Megastore Debut:

Armani/5th Avenue

Through an odd coincidence, The Shophound found ourselves without any fashion show invitations on Wendesday. While this could have been a disturbing development, we were actually kind of relieved. We could have just gone to the tents and seen a few shows with extra standing room, or watched them on the mentors, but we were relishing the day off. While the temptation to simply remain in bed was strong, we eventually picked ourselves up and made our way to Giorgio Armani's newly opened Armani/5th Avenue superstore that just opened with a glittery launch party this week.
What do we call this amalgam of the designer's various lines? Is it a flagship? Doesn't each brand have its own multi-level flagship on Madison Avenue? This is a sort of Armani Mega-center. With four floors, the store covers only the designer's core labels. Mall focused stepchild A|X Armani Exchange is a joint venture, though Armani has recently increased his stake, and Armani Collezioni is a first cousin who lives only in department stores.
Armanistaircase The clear centerpiece here is a swooping staircase that connects each level. While the previous inhabitant, Hugo Boss, created an airy, open interior, Armani uses the staircase to make a swirling tunnel from which shoppers can emerge at their chosen department. Covered in white, the installation will be a challenge to clean and maintain. Dark scuff marks were already visible near the floor, and we can imagine some hapless char person tasked with scrubbing the stairs every evening after hours.
Starting at the top we have men's clothing and shoe lines with the main Giorgio Armani label side by side with Emporio, the still pricey "diffusion" brand. Up here we also found a chocolate counter named Armani Dolci, the home collection, Armani Casa (whose presence was minimal) and the Armani Ristorante featuring an expansive view of Fifth Avenue. We began to wonder if the restroom had a sign over the door reading Armani Toilette. One flight down, we found the women's apparel lines along with a cosmetics counter. The street level features the high margin goods including a wall of sunglasses and watches and cases of accessories, mirroring the merchandising concepts of the Gucci megastore a few blocks uptown. Downstairs is relegated to Armani Jeans, Emporio underwear, swimwear and a small presentation of the EA7 active sportswear brand.
It's a lavish presentation, and it goes without saying that eighteen months ago it must have looked like a fabulous idea to replicate the megastore concept that Armani had implemented in other major international cities. There's no accounting for timing these days, but we couldn't help noticing that both the main collection and Emporio were already available with a much better selection in their own large boutiques only blocks away. This is the kind of sumptuous, promotional brand statement that luxury labels have begun to question in the past year. The question here is not whether Giorgio Armani could make a big, fabulous store. That was already a foregone conclusion. At issue is whether or not he can do it profitably in this climate, which remains to be seen.
Armani/5th Avenue Fifth Avenue at 56th Street, Midtown

Today In Alter Egos:

Giorgio Armani Joins
The Bat Brigade

Apparently, Bruce Wayne wears Giorgio Armani Hand Made To Measure, at least that's what Madison Avenue's Armani boutique is telling us.
Ordinarily, we would have thought that the designer would have kept his top collections free of Summer blockbuster cross promotional activities, but then again, Mr. Armani knows firsthand just how effective creating a film wardrobe can be in promoting a brand. Hell, Richard Gere practically launched the label by wearing it in American Gigolo.
This time, however, Armani is explicitly using billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, not Christian Bale, the actor who portrays him, as his celebrity spokesperson. It may be the first time the designer has tapped a fictional character for such duties. Somehow, we suspect that had Armani recruited Bale himself as a spokesperson, the actor might have made a lot more money out of the deal, but we think he is probably doing OK anyway. The free Armani clothes he must be getting are probably worth it by themselves.
This effort, of course, puts Giorgio Armani in unusual company on the roster of companies participating in The Dark Knight's promotion, which includes Nokia, Hershey, Comcast, Microsoft XBox, Domino's Pizza and the California Milk Processor Board.
It's always nice to make new friends.
Oh, and not to gloat, but we're supposed to see the movie tonight. In IMAX.
Previously: Today In Superheroes: Nokia Goes Batty

Today In Superheroes:
Junk Food Loves Gap Kids

It's possible that by this time next year, we will all be so sick and tired of superheroes that we will never want to see another caped crusader again.
Possible, but not likely.
Gapjunkfood1 After all, with Iron Man and The Hulk running, we've still got a Batman, a Punisher, Hancock and Hellboy on deck at the nation's multiplexes. In the meantime, Batgirl on a motorbike is speeding across the front of the Gap on Fifth Avenue!
Inside, she, Wonder Woman and Supergirl (all Bronze Age Pre-Crisis versions, if that remotely means anything to you) are hanging out in the name of Girl Power to promote the Gap's latest collaboration, Junk Food Loves Gap Kids.
This is the latest array of faux vintage t-shirts for kids made in collaboration with Junk Food Clothing, famous for their faux vintage t-shirts for grown-ups. Gap's little side-shop now holds a pint-sized nostalgia trip with the lady superheroes as well as Hello Kitty, Little Miss and several other vintage characters for girls along with Batman, Iron Man, Star Wars and various other 20th century  media phenomena for boys, all weathered and distressed to look like long lost souvenirs from your own third grade wardrobe. While it's pretty certain that the cultural significance of a weathered "Super Friends" tee is mostly lost on today's five year olds, it also proves once again that dressing children these days is all about gratifying their parent's sense of nostalgia.
Shop Junk Food Loves Gap Kids (Official site)

The Inevitable ArmaniPhone is Coming

Armaniphone1You could say that Dolce & Gabbana were the first out of the gate, but we wouldn't call slapping a logo on a MOTORAZR designing a phone so much as it was a marketing opportunity. The we had the LG Prada Phone, a huge success in...well...not here where it was pulled from distribution. Now amid talk about making a personal statement with our phones blah blah blah, we hear news that Giorgio Armani is joining forces in a long term, strategic partnership with Samsung to create a super thin and flat phone with, get ready for this, a full touch screen user interface, 3-megapixel camera, music player and full web browser.
Sound familiar?
Of course, the leather case is a new twist, however predictable.
The phone will be available through Armani boutiques as well as electronics stores that have been deemed suitably upscale to carry the Giorgio Armani brand.
As with the Prada phone, no U.S. carriers have been named as partners as of yet, so while this latest little designer fetish item is expected to become available in Europe in November, we have no idea when or if it will be available Stateside at all. On the Continent, the retail price will be €650 which translates to over $900 at current rates. Surely we can expect similarly priced unlocked models to appear here just in time for Christmas.
Beyond the phone, however, Armani and Samsung plan to introduce an Armani/Casa LCD screen TV in January. Exactly what distinctions Armani plans to bring to television remain to be seen, but in the meantime, we'll wait for the rest of the fashion world to catch up. Imagine what must be coming; the PoloPhone, DKNY Mobile, GucciPhone, DiorPhone, etc. etc.
The mind reels.
Armani, Samsung Start Electronics Line (WSJ)
Samsung and Giorgio Armani team up on mobile phones, LCD TVs (Endgadget)
Previously: Prada's Phone Not Coming To a Store Near You

Boss Bows Out on Fifth. Armani Moving In?

BossfifthHugo Boss announced that they will be vacating their splashy boutique at 717 Fifth Avenue in January 2008, after the Holiday season, in favor of a series of smaller shops around the city. Since most international brands crave a showcase like Boss's, the strategy is bewildering to say the least, until you think about how much the multilevel space must be costing them in rent. This comes as the parent company of Boss, Valentino Fashion Group is being pursued by a number of private equity firms (European firm Permira bought a controlling stake on Wednesday, although at only 29.6%, there are other shareholding parties who could change the outcome.) The sky-high prices of Fifth Avenue real estate must be figuring in the profitability of the store. Boss also operates a top-line boutique at The Shops at Columbus Circle, and a Hugo by Hugo Boss shop in SoHo which it intends to keep, and may be looking in all the other obvious neighborhoods for additional stores. Let's all say it together Meeeeeeetpacking District. Let's not forget the newly desirable Wall Street and old favorite Madison Avenue, which isn't all that much less expensive than Fifth, but carries more prestige.
The dramatic Fifth Avenue space won't be vacant for long. Giorgio Armani is said to be moving in with a 15 year lease worth $250 million for the 40,000 square foot space. Yes, that's right, $250 Million. He can certainly hold his own with the megabrands on Fifth like Gucci, Prada and Fendi, and his plans would presumably include a restaurant, and more entertainment areas found his newer Milan Flagship and absent from his Madison Avenue store. Would, he, like Gucci and Prada, keep his Madison boutique as well, perhaps in a downsized version? You'll know when we know.
Fifth Avenue Frenzy (The Daily)
Armani Sews Up Former Boss Space(The Real Deal)

Fashion News: Schiffer Weighs In, Ralph Goes Even More Nautical and more...

Cschiffer Claudia Schiffer has offered her 2 cents on the raging controversey concerning today's runway models' weight, or lack thereof. "It doesn't really look good any more," the 90's icon says. "Models have always been thin. But today, they are even thinner, which is unbelievable. I was one of the fattest when I started. Ever since I started having children, I can eat whatever I want. I eat chocolate almost every day and drink whole milk so that I don't lose any more [weight]. When media started writing that I looked too thin and ill, I went to the doctor. He said I was healthy. Fashion looks good on thin models, but when you look at today's models you cannot help but think there is some thing wrong."
We're sure everybody feels a whole lot better now.
(Vogue UK)

Katespade Is Kate Spade finally to be sold? The 13-year old accessories firm has been on the block for, well, it seems like forever, but sources say that multi-brand mammoth Liz Claiborne Inc. is close to a deal that would allow it to purchase the company from Kate & Andy Spade and majority owner Neiman Marcus Group, who has been divesting its non-core assets like Spade and cosmetics brand Laura Mercier. Is Liz the backer to return Spade to her heyday of only a few years ago? The brand has felt the pressure of a hypercompetetive accessories market and massive counterfeiting, and critics have complained that creatively, the collection has lost focus, but Claiborne has been known to invest, so if the deal goes through, expect a revitalized Kate Spade coming to a mall near you. (WWD)

Ralphhampton Ralph Lauren is not content to be the official wardrobe of the Hamptons. He is in negotiations to purchase East Hampton Point, 5 acres of Long Island waterfront with a marina, dining and lodging facilities that he plans to convert into an exclusive club. Should go perfectly with the nautical collection he reintroduces every other spring.
Hey, at least he's consistent.
(Page Six via Curbed)

Armanired Giorgio Armani's contribution to (PRODUCT)RED will include a collaboration with contemporary African artist Owusu-Ankomah for a variety of items. Symbols by the artist signifying Flight, Erotic Balance, and Harmony will be featured on t-shirts and other pieces. The Emporio Armani items will be available in a few months, and 40% of profits will go directly to The Global Fund.
(The Daily)

Irenegalitzine And lastly, on Friday the fashion world bid adieu to Princess Irene Galitzine.
Who, you might ask? While her heyday was at least some 30 years ago, the Russian-born couturière did a lot to raise the profile of the Alta Moda, Rome's answer to the Haute Couture of Paris. Tiring of seeing her Pucci outfits coming and going, she
started her own house and famously dressed Jackie Kennedy and a Cleopatra-era Elizabeth Taylor among others. Her own best model, she may be most remembered (or blamed) for giving the world Palazzo Pants.