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Will J.Crew & Uniqlo Become Siblings?

Here's an end-of-the-week rumor to give the retail world something to talk about while Mother Nature (or is it Evil Step-Mother Nature?) dumps another ton of snow on us: Japan's Fast Retailing, parent company of Uniqlo, Theory, Helmut Lang, Comptoir des Cotonniers and a few others, is in talks to buy J.Crew from it's private equity owners for around $5 billion.

TPG and Leonard Green & Partners LP, who took the company private in 2010 have been said to be preparing to cash out soon with a IPO, but they have also, apparently, been entertaining talks with possible suitors for a sale of the chain. Fast Retailing may not be the only one in the running, but with a market capitalization of ¥3.7 trillion ($36.33 billion), it looks like strong contender. J.Crew fills a niche, more upscale than Uniqlo and more broadly-based than Theory, that is not occupied by any other brand in Fast Retailing's stable. The Wall Street Journal says that talks are in the early stages and may lead to nothing, or they may lead to a gigantic retail merger.

Stay tuned.

J. Crew in Talks to be Sold to Japan's Fast Retailing (Wall Street Journal)


Daniel Cremieux Makes A Base In SoHo

If you know the Daniel Cremieux label as a house brand for the moderate Dillard's department store chain, then the preppy French sportswear company is about to show you a thing or two. While the brand has done quite well by its exclusive licensing arrangement with the chain, its lack of opportunities to find customers in regions where Dillard's has no stores put something of a cap on its potential —but that's about to change. A new agreement with the chain is now allowing Cremieux to open its own stores in Dillard's-free areas like the Northeast, and it is starting with a boutique on Mercer Street (pictured above) set to open in a couple of months. The 700 square foot store will only have enough room for menswear, but rather than the department store fare the brand is currently known for, it will offer the more luxurious Cremieux38 label which offers more sophisticated items like a $2,500 down parka incorporating Loro Piana Storm System materials and other technical details too costly for the average Dillard's shopper. There will be other exclusive items and footwear made by Alden, Joseph Cheaney and Alden that should ingratiate the brand to New York's menswear snobs. The label is ultimately hoping to have as many as 20 U.S. stores, but its will all depend on how it impresses customers when the first store opens on April 24th at 65 Mercer Street.

Daniel Cremieux Sets Retail Expansion (WWD)


Nordstrom Sets Up Shop For Sarah Jessica Parker's SJP Shoes In SoHo

Don't be fooled by those Nordstrom banners that have appeared outside the old Tommy Hilfiger store on West Broadway. We still have a few more years to wait for a proper, permanent Nordstrom store. They are only there for the Pop-up shop being staged to launch Sarah Jessica Parker's SJP shoe collection this weekend. Tomorrow through Sunday will be the only opportunity to buy the collection in person  in New York City as it will be otherwise available only at selected Nordstrom stores and Nordstrom.com. We had mistakenly thought that the chain would re-purpose its former Treasure & Bond space for the event a few steps downtown, but the former Hilfiger space, yet another store in SoHo that can't seem to find a permanent resident, will serve as a more polished, higher profile venue for the fleeting shop that pretty much everyone is expecting to be mobbed for the duration. We got a bit of a peek inside (through the window) to see the shop pretty much set up and ready for business. It appears that there will be a few apparel and accessory options available to complement the SJP shoes, if that rack of trench coats is any indication. Our friends at Racked have ascertained that Parker herself will be making her appearances at the store on Friday at 10am, Saturday at 3pm, and Sunday at 11am which is essential information if you either want to make sure you get a chance to see the Actress/Designer/Perfumer herself, or are a terribly blasé New Yorker who couln't care less about seeing celebrities and wants to avoid the most frenzied shopping times.

Have a look at the gallery below for a few more views including store hours and a peek inside.

SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker Pop-Up Store by Nordstrom runs from February 28 through March 2 at 372 West Broadway at Broome Street, SoHo
Sarah Jessica Parker's Shoe Line SJP Gets A 3-Day Pop-Up

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Amalgamated Luxury Edition

27CRITICAL1_SPAN-superJumbo-v2Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica seems to be continuing a luxury tour of sorts in today's Thursday Styles. Last month he checked out The Armoury in Tribeca, and today he heads to Madison Avenue to see the lavishly expanded Berluti flagship store that opened just before Fashion Week. He notes that the brand is not new to New York, but as is inevitable for any hyper-expensive, artisanal shoe and accessory label owned by a luxury group (LVMH in this case), Berluti is now being expanded to a full "lifestyle" brand including casual apparel and bespoke tailoring —which was accomplished in part by absorbing the otherwise unrelated and highly respected Parisian custom tailor Arnys. While the results are opulent and the service is impeccable, the evolution has not been without a kink or two. Berluti, apparently, has not fully completed its belated puberty,

So as go the old shoes, so go the new clothes, insane in fabric and detail and price. This is oligarch chic, a combination of clever innovations and tacky design choices, borrowing from Italian and British traditions.

So, not every item is a masterpiece, but some, like those in denim for example, had "an unfortunate luxe rodeo air", and others suffered from inconsistent sizing, "the pants generally too generous, the blazers too slim". But anyone who had hopes for Berluti's triumphant arrival as another place to pour away those extra thousands of dollars burning a hole in their hand-stitched pocket shouldn't be too disappointed. LVMH is playing a long game here. They will work on Berluti until it is the Brioni and Kiton killer that was lacking in the group's lineup of luxury.

Critical Shopper: A Rogue Shoe and Its New Cousins By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Berluti 677 Madison Avenue between 61st & 62nd Streets, Upper East Side


The Dyptique Sale Line Is Totally Insane

As predicted, the line to get into the Diptyque Sale is defies all sense and logic. Our friends at Racked report that paid place-holders started arriving before 5 AM for anxious shoppers who absolutely had to get inside before anyone else. By the 10 AM opening, nearly 200 people were waiting to get inside. Sure, we know that those sweet-smelling French candles are a popular prestige gift, but seriously, we would full price not to have to stand outside for hours for a discount that only hovers around 50%. Time is money, after all. We have to wonder how much some of those shoppers are saving once they pay someone to stand in line for them for 5 hours?
Oh well, The Shophound isn't even that fond of fragrances in general so we will just let the other candle-crackheads let us know how the sale went. Good luck, folks.

Snow Flurries Can't Stop a Crowd at the Diptyque Sample Sale (Racked NY)


More Grenson Shoes
Than You Have Ever Seen
Are Now At Freemans Sporting Club

While the folks at Freemans Sporting Club have had to say goodbye to their famous in-store barber shop, they are making good use of the space in a way that should make their regular customers very pleased by devoting it to a pop-up shop for British shoe brand Grenson. A classic English shoe brand founded in 1866 and known for its high quality but slightly sleepy fashion sense, Grenson's fortunes changed in 2005 when it brought designer Tim Little on board to give its product line some pizazz. Now its CEO, Little made Grenson a coveted brand by turbo-charging its classic style without going totally off the rails. Now it is beloved by shoe aficionados for chunky triple soles and bold, inventive broguing details as well as for sturdy the Goodyear welted construction that allows you to wear a pair practically forever with proper care and maintenance. FSC is hosting the pop-up which boasts the largest selection of Grenson ever presented at retail in the U.S. and will also offer customers an exclusive opportunity to design their own shoes and contribute to creating a style that will ultimately be made exclusively for the store. Don't dawdle. The pop-up is only going to be open for six weeks, so if you wait for actual Spring weather to arrive before you shop for your Spring shoes, you may have missed the boat, but if you are a Grenson enthusiast, you probably planned a trip down to Rivington Street the minute you saw our headline. Don't miss it.

Grenson Pop-Up Store through early April at Freemans Sporting Club, 8 Rivington Street between The Bowery & Chrystie Street, Lower East Side


It's Madison Avenue For Roland Mouret

Proving that there is plenty of life after brand-threatening disputes with backers, designer Roland Mouret will be opening his first U.S. store on Madison Avenue. The London based designer is reportedly taking over the Bang & Olufsen store at the corner of Madison and 75th Street (pictured above in a rendering). This will be Mouret's second freestanding shop after his lavish London flagship in Mayfair. Located in the closest analogue New York has to that posh neighborhood, the new 1,400 square foot boutique will be designed by Swedish architect Bozarth Fornell, and will carry all of the designer's lines including accessories, ready-to-wear and the bridal-themed "White" collection. RolandmouretgalaxyKnown for his architecturally cut collections and particularly for the figure-shaping "Galaxy" dress (pictured at right - click to enarge) that retails for up to $2,800 and continues to sell and sell, Mouret has impressively survived losing the rights to his name after a split with his backers in 2006. Relaunching under the initials RM the next year, he only re-acquired his own brand in 2010, but now the dispute is but a bump in the road.

“America was the first international market to support me, so it was important for me that it also be the site of my first store outside of the U.K. I wanted to create the world of Roland Mouret for amazing American women who want to discover my clothes [and] to build an atmosphere where she feels relaxed. This is a store but also a home away from home,”the designer tells WWD. The store is expected to open later this Summer just in time to launch the Fall 2014 collection Mouret is showing in Paris this week.

Roland Mouret Plots First New York Store (WWD)
Roland Mouret (Official Site)


Uniqlo Goes Global By Thinking Local

Another year brings more Uniqlo stores, but the Japanese mega-chain is finally applying a few hard-learned lessons to its merchandising strategy to get a broader range of American customers into its clothers —literally.
Fast Retailing's Yoshihiro Kunii, the executive who oversees Uniqlo's production tells Reuters that adjusting the chain's fit is now a priority. "This is going to be our next challenge in the United States: how to adjust our clothes for a more '3-D' fit, particularly for women." Many customers have noted that limited sizing for some lines (+J for example) and smaller cutting in general have dampened enthusiasm among those who would be Uniqlo shoppers but can't find anything to fit properly. Even though the chain created a different size scale from its Asian stores for the U.S. and European markets, adjusting fit will be an ongoing process of trial and error for the chain. "There are many different ethnic groups in the United States, and this makes it tough to come up with the optimal range (to match the fit)," we are told, and to that end, the chain is also planning to design 10% of its product offerings with local markets in mind with the possibility of expanding successful items to the entire global chain.
For those of us who have been wondering just how the ambitious chain would finally conquer Middle America with its trimly cut sportswear that sells easily in cosmopolitan cities like New York and San Francisco, this bit of news may clarify how that may happen. While Uniqlo has not yet ventured into flyover territory, it will finally be arrriving in Southern California this Fall with a major store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and another one at the Beverly Center right in the middle of Los Angeles. With plans to add 20 to 30 more stores a year, it's only a matter of time before the store appears in places like Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis and, yes, even Cleveland. That will be the point at which we will discover if Uniqlo can really take on Middle America.

Uniqlo tweaks 'Made for All' to give U.S. shoppers a '3-D' fit By Chang-Ran Kim and Ritsuko Shimizu (Reuters)


Notes On The Gant Warehouse Sale

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There was a perfectly manageable number of people waiting at 260 Fifth Avenue to get into the Gant Warehouse Sale at 9 AM today, especially considering that it was a once again frigid February morning. This is the second big Gant sale this season, and the first time the brand has staged a post-season warehouse sale. If you are a non sample size Gant fan, this is the sale you have been waiting for. There is a fairly even distribution of the Gant, Gant Rugger and Gant by Michael Bastian labels, and, for now, sizes range from XS to XXL —though there appeared to be more selection in the smaller sizes. It appears that the merchandise is mostly from the Fall 2013 collections, and much of it looks like it came from the Gant and Gant Rugger stores which have ended their clearance sales. Unlike the Gant sample sales we are accustomed to, the prices are not by category, but a simple 70% off the retail price tags, so bring a calculator. This may make the prices come in just a bit higher than at the sample sales of past seasons, but, for the most part, it's still a great value (that means that, for example, the signature Gant by Michael Bastian skinny cargo pants are $67.50 down from $225). The set-up is also more open, with only single level racks arranged by size (as seen in the gallery above). There was a substantial shoe table, and a fairly small women's section in the back. 

The sale lasts through Sunday, so we expect that there will have to be some replenishment throughout the week. Will there be further reductions? Nobody was promising anything, but we would be surprised if it didn't go to 75% or maybe 80% before the end of the weekend if you want to wait it out. Overall, for those who were disappointed by the limited selection at last Fall's Sample Sale, it's worth stopping by, especially if there are any special items you have had your eye on.

See our SALE ROLL at left for more details and other breaking sale listings.


Annick Goutal To Displace
Nothing On Bleecker Street

An exclusive French fragrance brand is coming to Bleecker Street, and, in a rare state of affairs, it isn't kicking out another store to do it. Annick Goutal, is opening a store in a 900 square-foot space at 397 Bleecker right next to Bond No.9 that hasn't housed a retail store since the early 20th Century. Up until now, it has been one of a few residential townhouse spaces that have broken up the string of shops on Bleecker. The skyrocketing value of retail real estate on that precious section of Bleecker Street has sparked a conversion of some of those ground floors with more likely to follow. About half of the townhouses there between 11th and Perry Streets have no retail space making a substantial shop-free stretch on the eastern side of the block —but perhaps not for long. You can compare the before (below) and after (above) views and see that the old-fashioned storefront for the shop is actually brand new construction, and it is likely that we will see more similar conversions in neighboring buildings as apartment leases come up for renewal.

AnnickGoutalInviteBack to the new store that is being finished, it is reported to be Annick Goutal's first in the United States. Until now the brand (now owned by Amore Pacific) has been available through luxury stores like Barneys and Bergdorf's (though we vaguely remember a Madison Avenue shop sometime in the 1990s). Copyright lawyers will remember the label for beating a lawsuit from Elizabeth Taylor over the "Passion" trademark in a conflict that ended up legally delineating the difference between the "luxury" retailers who sold Goutal and the mass market chains that would be selling Taylor's brand. Old copyright issuse aside, Annick Goutal will be joining Nars, Diptyque, M.A.C., Jo Malone, Marc Jacobs Cosmetics and the aforementioned Bond No.9 in creating an increasing presence for fragrance and beauty on this particular, ever-evolving West Village strip. The store is expected to open in the Spring and is promising special Grand Opening invitations for those who log on to the Annick Goutal website or scan the QR code on the store's front door (pictured at left)

Annick Goutal (Official Site)