The Flatiron District will be dealt a blow next week when the Paul Smith boutique at 108 Fifth Avenue (pictured above) permanently closes its doors and moves to a temporary space on Bleecker Street in the West Village. While the designer has a flagship store in SoHo, a Williamsburg location and a new outpost at Brookfield Place in the Financial District, the Fifth Avenue store was Smith's first in New York opening in 1987. It was one of the first designer stores in the neighborhood and, along with Emporio Armani on the other side of 16th Street (now a closed Joe Fresh), established Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 14th Streets as a bona fide shopping destination that seemed to be geared more toward downtown dwelling New Yorkers than tourists or bridge-and-tunnel shoppers. Even though the neighborhood eventually became more of a destination for chain stores that made it something of a mall without the mall (Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, H&M, Victoria's Secret etc.), The Paul Smith boutique maintained its place as the high-end lynchpin for the neighborhood for nearly 30 years, even expanding downstairs.
Smith won't miss a beat, however. As clearly stipulated in the window (pictured below) the Bleecker Street store will open on Monday It is a more compact 1,000 square feet to Fifth Avenue's 1,800, but it is technically a temporary location to serve until a more suitable permanent spot is found. Where it will ultimately land remains to be seen, but the hands-on designer has been known to be extremely picky about where he places his boutiques, so wherever it is, expect it to be perfectly chosen all in good time.
As any New Yorker knows, shopping in Midtown between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a trial. The combination of Holiday shoppers and high season tourists can make simply walking up Fifth Avenue a sidewalk-rage inducing experience. Of course, finding quieter, out of the way places to shop can be its own challenge, but the curated men's lifestyle website TRNK and the sophisticated menswear label Bespoken have joined forces for a Holiday pop-up shop that will solve thee problems and make you never want to set foot into a department store again. . . at least for a while anyway.
Part of the reason why the shop is such a pleasure is that it is discreetly tucked away at the Bespoken showroom on the seventh floor of the East 57th Street building that houses its related brand, Turnbull & Asser (Bespoken co-founders Sammy and Liam Fayed's father Ali Al-Fayed has owned Turnbull & Asser for the past three decades or so). Discreetly but not inconveniently tucked away away from the bustle below, the showroom has been transformed by TRNK's co-founders Tariq Dixon and Nick Nemechek into a cozy lounge where everything is for sale combining the best gift picks from their Holiday offerings and the Bespoken line. That sleek walnut and brass bar cart can be yours for a mere $1,650, but not everything extends into the four-figure realm. There are cleverly designed desk accessories, wool throws, barware and even the rugs can be yours. Everything is skillfully chosen to complement the Bespoken clothes on display including sumptuous sweaters, knitted cashmere caps and a particularly appealing shirt in lofty brushed cotton with high-tech taped seams. The shop will be open to the public through Christmas and private appointments can scheduled by email or by phone. Of course, if you can't make it in, most of the merchandise can be purchased through the companies respective websites as well.
See a closer look at the shop after the jump
Fans of burgeoning Italian designer shoe label Aquazzura will be flocking this spring to the block that the Whitney Museum just vacated when the label debuts its first freestanding store in the United States. Currently under extensive renovation, the retail space in the row of townhouses just to the museum building's south will be the label's new home (as pictured in the rendering above). The Commercial Observer reports that the label, founded by former Ferragamo shoe designer Edgardo Osorio in 2011, will take 2,221 square feet including ground floor and basement space. While Madison Avenue's prime stretch has traditionally been thought to be between 57th and 72nd Streets, designers have been pushing northward for some time. The new boutique will fall between 74th and 75th Streets, and a Spring opening will coincide with the Metropolitan Museum taking over the museum building which will be known as the Met Breuer after its esteemed architect. More to the point, Aquazzura's shop will be in just about the same spot as Christian Louboutin's first New York store. You can now find those red-soled slippers a block or so to the north, but if the location works half as well for Aquazzura as it did for its acclaimed colleague, the label should easily break out of its insider-y niche status.
Italian Luxury Shoemaker Opening First U.S. Store in Manhattan (Commercial Observer)
There are very few designer labels that never go on sale. Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton come to mind, but these are companies that mainly trade in non-seasonal goods. Even highly desirable luxury brands like Prada, Hermès and Chanel have seasonal clearances because there's always something left over that didn't capture a customer. Normally, one would add Gucci to that list, but not this season, or possibly the next one. Gucci's CEO Marco Bizarre has announced that the customer response to new creative director Alessandro Michele's first collections (pictured above) has been so unexpectedly strong that there simply isn't enough left to put on sale without leaving the store's racks bare. Michele's shows with their offbeat "dressed in the dark" eclecticism delighted critics and stylists, but were far from what any retailer would have called a commercial sure thing. Recognizing the potential need for an adjustment period for the brand's new look, Gucci kept its production levels conservative, but the degree of caution was unnecessary, as Bizzari told Business of Fashion, "The full price [sell-through] was very, very high, so we don’t have a lot left, frankly.” What will happen when the collection is finally out of season? it may go to outlets, or possibly be held over until June, when a decision regarding marking down the current Cruise collection will be made. If you thought you might pick something up at a multi-brand retailer, you may not have much more success. Gucci's in-store shops at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's are leased operations that will follow the same markdown schedule as the boutiques, and while the ones at Bergdorf's are not leased, the store is likely to be experiencing the same kind of sell-throughs with the collection as the boutiques.
Will there never be a Gucci sale again? Probably, at some point, the brand will return to the practice. Eventually, if demand for Michele's collections keeps up, production will be increased and there will be more left at the end of the season to put on clearance, but the brand could always choose to keep production tight and burnish its image with a no-markdowns policy which always helps profit margins. Gucci, after all makes its money from shoes and handbags which are less seasonal items.While the fashion collections get a lot of press, they are less of a revenue generator for a company known for leather goods. Sale shoppers may have to wait this one out for a while.
Michele Momentum Means No Markdowns at Gucci (Business of Fashion)
Perhaps no designer brand has benefitted more from an H&M collaboration than Balmain. The publicity onslaught leading up to that launch has turned the it and its current creative director Olivier Roustieng from insiders' niche label to multimedia phenomenons in a matter of months, and, for New Yorkers, the cycle is now fully complete with a Balmain boutique opening on Wooster Street today. This store will have the real stuff —no more cut rate collaboration capsules— with staggering price tags to match, and it's the first Balmain boutique in the U.S., one of only a handful worldwide. Compared to the H&M launch, the boutique is opening fairly quietly, but its arrival continues to fortify SoHo's position as a premier alternative to Madison Avenue or Midtown for luxury brands.
Well, it looks like a misleading item on Vogue.com suggested that the Balmain boutique was opening on the 19th, but a stroll past 100 Wooster Street nearly indicated that is not the case. The store should be coming soon, though. We just don't know exactly when.
Burberry To Consolidate Brit, London And Prorsum Labels Into A Single Monobrand By Next Year
More than a few eyebrows were discreetly raised several months ago when Marc Jacobs said he would do it, and now Burberry is the next designer brand to follow suit and combine all of its various sub-labels into a singular, all encompassing Burberry brand. After next Spring, you will say goodbye to the separate Prorsum, Brit and London labels as creative director Christopher Bailey undoes the tiered strategy installed by former CEO Rose Marie Bravo who spearheaded the British brand's reinvention in the late 1990s. In a statement to the press yesterday, Bailey says he is after “a much more consistent experience of the collections. Those categories were created when Burberry sales were 70 percent wholesale and 30 percent retail. Now it’s the opposite, with retail sales that are bigger. The key is to present a cohesive brand experience.”
In doing so, Bailey is adopting the model of European luxury brands like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton which have generally eschewed diffusion offshoot labels. A few years ago, Dolce & Gabbana closed its lower priced D&G collection which had originally been a more casual licensed jeans and sportswear line that developed into fully fledged sub-brand. Folding it back into the main collection may have lost it a few retail doors, but ultimately, it has left the hugely popular label with a stronger, more focused fashion image. Similarly, Marc Jacobs announced late last year that his Marc by Marc Jacobs contemporary label will be merged into a more broadly defined main collection for Spring 2016, and now Burberry is following a similar path to strengthen its brand image.
While there are two main Burberry boutiques on East 57th Street and in SoHo, the smaller Brit and London shops on Bleecker Street, Madison Avenue and at Brookfield Place will be rebranded simply as Burberry by next Summer. Bailey has already begun to mix the three labels in his runway shows (including Spring 2016 pictured above) which had previously been restricted to the most luxurious Prorsum label. In case you are wondering if the company is just trying to put a spin on cutting losses, there will reportedly be no jobs eliminated in the brand consolidation. In fact, the company is doing so well that it has announced a plans for a new factory in Leeds, England which will allow it to increaser its iconic trench coats. The new facility will include state of the art technology that will alleviate pressure on the two Yorkshire factories which have been pushed to capacity manufacturing the coveted coats from the weaving of the fabric to the finished product.
Earlier this year, designer Todd Snyder (pictured at right) closed his City Gym extended pop-up store in NoLita with a nice big sale and a hint that a new, permanent boutique was in the works, but no news on that front has appeared until today when it was announced that the designer had sold his company to American Eagle Outfitters.
This was a little bit of a surprise.
While both companies share a classic American-based aesthetic, American Eagle is a mall mainstay, while Snyder's own line, a Shophound favorite, has more luxury designer-level positioning. Even his collaboration with sweatshirt-maker Champion has an exclusive, limited distribution. Would the designer collection get downgraded into more of a moderate priced brand?
It turns out that American Eagle was less interested in Snyder's luxe line than they were in the Tailgate Clothing Co. t-shirt brand that Snyder had started with his family in the early 1990s. While The Shophound and most other consumers had no idea that there was any connection between Snyder and the vintage-inspired t-shirt company, it turns out that it has been helping to fund his designer collection which he started in 2011, and has a strong following among the collegiate customers that AE values so highly. Tailgate will be expanded with its own stores, and Snyder himself will become an executive vice-president of American Eagle while continuing to run his own label independently from the larger chain. Its more exclusive designer status will be maintained with more funding to allow it to expand as well, including a search for a freestanding Todd Snyder boutique in New York as confirmed by American Eagle global brand president, Chad Kessler in WWD today. Now, we just have to sit back and with for him to find a space, which is easy, right?
À propos of the days before Halloween, Critical Shopper Molly Young makes an excursion to the recently opened Givenchy boutique in today's Thursday Styles. Riccardo Tisci's version of Givenchy is offering possibly the darkest, witchiest vision in luxury fashion these days, and while it is frequently described as "Goth", it has really evolved into more of a moody, baroque aesthetic with tinges of mysticism. Our shopper seems to enjoy her visit noting that the gallery-like boutique seems to welcome all,
Givenchy is also a great place to encounter beauty, no matter what your tax bracket. Looking is free, after all. The salesmen are warm and offer coffee. You can stare at $22,000 velvet dresses and silk blouses with an all-over centaur print ($4,195). You can flip through books by Marina Abramovic.
It's the sort of successful brand statement that makes sense of the fashion in-joke of using competitor Donatello Versace as this season's campaign model, and given the dodgy job security of running a Parisian couture house these days, a strong brand image is Tisci's best form of employment insurance.
Critical Shopper: Givenchy on Madison Avenue Mixes Metaphors, Beautifully By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Givenchy 747 Madison Avenue at 65th Street, Upper East Side
The Financial District remains a pull for retailers looking to expand in Manhattan, and Brookfield Place is confirming its position as the headquarters for luxury stores with the addition of a new Hickey Freeman boutique slated to open in January next to the upcoming Saks Fifth Avenue store. Commercial Observer is reporting that the fabled men's tailored clothing label has signed a 10-year leaser the 974 square foot store. While Brookfield place has collected an unprecedented group of luxury retailers for the neighborhood together, Hickey Freeman is the kind of merchant —traditional men's clothing— that has always found a home in lower Manhattan with its concentration of office buildings full of men in suits. While its last downtown store was a SoHo outpost for its erstwhile younger label, Hickey, the suit maker has had a rocky run over the past several years, with trouble at its parent companies and changes in ownership and creative direction that stalled its momentum. Things seem to have settled down now, and the brand tapped David Hart, one of GQ's Best New Menswear Designers for 2015, as its creative director earlier this year. The downtown store will be the brand's first under Hart's direction, so it should be a good hint of how a once stodgy suit maker will move forward into the future.
Hickey Freeman Dressing Up Lower Manhattan Dudes With New Store (Commercial Observer)
In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young informs us that a Versus boutique has quietly materialized on Greene Street, not far from the downtown home of its mother brand, Versace —and she is not entirely sold on it.
As usual, there is an extensive introduction to the label, a relic of the brand's '90s high point when there appeared to be an infinite number of sub-brands connected to Gianni Versace —Versus, Istante, Versace Jeans Couture, V2 Versace Classic, Versace Sport etc. etc...
With the company's more streamlined 21st Century model, the Versus label has been exhumed as a laboratory of sorts for emerging designers who can be trusted to keep the line's point of view well within the hidebound Versace aesthetic of sex, skin and Rock and roll. Current creative director Anthony Vaccarello seems to fit that bill nicely, turning out sexy dresses and separates that cost about a quarter of what analogous pieces in the premier Versace collection would go for, but our shopper is not swayed to even go through the perfunctory try-ons, wondering exactly who these offerings are aimed at. "Who is the Versus girl? I couldn’t extrapolate from customers on any of my visits, because there weren’t any," she writes in a cold jab that may say more about the store's quiet arrival than the public's appetite for Versace at a price. Still, this version of Versace seems more watered down to our shopper than re-interpreted, as her shopping companion suggests, “It seems like the kind of brand that would thrive in the duty-free section of an international airport”. Perhaps the shop's saving grace will be that SoHo remains teeming with tourists primed to respond to this sort of thing.
Critical Shopper: Versus Versace Store in SoHo: Caught in Transition By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Versus Versace 75 Greene Street between Broome & Spring Streets, SoHo