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Assisted Review Edition

28zCRITICAL1-articleLargeToday's Thursday Styles finds Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica in the unusual position of reviewing a store that is geared more toward women than men. At Owen in the Meatpacking District, he calls in three female 'superfriends' to help him navigate the boutique that "merges Lower East Side sensibilities with Upper East Side prices." Unfortunately, this does not mean, as we had immediately thought, that he recruited Wonder Woman, Black Canary and Hawkgirl to help him with his column —because that would have been awesome!

Instead, he recruited three ladyfriends whose collective tastes cover pretty much all the bases, so somebody would have had to like something in the place, and essentially that's what happened. Our shopper doesn't pawn the effort off entirely, finding a few things for himself in the mix, although we can't really figure out what is the root of his personal style? Is he the neo-classicist heritage hipster, or the sort of person who would get excited over loud floral jeans as he does this week?

Critical Shopper: Jetsons in Their Comfort Zone By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
809 Washington Street between Gansevoort and Horatio Streets, Meatpacking District


More Renovations In Store For
Lord & Taylor On Fifth Avenue

LordAndTaylorThe news keeps coming in about Lord & Taylor's efforts to renew its Fifth Avenue flagship, which, apparently have been successful in bringing more customers through it doors. Last week, we heard about the planned re-emphasis on designer women's apparel there, but it turns out that there is much more coming up this year for the historic store. WWD tells us that as part of Canadian parent Hudson's Bay Co. $180 million annual capital expenditures over the next five years, the landmark location will get a newly renovated men's department expanded to 100,000 square feet on both the 9th and 10th floors by this September. This will be a major part of the two-year $40 million renovation that will also touch other floors in the store that weren't significantly redone in the recent $25 million renovation that dramatically refreshed the store's main floor. And to think, just a few years ago, retail pundits were speculating that the building might be sold or that the store it contains would be substantially downsized.

We weren't wrong in speculating that Hudson's Bay's spending was in response to Nordstrom's expansion. The Seattle chain will be opening locations in Canada even before it's much anticipated New York City store appears in 2018. By Fall of 2014, the chain will be crossing the Northern border with both full line and Rack stores, and The Bay is investing in upgrading many of its own Canadian locations to meet the challenge. Part of the program includes opening a Bridal Salon in the Bay's immense Toronto Flagship run by New York's legendary wedding gown specialists Kleinfeld's.

But back in the U.S., Lord & Taylor will also begin to reverse a severe downsizing of the chain under previous management from 10 years ago that limited it to its strongest market in the Northeast. This fall, it will open an 80,000 square foot store in Boca Raton, Florida, so call Grandma and tell her to get ready.

A few years ago, when Lord & Taylor's longtime corporate parent May Co. merged with Macy's Inc., it looked like Lord & Taylor's future would be in question, especially since Macy's had few compunctions about absorbing popular regional nameplates it had acquired, like Marshall Field's for example, into its own vast fleet of stores. Its new owner, however, turns out to be willing to invest far more into the chain than May ever did to keep it vital and appealing —a relief to customer who crave even a little bit of choice and competition in the market.

Hudson's Bay Amps Up Spending for Growth (WWD)
Upgrades: Lord & Taylor To Relaunch Designer Collections This Fall


Looking Ahead To Fall '13 With Levi's

LevisFWpreview-1Click all images for a larger view in a new window

Last week the folks at Levi's invited The Shophound down to Milk Studios for a close look at what America's oldest clothing company has to offer us for the Fall 2013. Luckily, there was no hurricane to derail the proceedings like there was last season, and rather than having a blowout cocktail party as they have in the past, the staff scheduled daytime appointments so we could get a guided tour of all the label's collections —so, no beer, but plenty of good, solid clothes. Here are some highlights to keep an eye out for when the Summer starts to wane:

For the Levi's Vintage Clothing line, the brand's design team comb the archives season after season to meticulously reproduce classic styles right down to the packaging and hangtags. For fall, they have set their sights on the Orange Tab (pictured at right). Readers of a certain age may remember this line as the most popularly priced version of the Levi's brand in the 60s and 70s. For Fall, you'll see Trucker Jackets and Bell Bottoms direct from the 1970s as well as original slim jeans and chambray shirts from the 60s —unfortunately all at premium 21st century prices. The "Boomtown" section (pictured above) spotlights Motown inspired looks from what was then a thriving Motor City, and as always, the latest revisit of the signature 501 denim jean comes from 1978 for everyone feeling nostalgic for the Carter Administration —perfect to wear with that fringed suede western jacket.

Levi's top-of-the-line Made & Crafted collection (pictured at left) has always offered the most luxurious versions of the brand's classics, but for fall, get ready for a lot more fashion from this European designed division. You'll see bold, graphic prints, a sophisticated color palette, the softest cotton khakis and lots of stylish accessories that look more like they came from Opening Ceremony than the denim bar.

Levi's remains committed to improving the environmental impact of its production methods through its Waste<Less program. Next Fall, the polyester in your bright cotton blend corduroy jeans might come from the water bottle you just recycled, but unlike the brown paper napkins at Starbucks, you won't be able to tell.

Innovation has not pushed out the old reliable basics. The main Red Tab collection (pictured below) will have plenty of the classic and affordable denim jeans, western shirts and jackets that everyone loves. Look for vintage inspired 2-tone variations and witty, modern twists like a women's Trucker jacket with wide, kimono sleeves for a fresh-off-the-runway spin on a mainstay.


Carolina Herrera, Naked & Famous, Givenchy, Frette, Theory, Emilio Pucci, Judith Leiber, Gucci, GANT by Michael Bastian, Fendi, Valentino

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!

Carolina Herrera, Astley Clarke Jewelry, Tahari, 7 For All Mankind, Naked & Famous, Sock It to Me, French Connection, Safavieh, Elaa Moss for Babies, Kickers Kid's Shoes, Matteo Bedding, Calphalon, Seda France, John Richard —join HERE
Lucky Brand, Givenchy, Nicole Miller, FAO Schwarz, Archipelago Botanicals, Calvin Klein Luggage, Waterworks Studio, Frette, Theory, A. Link Diamond Jewelry, Corioliss, Sperry Top-Sider, BCBGeneration, Raymond Weil, Columbia, Emilio Pucci, Yummie Tummie, Me&Ro, Overture Judith Leiber —join HERE
Colette Nicolai Jewelry, Core Bamboo, Hot Shot, Seidal Furniture, Perricone MD, Lovers & Friends, ToyWatch, Alara, Jack Victor, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Pour La Victoire, Phoebe Couture, Fendi, Burberry, Fendi, Jardin, John Varvatos ★ USA, Robert Graham, Men's Week —join HERE
Laura Geller, Joe's Jeans, Steve Madden, Gant by Michael Bastian, Anne Klein, Via Spiga, 2(X)IST, BergHOFF, Erno Laszlo, RED Valetino, LOVE Moschino, Donna KAran Home, Judith Leiber Sunglasses, Earnest Sewn, Gorjana, Shay Todd, BCBG Max Azria handbags, WACOAL, Onna Erlich, John Varvatos ★ USA, Arianne Intimates, Kenneth Jay Lane, Free People —join HERE
Calvin Klein Collection, Marni, Tovar, KAMALIKULTURE, Tahari by ASL, Nanette Lepore, Joanna Laura Constantine Jewelry, Stuhrling Watches, Magppie, Nova Lighting, Rufus, PUMA, Leslie Danzis Jewelry, Hawke & Co. Outerwear, L.A.M.B. Shoes and Handbags, See by Chloé, Fila Boys, Zadig & Voltaire —join HERE
Cosabella, Tara Pearls, Porsche Design, Nike Eyewear, Kas Rugs, Pantafola D'Oro, Zirh Skincare, Sebago —join HERE


With A New A|X Job And A Big Kickstarter Project, Patrick Robinson Is America's Most Resilient Designer

Patrick-pashkoPerhaps no designer's career has had more twists and turns over the past 15 years than Patrick Robinson's. He was plucked from Giorgio Armani's studio in the late 90s to put the Anne Klein Collection designer label back on track after an ill-fated stint by Richard Tyler, but the label proved too far gone for resurrection. He then went the indie route with a signature collection, and was next tapped by Perry Ellis to revive that label's women's collection to acclaim from buyers and press. Unfortunately, he locked horns with a licensee who preferred to produce a watered down moderate line instead of the runway collections he showed. Next it was on to Paco Rabanne, a signature collaboration with Target, and finally, a high profile job revamping Gap's Adult and Body lines. That megabrand was too slow to turn around, and Robinson has been laying low since he was dismissed in 2011, until this week.

First, Robinson re-emerged with PASHKO (pictured below, see video after the jump), a luxurious lounge and activewear brand retailing from $45 to $300 to be financed through Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that has miraculously made a "Veronica Mars" movie a reality, and may turn out to be a new avenue for independent designers to support their work. With 20 days to go in a monthlong time limit, the label has raised $41,872 toward its initial $50,000 goal which looks pretty achievable at this point. Pledges at designated levels will award participants Pashko items and other special prizes depending on the amount.

That in and of itself would make an impressively creative comeback, but today brings the news that Robinson has been called back home, in a sense, to the Armani World. He has joined mall mainstay A|X Armani Exchange as Creative Director. It's a job that combines his mass-market experience at Gap with his early roots working with the Italian design giant. He will be tasked with updating the brand's offerings for men and women as part of a revamp of the chain's creative team. Once again, robinson is poised to make a big splash, but he has cleverly hedged his bets on not one but two separate projects —one an old-school sportswear chain and the other a cutting edge crowdsourced indie enterprise. We will all be keenly watching as his latest chapter develops.

Patrick Robinson Joins A|X Armani Exchange as Creative Director (WWD)
PASHKO (Official Site)

See Pashko's preview video after the jump

Continue reading "CAREER RESURGENCE

With A New A|X Job And A Big Kickstarter Project, Patrick Robinson Is America's Most Resilient Designer" »


DSW's Luxe810 Designer Pop-Up
Goes To 90% Off

It's getting closer to the end of March, and that means that DSW's deeply discounted designer apparel pop-up shop, Luxe810 will be closing soon. As any good sample sale shopper knows, the prices get better at the end, and Luxe810's started out pretty good. Yesterday, The Shophound strolled by and noticed that the discount had been raised from 80% to 90% off.
That's 90% off, folks.
It doesn't get better than that, and it makes for easy math. Just move the decimal point on the price tag. The merchandise is not quite as abundant as it was when we discovered the shop, but there's still plenty of stuff left from the designers listed in the image above including Bottega Veneta, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci to name a few. Imagine a Ralph Lauren suit for under $150. How about a special Valentino dress for $300 or so? We aren't sure what the exact closing date of the shop is, but at these prices we don't expect it to last too much longer.

Luxe810 Pop-Up store at 408 West 14th Street between Ninth Avenue & Washington Street, Meatpacking District

Off-Price Spring Treat: Luxe810 Pop-Up Brings DSW's Discount Apparel To The Meatpacking District


Lord & Taylor To Relaunch Designer Collections This Fall

LT-1Lord & Taylor is getting back into the designer game this fall —in New York, at least. The Canadian blog, Retail Insider reports that the store will import 'The Room', a luxury designer department from sister store Hudon's Bay Co. branches in Toronto and Vancouver, set to open on September 14. This will be in conjunction with a rollout of 'The Room' within the Hudson's Bay chain as announced by that company's president earlier this month.

Designer collections are not totally new to Lord & Taylor, but it has been a while since they have been the store's main emphasis. Longtime shoppers will remember that a few decades ago, classic American designer sportswear labels like Perry Ellis, Anne Klein and Calvin Klein were mainstays in L&T stores, along with more luxurious collections like Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, and the store easily competed with Saks and Bloomingdale's in designer categories, There were even special "Fantasia" departments in the chain's best stores with more exclusive, fashion forward collections. It was only during the 1980s and 90s under the May Company's ownership that the store's offerings were repositioned to top out at the bridge level, and most of the designer departments were eliminated. Still, in the Fifth Avenue store, a small designer offering has always been maintained with limited selections from Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and a few other prestigious labels, even though it has been mostly ignored by customers.

The Bay's 'The Room' could add a new international dimension to the store's merchandise. In Canada, it offers a designer lineup comparable to what one would find at Bergdorf Goodman or Saks including names like Balenciaga and Azzedine Alaïa. It's unclear whether or not these European luxury designers will want to expand beyond their current distribution in New York, especially to an unproven player like L&T, but rebranding the store's high end offerings as a self contained entity could go a long way to bringing customers down to 39th and Fifth who usually travel no further south than Saks. The idea of separating exclusive designer merchandise in its own boutique is a time honored tradition for mainstream department stores. Over the years, departments like Marshall Field's 28 Shop, Dayton's and Hudson's Oval Room and John Wanamaker's Tribout attracted upscale clientele to stores they might not have been as quick to shop in otherwise with special environments and services. Of course, those stores are now defunct, but Dayton's & Field's are only gone after mergers and acquisitions turned them into Macy's branches. Lord & Taylor is currently part of a smaller organization that has been investing in an ongoing renovation and revival of the Fifth Avenue flagship.A prestigious designer collection will help burnish the store's image, but, more importantly, it will help the Lord & Taylor better prepare for the arrival of major competition in the form of Nordstrom coming in a few years.

Hudson's Bay's 'The Room' Coming to Montreal and NYC (Retail Insider)


Here's A Look At What Herald Center Will Look Like Next Year

More information has been revealed about the dramatic makeover in store for the currently forbidding Herald Center mall at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue. The Observer has released a rendering of the building's new look from architectural firm Moed de Armas & Shannon, who have been responsible for 120 West 42nd Street and the retail expansion at the General Motors Building. As expected, the janky dark glass covering the building will be entirely removed. Sadly, nothing remains of the original, ornate façade that existed when the building was a somewhat humbler, pre-Fifth Avenue Saks (until the early 1960s, there were both a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Saks Herald Square operating in Manhattan). The building's new configuration will include brighter, clear glass covering on the three bottom stories designed to attract more upscale retailers. The upper façade will apparently be a more opaque mosaic patten, and brightly lit electronic signs also appear to be part of the scheme, although, outside of Times Square, the extent of such animated signage has a lot to do with zoning rules. While almost nothing ever winds up looking as pristine and sparkling as the renderings that precede them, if the final result looks even half as good as the picture it will be a vast improvement for the Herald Square neighborhood. It looks like current owner JEMB Realty's goal of getting Topshop or a similar type retailer as a tenant is not so farfetched after all.

Moed de Armas & Shannon To Head Herald Center Renovation (The Observer via Racked)
Retail Renewal: Herald Center Set For An Upscale Makeover


Harem Dance Edition

Chloe4-popupThis week's Critical Shopper column showed up early, as Alexandra Jacobs gives the once-over to SoHo's new Chloé boutique for tomorrow's Thursday Styles. To her, the obsequiously welcoming salesperson is the new snooty one. Too nice, she say, is not too helpful, but in fairness, we would say that if you are the kind of person who would seriously consider the label's (or anyone's) harem pants as a fashion choice, you probably don't need or even care to hear the salesperson's actual opinion. And here's the thing: salespeople are not girlfriends, unless your girlfriends are on commission (in which case you have our sympathy —and where do we sign up?).

Still, Chloé's sleek brand message doesn't quite measure up to our shopper's favorite haunts, "I couldn’t help contrast the experience of pretending to shop there to Kirna Zabête across the street (though moving soon), which despite selling items at similar prices, manages warmth and wackiness," she writes. Well, those shortie cowboy boots with the studs and buckles in the picture look pretty wacky to us, and we will all soon see if Kirna Zabête can preserve it's warmth when it moves to a big new space (it probably will).

Critical Shopper: A Newborn, but No Wobbly Legs By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
Chloé 93 Greene Street between Prince & Greene Streets, SoHo


Carson Street Clothiers Is SoHo's Most Perfectly Composed New Store

Every so often, it seems like it's time for a new men's store in Manhattan to come in and shake things up, and, as if on cue, Carson Street Clothiers has appeared on Crosby Street in SoHo to fit the bill. The store is so fully realized and carefully focused that  it almost seems as if it were conjured up by a consortium of editors, stylists and street style bloggers like Tommy Ton or the crew from the Tumblr we can politely identify here as F**k Yeah Menswear who might have assembled a compendium of the most favored menswear labels of the moment who work in a particular, modern classic style. By no means do we mean CSC-1this as a criticism, since, basically, we like all these brands and are perfectly happy to see them represented and supported in one place. In fact, it may be another indicator that New York's menswear offerings are so strong at the moment that a shopkeeper can't go too far wrong by not looking terribly far afield for merchandise. Michael Bastian, Baldwin, Patrik Ervell, Ovadia & Sons, Ian Velardi, Mark McNairy, Orlebar Brown appear on the racks and shelves as if ticked off from a roster of GQ's Best New Menswear Designers from the past few years, but the store didn't actually appear out of nowhere. Sharp eyes have been anticipating its birth for months now. Carson Street Clothers opened this month after a serialized buildup of it's development on Esquire.com by store owners Matt Breen and Brian Trunzo along with an extensive Tumblr chronicling its construction and another store blog, The Block spotlighting merchandise and store news. Weekly email newsletters have already started for anyone who signs up. At this point in the 21st Century, it's not enough to just open your doors and let the customers come. A new store needs a multi-channel media strategy.

CSC-2It's not just techno-PR that makes this store worth a look or two. If you follow the chronicle laid out by these two former lawyers and, yes, men's style bloggers who dreamed this place up, you will discover that they have the drive and attention to detail that marks the mind-set of a good merchant. You'll see that they completely gutted the white box space they took over to reveal hardwood floors, formerly covered-up windows and evocative brick walls. Their new fixtures and furnishings have all been reclaimed from antique shops and scrapyards. On top of all this rebuilding, the pair had to order not one but two season's worth of merchandise before they had sold a stitch of clothing to their first customer. This is no easy feat, but the breathless preparation has paid off nicely. On the store's second Saturday in business, we saw a steady stream of curious customers coming through the door which is impressive on a not particularly busy block of SoHo whose main feature is the backside of Bloomingdale's. Well, to be fair, it's only half a block from both Balthazar and Saturday's Surf, but still, it lacks the hustle and bustle of, say, Spring Street. There's something to be said for becoming a shopping destination in your first week. How Carson Street Clothiers develops all depends on its remaining such a destination. Chances are that by this time next year, the owners' tastes will have been significantly influenced by what did and didn't sell, but if you pay close attention, you'll be able to follow it all online even if you can't get to the store.

Carson Street Clothiers 63 Crosby Street between Spring and Broome Streets, SoHo
Carson Street Clothiers on Esqire.com