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Will Michael Bastian's Smartwatch Beat Apple's To Market?

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While everyone is breathlessly awaiting an official announcement introducing Apple's long rumored iWatch, menswear designer Michael Bastian has collaborated with Hewlett Packard for his own elegant take on wearable tech. Apple's super-sleek designs for iPhone, iPod and iPad have garnered acclaim, but the jury is still very much out on whether pleasure in carrying and using such futuristic designs will translate into desire to wear them every day, particularly for people who have more sophisticated fashion tastes. We’re at the beginning of the wave, but the smart part comes before the visual part,” Bastian tells WWD. “We felt there was a need for something that feels like a watch first.” Bastian's design (pictured in the gallery above) is more specialized than what is being anticipated from Apple. It features a sizable 44-mm. stainless steel case and three interchangeable watchbands in black rubber, perforated brown leather and olive green. A limited edition all-black version is also in the works. The more traditionally styled timepiece will have a lighted dial inspired by luxury car dashboards. Inside, the operating system will be compatible with both Android and iOS devices and will offer access to emails, texts, calendars and a host of other information including stock updates, sports scores and, of course, weather to name a few services.

We know that the watch will launch this Fall, and will initially be available exclusively through Gilt.com. what we don't yet know is exactly how much it will cost, so there's still a little bit of mystery left for this particular product. 

Michael Bastian Creates Stylish Smartwatch (WWD)
Michael Bastian X HP (Official Web Page)


Valentino Joins Fifth Avenue's Brand Palace Parade Tomorrow

ValentinoWWD-ThomasIannacconeFriday is the day that Valentino's new flagship store opens as the permanent resident of the former home of Takashimaya at 693 Fifth Avenue. All reports point to a particularly lavish presentation, even for Fifth Avenue's cavalcade of luxury brands. The label seems to be showing off after surviving ownership changes and the transition of design direction from its revered namesake to current creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli. This will be the largest Valentino boutique in the world, featuring the complete men's and women's ready-to-wear and accessory collections, each on its own floor. Exclusive offerings include a custom jeans service for men and new Camu-butterfly patterned accessory pieces and Zodiac finger clutches that won't be found in any other store.

Grazia Chiuri and Piccioli collaborated David Chipperfield Architects to redesign the Takashimaya space, and though they appear to have preserved the store's dramatic atrium, the building's owner made good on his promise to demolish the lower half of the distinctive Phillip Johnson and John Burgee designed façade and replace it with an incongruous slab of steel and glass. The 20,000 square foot space's new centerpiece is a dramatic palladina marble staircase that connects the three floors. The store's design will be the template for new expansion and renovations of Valentino's retail network, and like most of it's fellow international designer brand palaces up and down the street, it will serve as a billboard for the brand, reaching the throngs of tourists traversing Fifth Avenue on any given day. Also like its neighboring mega-flagships, Valentino still maintains a boutique on Madison Avenue. In fact, it opened a new one less than a year ago, joining Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and several others in having a costly showplace on Fifth whose profits can be bolstered by a smaller, boutique on Madison, removed from the tourist bustle, where the major spenders, both local and traveling, can shop in a more exclusive environment.

Valentino Preparing to Unveil Fifth Ave. Flagship (WWD)


Pottery Barn & Williams Sonoma Leaving 59th Street
Are Rent Increases Forcing
Every Store To Move?

PotteryBarnWS-NYPostWhat does it mean when the national chains aren't interested in renewing a lease with a rent increase? We don't know it that is exactly the reason why the sibling Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn stores on 59th Street have become available, but The New York Post is reporting that 32,000 square foot space that the stores have shared for the past 15 years is on the market. Perhaps the stores are moving to higher profile space nearby and rent isn't the issue. While a half a block between Bloomingdale's and Park Avenue can be considered a pretty favorable location, sometimes major stores can get lost mid-block on a side street, and there may be some better space available from which to serve the Upper East Side on Third Avenue, but the stores took the space in the late 90s, when rents were much lower, and 15 years suggests the end of a typical 10-year lease including a 5-year renewal option. Many will remember the location as the home of the legendary disco-era store Fiorucci, which famously employed nightlife figures who modeled the store's wares at Studio 54 for regular customers like Andy Warhol and Jackie Onassis. As that store fizzled, Urban Outfitters took over the final years of its lease before Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma took over after a major remodel that added custom façades for the retailers. With rents what they are, it seems hard to imagine that a flashy, fun, store like Fiorucci would ever be able to thrive in such large location at a $400 a square foot rent.

It's become something of a scandal in both the retail and restaurant worlds in New York that longtime merchants are routinely being forced to uproot and move or shut down as their leases come to an end due to steep rent increases thanks the the current real estate boom in the city. The result has been a lot of empty storefronts in affluent shopping areas all over Manhattan as landlords (many of whom are in other cities or countries) patiently wait months and even years for that deep pocketed bank or chain store or restaurant to pony up the dough for the space.
But Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma are national chains.
If they aren't willing to absorb a rent increase, then who is? And how can any store expect to stay in the same place for more than 15 years at the most? Maybe they no longer will. Perhaps the days of an independent or even small chain store remaining in place over decades are over. Maybe retailers should just set up shop in mobile home units, ready to take off and move at a moment's notice.

Fiorucci’s former location coming up for rent (NYPost)


Vera Wang, Bottega Veneta, 3.2 Phillip Lim, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Givenchy, Donald J Pliner, Valentino, Joseph, Lanvin

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!

Vera Wang, Trovata, 10 Crosby Derek Lam, Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein Collection, Nixon Watches, Thakoon Addition, Elizabeth and James, Melissa Shoes, Blank NYC Denim, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Nephora Diamond Jewelry, Dolce & Gabbana, Puma, Brooks Brothers, N.D.C. Made by Hand, RAEN Eyewear, Spurr NY, GANT Rugger/GANT by Michael Bastian, HATCH Collection Maternity, Loloi Rugs, Luxor Linens —join HERE
Prada, Judith Leiber, Versace Watches, Marika Activewear, Gerard Darel, Givenchy, John Hardy, J Brand, Marchesa Voyage, Sperry Top-Sider, Stride Rite, Vinram FiveFingers, Michael Kors Watches & Sunglasses, Swiss Legends, Argento Vivo —join HERE
Jimmy Choo, Lanvin Sneakers, Giorgio Armani Accessories, Christian Lacroix Watches, MONaMour/JB by Julie Brown, Socheec Jewelry, Valentino, Ray-Ban, Bulova, Red Line Watches, Three Dots —join HERE
UGG Australia, Freeway, Marshall Artist, James Perse, Original Penguin, What Goes Around Comes Around, Da-Nang, Bast Surf, Kickers Kids, Drunk Elephants, Clark's —join HERE
Valentino, BLUE Les Copains, Marc Jacobs Sunglasses, Christopher Kon, Ahava Skincare, Lucy Dalton Jewelry, Leota, Donald J Pliner, Matisse/Coconuts, Rafe New York, Donna Morgan, Brooks Brothers, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Mr. Swim, Martin Gordon, Antonio Maurizi —join HERE
Tommy Bahama, John White Shoes, Ray-Ban, Homesource, Graham Watches, Candela, Joseph —join HERE


Chelsea Loses Universal Gear
—Gets A Little Bit Less Gay

Eighth Avenue is losing yet another of its gay mainstays as Universal Gear has announced that its Chelsea store will be closing at the end of July. As usual, the closure is the result of a rent hike (as confirmed by the tireless chronicler Jeremiah's Vanishing New York) that made maintaining the store unfeasible. Universal Gear is one of the last remnants of Chelsea's recent past as the epicenter of Manhattan's young gay community having taken the tiara from the West Village at the beginning of the 1990s. Where will you pick up your free weekly issue of Next Magazine or buy tickets to any number of gay club events? All signs point to Hell's Kitchen, which inherited Chelsea's mantle about a decade ago, and where Universal Gear's other store will remain open for the foreseeable future (along with its original Washington DC store). As for Chelsea today, even though it has already lost The Rawhide, Rainbows & Triangles, The Big Cup, and so many other independent establishments that gave it its unique flavor over the years, the neighborhood hasn't been totally neutered just yet. After all, G Lounge, Barracuda and Nasty Pig are still thriving on the side streets, and it's hard to imagine Rufskin existing anywhere else in Manhattan. Nevertheless, there will still be sighs of disappointment when a bank or something else equally banal moves in to the store where "bathing suit section" meant racks of reliably tight and skimpy Speedos just waiting to be shown off on Fire Island instead of a bunch of baggy board shorts.


Donna Karan To Exit Madison Avenue By The End Of August

Donna Karan
may be luxuriating on the Hamptons for the Summer, but her flagship Collection boutique on Madison Avenue (pictured above) will be homeless by the end of the Summer. WWD reports that the 13 year-old store at 819 Madison between 68th and 69th Streets will close when its lease expires at the end of August. There were no specific details about why the store was closing, or where it might move beyond a statement from the designer's spokesperson announcing the planned closure and stating, "At this time, we are exploring other opportunities for a space more reflective of the spirit of our brand today." One can only presume that the inevitable rent hike that would have accompanied a lease renewal must have been a factor in the decision to close the store, but there may have been business concerns as well. While the DKNY brand remains a significant business, Karan's signature label is no longer the powerhouse with a fiercely loyal following and prominent placement in department stores that it once was. Now owned by LVMH, The Donna Karan New York label has lost ground at the high end to international luxury brands like Gucci and Prada and even hometown competitors like Michael Kors. The expense of a Madison Avenue boutique in such a prime location may not have been justified without some kind of resurgence from the brand. Karan will still be represented in the city with DKNY boutiques, and the designer's own Urban Zen fashion and wellness store in the West Village, which she owns separately from her eponymous brand. There are still 11 other Donna Karan Collection boutiques that are expected to remain open, but few of them have the prestige or visibility factor of Madison Avenue, so the question remains, if, when and where the store will reopen that will have a similar impact?

Donna Karan's Madison Avenue Flagship to Close (WWD)


Prada And Barneys Kiss And Make Up

Sometimes luxury retailing can seem like a tabloid story, which is what happened three years ago when Barneys and Prada announced that they had parted ways. Industry watchers were dismayed, to say the least, when it was announced that the retailer would stop carrying accessories and women's apparel from the luxury brand whose rise in prominence during the 1990s parallelled its own. How could you have Barneys without Prada? Well, they never totally split as the store continued to carry women's shoes and all the men's collections, but still, there seemed to a glaring absence at Barneys as it went about its dramatic makeover. That rupture has now been healed as the store quietly announced the return of Prada womenswear this week with dramatic Madison Avenue windows inspired by 20th century German cinema (pictured above) and new adjoining boutiques for Prada's Men's and Women's clothing on the fourth floor. WWD's Bridget Foley goes behind the scenes in today's issue, though seh never fully explains how the two parties resolved their differences beyond proclaiming that they are stronger when working together than apart. Though Prada was booted from the store when it insisted on leasing its women's clothing and accessory spaces —a practice that Barneys does not engage in as a matter of policy— Foley declines to elaborate on the arrangement that brought the label's womenswear back to the store. Prada now leases its accessory department in Saks, as well as separate men's and women's accessory boutiques in Bloomingdale's which have opened subsequent to its departure from Barneys. More than likely, Prada saw that the volume of business Barneys does with the brand was not made up by other doors after the change was made, and so it softened its insistence on leasing. Foley notes that Barneys still does not carry Prada's handbags, which leaves Bergdorf Goodman as the only department store that carries all of its product categories, which are all also found in smaller assortments at Jeffrey downtown. When Barneys and Prada went on a break, Bergdorf Goodman had only just fully repaired its lengthier and deeper rift with the label which had left the store without any of its products for nearly a decade. Bergdorf's has an equally strict non-leasing policy, and the structure of its new agreement with the brand may have informed how Barneys and Prada got back together, but this rapprochement may ultimately say more about how luxury department stores and lease-happy key labels will deal with each other in the future. Stores like Barneys, Bergdorf's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom tend to avoid lease arrangements, making a singular exception for Louis Vuitton who does not wholesale at all anymore. Saks and Bloomingdale's, however, have become increasingly hospitable to them. Gucci recently took over all of its boutiques in Saks with the exception of shoes, and the store has several other leased departments sprinkled throughout its New York flagship. Bloomingdale's has added prominent leased Prada and Gucci shops recently in addition to its longstanding LV boutique and other accessory brands that have added luster to its main floor. More quietly, it also has several leased apparel departments throughout the store including ones from hot contemporary labels like The Kooples, Maje, Sandro and Zadig & Voltaire. When Prada left Barneys, it was thought that major luxury vendors would begin to have the upper hand with retailers in demanding how their wares are presented in stores, but its new arrangement suggests that the stores may still be able to call the shots if they can maintain their prestige and, more importantly, prove that they can sell goods at a level that is ultimately indispensable to the big brands. Ultimately, we are guessing that it was sales volume that brought Prada's women's collection back to Barneys, because as much as both parties like to talk about fashion and art, business is business after all.

Bridget Foley's Diary: Prada at Barneys — Thinking Chic (WWD)


A Surprise Sale From Billy Reid
& More Helmut Lang In SoHo

As with everything during the second half of the Summer, the sample sale schedule has quieted down, but that doesn't mean that there still aren't occasional bursts of activity like the BILLY REID Sample Sale that starts tomorrow across the street from his NoHo boutique (pictured above). Reid has typically been something of an occasional participant on the sample sale schedule, so there's no knowing when the next event will be, but when he does hold one, it turns out to be something of an event. He has taken over a prominent storefront, and will be offering not only his usual apparel and shoes, but also furniture, rugs and bolts of fabric, so come prepared.

If you can't make it to the big Theory/Helmut Lang sale at Clothingline that ends tomorrow, then don't worry, because there's another HELMUT LANG sale starting on Thursday as well on West Broadway in SoHo with all-new women's merchandise. It's a little tough to keep up with all of the Theory and Helmut Lang sales. Iit seems like there's always another one around the corner. We couldn't tell you why there is always such an abundance of excess merchandise from these corporate sibling labels, but take advantage while you can.

Also on repeat mode this week are VIVIENNE TAM with a Garment District sale starting today, and newly inducted CFDA member ERNEST ALEXANDER, whose sale is in now in the NoMad neighborhood. Socially conscious label EDUN is also holding a sale today and tomorrow in SoHo which will be donating 25% of the proceeds to St. Anne's Infant & Maternity Home. Pant wizard ALVIN VALLEY is back in business, which means he has a sale as well through Saturday in Western SoHo/Hudson Square, and finally, hat fans of all persuasions will enjoy top milliner EUGENIA KIM's sale running through tomorrow in the Garment District. See out SALE ROLL at left for details on each sale including late breaking announcements.


Kurt Geiger's Bleecker Street Store
Is Looking Very Available


There has been plenty of fallout from the recent sale of the immense fashion conglomerate Jones Apparel Group to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, but one of  most prominent effects has been the spinning off of several former Jones brands into independent firms. One of them, popular London based shoe brand Kurt Geiger, was only acquired by Jones in 2011, and made a major statement about its plans for the as yet untapped U.S. market by opening a showcase of a store at 375 Bleecker Street about a year and a half ago in a shop that had most recently housed a few ill fated attempts by Tommy Hilfiger to develop new retail concepts. It looks like Kurt Geiger, which recently became an independent company through a management buyout from Sycamore, is now adjusting its own plans for the U.S. While no specific announcements have been made, the prominent "For Lease" sign in the window makes it clear that the brand is, at the very least, not long for Bleecker Street. Whether it is moving the store to a more prominent location or simply putting its entire U.S. retail plan on hold for the moment is unclear, but it does put Bleecker Street in the same category as so many other supposedly hot Manhattan shopping neighborhoods that suddenly have a surplus of retail space available. With Geiger's Departure, Juicy Couture's prominently empty corner store, as well as the closed Manatus restaurant and several other vacant stores on its same block, There is a lot of space available. Now where are the retailers who are willing to pay the not inconsiderable rent it will cost them to set up shop there?

The store is indeed closing. According to our friends at Racked, Kurt Geiger is shutting down all of its freestanding stores in the U.S. The California units are already closed, and the Bleecker Street location is the only one that remains open —but only for the moment.

Shoe Story: England's Kurt Geiger To Take Tommy's Bleecker Street Store


Lord & Taylor Aims To Burnish Fashion Image With New Concept Shops

Lord & Taylor's current owner, Hudson's Bay Co., continues to work to modernize the 188-year-old chain, and its latest projects promise to bring new fashion excitement to the Fifth Avenue flagship while repurposing a once well-known store brand that has been lost to time. First up is a new shop for emerging contemporary designers called Brand Assembly that has the store joining forces with an L.A. based trade show of the same name. The year-old show not only presents young designers, four times a year to buyers and press, but also gives participants operational support to help them build solid independent businesses. Now their goods will be presented for sale in Lord & Taylor's in-store shop which is set to bow in September. While some of the designers will be making their department store debuts, the shop will also offer some slightly more established names like Sachin & Babi and Torn by Ronny Kobo. While prices are meant to average around $350, they will star at $60 and run to $3,000 for more luxurious pieces.  Success in the department may mean a longer time on display, and possibly continuing orders from Lord & Taylor's regular contemporary department which is also located on the second floor. “We are looking to really inject newness and fashion relevance,” Liz Rodbell, president of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, tells WWD. If they are successful in New York, both concepts could be rolled out to other branch stores, and both will also get their own micro-sites.
Next up, in October is another curated department located nearby to be called Birdcage (rendering pictured above) which will feature more than 1,000 styles from over 30 different labels with a focus on accessories and jewelry but also including gift, tech and home items and even food products. “It will feel like a place to discover newness,” Rodbell tells WWD. “Not every single one of the brands are new to Lord & Taylor, but the way we are putting it together is new and unique. It’s fashion, food and art together.”
BirdCagevintageEach shop is an innovative way to continue sweeping away some of the persistent middle-of-the-road fashion image that Lord & Taylor cultivated under decades of management by May Co., but for those of us who are old enough to remember a more elegant chain, the name Birdcage is a clever call-out to the store's past. Years ago, The Bird Cage was actually the name of Lord & Taylor's signature restaurant and tea room (pictured at left) which opened in the late 1930s and was replicated in stores throughout the chain. In some locations, the classic decor featured a room festooned with antique, whitewashed birdcages holding flamboyant fantasy birds. Eventually, The Bird Cage gave way to newer restaurant concepts, and was eliminated entirely from most branches, but bringing back the name, even in a different format, sends a clear signal that the chain's current owner has a sense of the chain's more illustrious history and is working to restore some of that shine in a new way.

Lord & Taylor Set to Launch Two Concept Shops (WWD)