima, Theory etc.

We should have known better, but we kinda thought that we were done with sample sales by the time Thanksgiving came around. What were we thinking? There were a couple of heavy hitters that had slipped our mind. Normally, we don't bother listing sales because there are so many other places that do, but some of these haven't gotten as much play in the press as we usually expect, so here's a few events you may want to make note of as you go about your Holiday Shopping:

Housing Works BEST of HOLIDAY Sale:
Fresh off their big Fashion For Action event a couple of weeks ago, all 12 Housing Works thrift shops will be closed to sales on Thursday, December 1st (which, we may remind you is World Aids Day) for their annual In Memoriam donation drive. This would be the perfect time to haul all that stuff you have piled up waiting to be given away to a worthwhile cause (we know you have been putting it off). That's because the next day, December 2nd is HW's Best of Holiday Sale, featuring great stuff at extra low prices. keep in mind that there is also a bunch of all-new unused merchandise left over from Fashion For Action that is still available at Housing Works stores at extra reduced prices.

THEORY Sample Sales:
Yes, this is always a popular one, or actually three this season. The folks at Theory have created an intricate sample sale schedule to accommodate all of their lines without creating mass hysteria. First off is-
Theory Women's Sample Sale starting November 30th (also known as Today) at Clothingline, 261 West 36th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues on the second floor. The sale runs through Sunday the 4th. Click here for hours and further details. Next we have-
Theory Men's Sample Sale starting at noon on Wednesday, December 7th at 12pm and running through  Sunday the 11th. This one is at the Company Store at 139 Fifth Avenue on the second floor This one will be open to the public on Wednesday the 7th from noon to 8 PM, Thursday the 8th through Friday the 9th from 8 AM to 8 PM, and Saturday the 10th through Sunday the 11th from 10 AM to 6 PM, and that's not all. The following week will bring Theory's most exclusive labels at the-
Helmut Lang & Theysken's Theory Sample Sale starting at noon on Thursday December 15th and running through Sunday the 18th following much the same hours as the Men's Sale and also taking place at the company Store on Lower Fifth Avenue. All of the Theory sales offer discounts at roughly 65% off retail prices

RAG & BONE Sample and Overstock Sale:
This is always a popular one, and Rag & Bone is following its usual pattern starting this Thursday December 1st at the Chelsea Market at 75 Ninth Avenue at 15th Street and runs through Sunday the 4th (sometimes the doors have been known to fly open a day earlier, but you didn't hear that from us). The usual discount is 50% to 70% the Fall collections for men and women, and it's a must for Rag & Bone fans. Hours are as follows: Thursday & Friday from 10:30 AM to 8 PM, Saturday from Noon to 7 PM, Sunday from Noon to 5 PM.

Who doesn't love sunglasses? Selima makes some of the best and from Wednesday November 30th through Saturday December 3rd she will be offering 50% to 80% off new and vintage frames from the likes of Balenciaga, Gucci, Tom Ford, Bottega Veneta and others. Select Selima frames will be $100. The sale will be at Bond 07 by Selima Optique at 7 Bond St from 11 AM to 7 PM each day.


It's MARNI In March For H&M!

Hot off the pandemonium over this month's Versace collaboration, H&M has announced that it will launch an exclusive collection designed by Consuelo Castiglioni for MARNI this March. H&M-MARNI-2This should go a ways to console H&M fans about the fact that the Spring version of the Versace line will reportedly not be available in U.S. H&M stores. The Marni line will launch on March 8th, 2012 in over 250 stores worldwide and online, and will feature clothing and accessories for both women and men at fast fashion prices in much the same way as the Swedish chain's other collaboration collections have.

“I wanted to create a true Marni wardrobe by revisiting all our favorite pieces in signature fabrics and prints. As always, I love juxtaposing prints and colors, mixing modern tribal with Bauhaus graphic and adding sporty utilitarian elements,” says Castiglioni in today's press release, so not unlike the recent Versace line, shoppers should be able to find new versions of Marni's greatest hits at H&M come this spring. The chain has provided a few preview images pictured here featuring Castiglioni and H&M Creative Advisor Margareta van den Bosch, so you can get an idea of what will be in store for customers come this Spring. After the jump, see a behind-the-scenes video (along with the full press release) that should get you excited for what promises to be one of the chain's most sophisticated team-ups since it joined forces with Comme des Garçons a couple of years ago.

March 8th is a Thursday.
Start lining up now (as if we need to tell you).


It's MARNI In March For H&M!" »


A Canine Crew Cavorts Through Bergdorf Goodman

It's no longer enough to produce lavish window displays and a Holiday advertising campaign. Stores must operate on all media channels to compete for business, hence, we have "Unleashed", Bergdorf Goodman's Holiday Video embedded above. Cleverly tying in to the store's "Carnival of the Animals" theme, the video shows the elegant store overrun by a pack of wild dogs... or, well, maybe just a group Upper East Side house pets.

Still, there's something strangely mesmerizing about watching this play group frolicing throughout the the store, and the video promotes not only the legendary retailer but also the Humane Society of New York with a sweet subplot (can a four-minute video have a subplot?) about Bergdorf's iconic doorman and pet adoption. If Christmas shopping at Bergdorf Goodman is just a bit out of your reach, then adopting a pet in need of a loving home may be a worthy alternative.

The Window Watcher: Bergdorf Goodman Unleashes A Holiday Menagerie


Cyber MondayEdition
Missoni, Catherine Malandrino, Alejandro Ingelmo, Trovata, Oliver Peoples, Paul Smith, Jonathan Adler, YSL, Fendi

It's CYBER MONDAY, folks, whatever that means these days, and though the web is full of bargains, the bigger Flash sale sites are adding extra sales and special items in addition to their usual offerings. Check for sales starting at alternate times to keep you clicking at other times beside the usual launch hour. Here is your sampling of some of the brands you can expect to find on the bigger online Flash Sale Sites for the rest of this week as well. 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!

For Cyber Monday, GILT Groupe sites will be running special doorbuster sales every 3 starting at Noon, 3PM, 6 PM and 9 PM from designers like Kate Spade, Burberry Prorsum, Carlos Falchi, Emilio Pucci, Faraone Menella and others for women. Other sales for the week will include:
Clu, Lodis, M Missoni, Nanette Lepore, Nixon Waches & Handbags, Rosegold, Swarovski Jewelry, Chamak Jewelry, Eryn Brinié, J Brand, Jack Rogers, Charriol, Natori, Foley + Corinna, Alexandro Ingelmo, Catherine Malandrino, Corey Lynn Calter, Hype, Judith Leiber, Matt Bernson, Miguel Ases, Trovata, Kate Spade —join HERE
Cyber Monday doorbusters will include items from S.T.Dupont, Band of Outsiders and Bern Berkeley. Other sales for the week:
2(x)ist, Converse, Jan Leslie, John Varvatos, Oliver Peoples/Paul Smith/Mosely Tribes, Thomas Pink, Eskuche Headphones, Ksubi Shoes, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Portolano, Riviera Club, Alexander Olch, Antonio Maurizi, Desanto Belts, Edwin Jeans, Stitch's, Vilebrequin, Calvin Klein, Esquivel, Fred Perry, French Connection, Jack Spade —join HERE
Jonathan Adler, nuLOOM, Anolon, A&R Cashmere, Airedelsur, Barclay Butera, Anthousa Candles, Kate Spade Home, Alex Toys, Shure Toys, Tegu Blocks, Melissa & Doug, Minimu, Playme Toys, Playforever Toys, Puma, Wild Mango —join HERE
Extra Cyber Monday sales will be starting a 3 PM for Hudson Jeans, Ebel, Sorel and Forté in addition to Rue La La's regular flash offerings at 11 AM. Other sales for the week:
Organic Avenue, Stonewall Kitchen, Cole Haan, A. Link, Salvatore Ferragamo/Givenchy Menswear, Balenciaga, Seiko, Pratesi, LaPerla, Halston Heritage, Honora, John Varvatos, Sanita, Tommy Hilfiger, Tweezerman, Calvin Klein, Robert Rodriguez
—join HERE
Alex and Ani, Chrisian Louboutin, Diesel, Core Bamboo, D&G junior, Hartmann, Kinross Cashmere, La Mer, Missoni, YSL Shoes & Handbags, Bella Fare, Fendi, Mark Nason, Yoana Baraschi —join HERE
Bric's, Frette, Saint Parfum, Camilla & Co., Barclay Ltd., Charleston Forge, Edie Pillows, Divine Design, GuildMaster, L'Objet, Dransfield & Ross, Ana Candles, Chamart, Graphic Image, Safavieh, Stark, Kuska, A&R Cashmere, Juliska —join HERE
Vince, AG Jeans, Beats Headphones, Kinerase, Donald J Pliner, Lucie Piccard, Safavieh, WeSC, Juicy Couture, Thomas Wylde, Elie Tahari, Rebecca Minkoff, Projek Raw, Crocs, Swiss Legend, Pippa, Tresor, Canterbury of New Zealand, Saint Grace, Willow & Clay, Vincent Longo —join HERE


Celebrity Cameo Edition

24critic-articleLargeBelieve it or not, The Shophound doesn't always go looking for validation from others, but that doesn't mean we don't mind when someone prominent agrees with us. In other words, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica thinks just as little of the re-imagined Co-op floor at Barneys as we do. (We promise we didn't plan this day of Barneys-bashing. We have no control over the Critical Shopper's choices of material)

In this week's Thursday Styles, our shopper takes a survey of the men's half of Barneys, and comes up with basically the same feeling we have about the place: The parts that have been left alone are better than the parts they have been fiddling with. The store's strengths remains in classic, luxurious menswear and directional designer collections. He has reserved his most pointed comments for the Co-op. Missing the previous version's cacophonous, eclectic mix, he writes:

...there’s little remarkable about the new Co-Op space, wide and long and inconsistently lighted, with stomach-level racks stuffed full of clothes that, from afar, look half black. Colors appear like oxygen tanks on icy mountaintops, badly needed and hard to come by.

He also mentions that it "has never felt less connected to the rest of the store," which is true now that it is all the way up on the eighth floor. The fact that it is now joined to the women's Co-op is of no consequence to him at all, as this development is barely mentioned at all. He praises the store's seasoned staff, noting that when the R&B matinée idol Usher appeared on the floor, they swarmed to tend to his every need. Perhaps this mention was something a little less than praise, since the non-Ushers among us usually draw slightly less coddling, but there are stars aplenty at Barneys. Cuba Gooding Jr. crashes the column, too.

Critical Shopper: Enduring but Confusing at Barneys By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Barneys New York 660 Madison Avenue at 61st Street, Upper East Side
Renovation Deflation: In Which We Continue To Be Disappointed By Changes At Barneys


Barneys Puts All Of Its Holiday Eggs In Lady GaGa's Tchotchke Basket

So, if you haven't heard, Barneys New York has arranged to focus their Holiday promotion around the still-ubiquitous Lady GaGa. You may be familiar with her. She's this kooky singer...

GaGaWorkshop-DAnyway, The Shophound is ambivalent about this in much the same way we feel about most of the changes happening at Barneys these days. On the one hand, the former Men's Co-op space on the fifth floor has been impressively outfitted as GaGa's Workshop complete with a series of clever sculptures and installations that turn the place into a wacky Dr. Seuss-ian environment.
On the other hand, it's mostly full of overpriced crap. And we are saying this as someone who generally likes both Barneys and Lady GaGa. We just aren't convinced that they are two great tastes that taste great together.

GaGaWorkshop-BWe refuse to be enchanted by miniature McQueen Armadillo shoes rendered in chocolate if someone thinks that $95 is an appropriate price for perishable foodstuffs. Even if 25% of the price tag is going to GaGa's own charitable foundation, it's still a ridiculous price. You could always argue that luxury stores like Barneys and its ilk are overpriced in general, but, at least most of the time, they genuinely try to justify their high prices by selling special things that justify their steep price tags in some way. Most of what we saw in GaGa's workshop, however, looked like souvenirs that should be sold at a GaGa concert. There are clever items like versions of GaGa's signature hair bow made of hair (around $65) some "cheap" sunglasses $95) and some expensive ones ($295-$465). Well, there was a ton of stuff, really and it included some weirdly, prosaically appealing novelties like a steel Sharpie pen for $18 that could easily be sold anywhere. There was a host of typical gift items like overpriced composition books (the anti-iPads), keychains and wallets. Everything seemed to be touched by shine, glitter or some form of the spiky GaGa workshop logo. The most appealing gift items were a group of plush stuffed monster toys ($48-$95), among the few things offered that we could imagine someone enjoying as more than a stunt gift. Then there were the countless baubles and gewgaws that ranged from interesting to just cheap looking.

GaGaWorkshop-EThe whole endeavor feels like a stunt, however. Barneys will undoubtedly reap the benefit of the enormous amount of publicity the whole promotion has created, but how will it translate into more meaningful business down the line? Contained on its own floor, GaGa's workshop bears little relation to the rest of Barneys as a whole. Even the members of its sales staff, who are way more pierced and mohawked (and young) than even the more daring members of Barneys' regular staff, appear to be specially hired, or more likely cast, for the event. In fact, aside from the Madison Avenue windows (which were not fully completed yesterday), there is little indication that the Holiday season is underway at all in the rest of the store. Having focused all of their attentions on this one project, Barneys has left the rest of its departments entirely bereft of any decorations beyond a few neon signs directing customers to the fifth floor. These signs did not exactly vibe with the elegantly conservative men's main floor department even though its 60th street entrance is graced with the elaborate entrance installation that covers up its display windows entirely. Wandering through the rest of the store, it's hard to imagine that the people who go there to buy their Lanvin, Alaïa and Goyard would really care that much for the glitzy novelty items offered in GaGa's Workshop. What we saw of the windows looked clever, if a bit obvious. Yes, there's an entire window meant to look as if it is made out of hair. It is well executed if not especially unexpected, which pretty much sums up the whole project. It only made us imagine how much fun the now "creative ambassador at large" Simon Doonan could have had with the likes of Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann this year if he were still in charge of the Holiday windows.

While the GaGa department wasn't packed with customers yesterday, we did notice former Barneys chief Gene Pressman looking through the shop. We can only imagine what he may think of all the changes hapening in the store he had such a strong hand in creating a couple of decades ago. On the plus side, the women's side of Barneys' main floor has been completed. We still hate it, but the fishtanks and mosaics in the fine jewelry section have, so far, been left intact, so we haven't lost hope for the place entirely.


Tiffany's Builds A Christmas Carousel

Fittingly, Tiffany & Co. has always been a model elegant understatement when it comes to window display, even at Christmas when its neighbors on Fifth Avenue pull out all the stops. Partly, this has to do with the store's little windows, meant to create little jewel boxes of wonder outside the imposing jewelry store.

Not this year.

The windows are still the same size, with displays that are as fanciful and masterfully composed as ever, but around the windows on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, Tiffany has added what appears to be sections of an antique carousel in gold and signature Tiffany Blue.  Inside the store, the famous main floor is festooned with more traditional garlands and tinsel, but the store's visual team has added a gilded archway at the main entrance that echoes the scrolls and curlicues of the outside decorations. It's a striking look, especially if you are used to the store's usual, less flashy style, but, hey, it's the Holidays. Why not have a little bit of fun?


Bergdorf Goodman Unleashes A Holiday Menagerie

You will, no doubt, be hearing a ton today about that other store that is debuted its Holiday windows last night in conjunction with a huge pop star, but yesterday afternoon, we strolled a few blocks away to Bergdorf Goodman where our favorite windows of recent Holiday seasons have been found. The Shophound was not disappointed. Once again, Bergdorf's has presented five individual but related scenes in their Fifth BGholiday-inside-BAvenue windows that are a marvel of lavish design. The theme, this year is "Carnival of Animals", incorporating creatures of the land, air and sea (above) in fanciful tableaux that are causing passersby to stop for extended gazes into the windows as they try to take in the all the intricate elements that make up the designs. Along with the Bergdorf visual team's prodigious handiwork, he windows actually work in a bit of product from the store here and there, including a specially designed dress by our favorite glittermeister, Naeem Khan, but the overall goal is less to sell specific items and more to stop people in their tracks. The Men's Store across the street joins in as well with a more whimsical series of windows featuring a weightlifting executive lion (below) and a snazzy singing cardinal among other gentlemanly beasts.

Of course, all those gawkers make it damned hard for The Shophound to photograph these windows for you, but Bergdorf's own blog, 58th at 5th, has dutifully documented them far better than we could. BGholiday-inside-AWe have reposted some of our favorite images, but be sure to click HERE for a complete slideshow of all the windows, or better yet, just go down there and see them for yourself so you can really take in all the impressive details that Bergdorf's has made part of its Holiday signature —and don't forget to have a look inside. The store's visual team has not neglected the interior by any means. The main floor of the Women's store is an opulent sight on any given day, but the team has outdone themselves this year in creating striking decorations that blend seamlessly with the store's already ornate design. It looks like a Beaux-Arts, winter forest is taking root amongst the vitrines and caselines (above left and right).

We'll have more about that other store later, but, for now, you should know that the pop star has some worthy competition over on Fifth Avenue.

They’re Alive: Carnival of the Animals (58th at 5th/Bergdorf Goodman)


The Shophound's Black Friday Shopping Guide

Christmas creep has been in effect earlier than ever this year what with with chains like TJMaxx and Marshalls running their Holiday TV commercials a full two weeks before Thanksgiving. Black Friday, an industry term that has seeped out to the public over the years, continues to be a focus of Holiday shopping promotions with more stores than ever choosing to open their doors at 12:00 AM on Friday if not earlier, not willing to waste a minute of precious selling time. Here's our advice for how to handle the shopping frenzy this weekend.
Just stay home.
Stay out of it.

We would admit that it seems counter-intuitive for The Shophound to actually encourage our readers not to shop, but we have to draw the line somewhere, and it has gotten to the point where Shopping is threatening to ruin Thanksgiving. Not for us, but for the thousands of people who work for Target, Macy's Walmart and all the other stores that insist on ruining their employees' holidays by forcing them to go to work at midnight and work through the night. The Gap has announced that it will open more stores than ever this year on Thanksgiving Day. These are some of the country's largest employers. What the hell kind of holiday is that?

What's the rush? This year, we have an unusually long Holiday Shopping Season of 30 whole days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Hannukah is pretty late this year beginning on the night of December 20th. There should be plenty of time to find gifts and bargains this year, and the notion that you won't find any good deals if you don't cram yourself into an overcrowded store as soon as possible is a myth. Retailers will be offering sales and bargains during the whole season just like they did last year and the year before that.

The Shophound has spent many years working in stores, and one of out least favorite aspects of the job was having to work on nearly every weekend while the rest of the world seemed to be off. Conversely, our free time happened while everyone else was at work, which made it tricky to make social plans with people who weren't in retail. The idea that we might travel out of town for a family Thanksgiving was out of the question. We were lucky early in our career to work for a famous store that observed holidays like the 4th of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day, and even closed on Sundays for eleven months out of the year, but by now even that store has bowed to market pressures, and is open about 363 days a year just like everyone else. Imagine how the huge chains' employees must feel knowing that one of the last holidays they could count on not having to work along with the rest of the country was being ripped from them no matter what kind of family plans they may want to make. At least Macy's executives expressed some remorse at having to interrupt their employees' holiday, but but not apparently enough to keep his stores closed until an appropriate hour.

Actually we don't have to imagine. A Target employee has started a campaign on Change.org to try to get the giant retailer to reverse its choice to open at Midnight. As of this morning it has gained nearly 200,000 signatures. We aren't really sure that it will have any real effect on the chain, but it may remind tham that not everyone feels the need to rush to the mall right after Thanksgiving dinner.

So what should you do this Friday (assuming you don't have to work yourself)? Relax. Sleep late. Go to the movies (preferably not at a mall) or maybe to a musem. If you must shop, go find an independent store to patronize, or go online where there will probably be just as many bargains and you'll be able to shop in your pajamas.