Make It Depressing Edition

31CRIT-BROOKFIELD-PLACE-slide-UQ0P-jumboToday's Thursday Styles features steady Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's take on the beginning of the retail cavalcade that has descended upon the neighborhood immediately surrounding the World Trade Center's memorial as well as its re-imagining still under construction.
And he's finding it all a bit jarring.
Rather than focusing on just one store, he takes on the entirety of the Brookfield Place luxury mall featuring fresh new outposts from Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bottega Veneta an more among its roster of international status brands. Our shopper's overall thesis this week is that we shop to forget —to anesthetize ourselves against the adversity we encounter in life. In this case, he is obviously making a reference to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 which haunts the financial district in general, and he is really giving in to the ghosts. Of the mall he says, "It is a testament to the resilience of our real estate developers, if not our national mood. Here, at the heart of the city’s suffering, we are being told to shop: To spend is to be healed."
Perhaps we are somehow protesting the specter of international terrorism down town with the kind of luxury and profligate consumption specifically abhorred by our jihadist enemies, but hey, it's New York. We're just being ourselves. By that token, we could argue that the city's sprawling shopping culture exists to distract us from so many of the more disturbing aspects of our city. After all, it's not that we have seen a homeless person or two on Fifth Avenue, but that any city resident has encountered so many in every neighborhood no matter how tony it may be, not to mention everywhere in the public transit system.
But back to today's column, where our shopper has faintly admiring words for the just opened Gucci shop at Brookfield Place. It is the first New York example of the label's new creative director Alessandro Michele's re-imagined retail format for the brand. It's not all that different from the old format which features lots of handbags up front with lots of logos and red and green striped webbing. It's a respectable update that nicely shows off Michele's relentlessly eclectic, dressed-in-the-dark Resort collection, but The Shophound has to admit that we have had a lot harder time working up enthusiasm for a designer who thinks that putting a high, chunky heel on a gold leather version of you grandmother's house slippers makes than somehow appealing.
It does not.
Caramanaica calls the lineup of stores at Brookfield Place "shrug worthy" and it's true in the sense that it appears to includes not a single boutique that doesn't exist somewhere else in Manhattan in a larger and more comprehensive version. Perhaps it is the relentless retail drumbeat of the Holiday Shopping season combined with this year's weirdly balmy Holiday Season that has put his mood off, but still, he doesn't leave empty-handed. Our shopper remembers his professional purpose and picks up a smart overcoat at nearly 60% off from Club Monaco along with a bracing scented candle from Nest.

They all smelled the same until finally I landed on one — Sicilian tangerine — that was almost acidic. It had bite, the scent creeping up my nostrils and scraping away. Instinctively, I winced, but at the same time began to salivate. For a moment, death felt far away.

It's tough to stay down on shopping when it is an explicit part of one's work assignment. The choices are to rally or resign, but everyone is entitled to a case of the Holiday Blues once in a while. Like the neighborhood around Ground Zero, however, one eventually has to pick oneself up and carry on.

Critical Shoper: Shop the Pain Away By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Brookfield Place New York 200 Vesey St at West Street, Financial District


Frida Giannini Is Leaving Gucci


Well, from the outside, at least, this is somewhat unexpected news.
Gucci creative director Frida Giannini is leaving the celebrated Italian brand after she shows the label's Fall 2015 collections. She will be accompanied in her departure by Gucci's CEO Patrizio di Marco who is also her partner in life and with whom she shares a daughter.

Giannini can be credited with stabilizing the Gucci brand after the departure of Tom Ford who was in great part responsible for revitalizing the formerly moribund label and catapulting it into fadhion's forefront during the 1990s. Originally tapped as the label's creative director for accessories, she was part of a triumvirate of designers along with Alesssandra Facchinetti for women's apparel and John Ray for men's who were meant to design for the brand. The scheme appeared to be created to send a message to Ford, who had become a superstar himself through his re-imagining of Gucci, that the brand was bigger than any single creative director working for it.
Well, the plan didn't work, and after a few collections of fragmented brand image, Giannini eventually assumed design control of all Gucci product lines and began to implement her direction including new store designs, forging her own relationships with celebrities and starring in The Director,  a documentary about her life and work that came out last year.

So now that she is well settled in and things seem to be running smoothly, why are she and di Marco up and leaving or being asked to move on? Fashion is cyclical, and while business is challenging in the burgeoning Chinese market at the moment, it is also up in key markets like the U.S. —still the world's largest luxury market. Gucci is certainly not experieincing the kind of decline that would cause the team to be fired, but flat performance may seem almost as bad to Gucci's less forgiving corporate owners, especially when smaller less fully expanded brands like Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent are growing at a faster rate. Giannini and di Marco are not talking about future plans, and probably won't until well after the Fall collections are shown, but their leaving as a team sends speculation that their futures may lie in their own venture. Despite possible dissatisfaction in them from an unforgiving employer, Gianini is now of a stature that would qualify her to start her own label if she so chooses.

The question they leave, aside from who will replace Giannini (diMarco's successor, Marco Bizzarri, chief executive of parent company Kering's luxury couture and leather goods division, has already been named), is can a designer still maintain a long term tenure with a luxury brand that he or she does not own or share a name with? Is Karl Lagerfeld, who has had a decades-long stint at Chanel and an even longer, concurrent one at Fendi, now the anomaly rather than the role model? Fashion's revolving door of designers seems to be spinning at an ever more rapid pace as seemingly solid partnerships like Nicolas Ghesquiere's at Balenciaga seem to dissolve ever more frequently with little advance notice. Is any designer secure at any brand if they don't own it themselves? The expected names of up-and-coming young designers are already being bandied about. Joseph Altuzarra is mentioned in WWD's coverage and already enjoys some backing from Kering. Another name speculators turn to is Riccardo Tisci, who has successfully revamped Givenchy and has been influential in both men's and women's fashion design as well as garnered a strong celebrity and retail following. He is about to unveil a new showplace for the brand on Madison Avenue as his profile has steadily been rising in recent years. Now that he has achieved critical and commercial success at Givenchy is he now ready to jump ship? Will Kering and Givenchy parent LVMH battle over Tisci's contract, re-igniting a longtime Pinault vs. Arnault rivalry between the two luxury conglomerates? Maybe Kering has its eyes focused on someone else entirely. It's worth noting that Gianini was an unknown designer when she assumed her big job only about ten years ago. Perhaps Gucci will find an in-house successor and avoid the kind of job jumping industry ripple effects that just happened when Peter Copping left Nina Ricci for Oscar de la Renta. After all, Gucci's track record seems to be in creating design stars rather than importing them from other brands. There's bound to be more coming from this story, so stay tuned.

Frida Giannini, Patrizio di Marco Leaving Gucci (WWD)

Vintage News:

Gucci Looks Back And Sets Prices

Guccicollector It's strangely slow starting this week over at The Shophound. Even the first Menswear shows for Fall 2010 are looking sedate and self referential. In the spirit of looking back, the story of the day concerns Gucci and Christie's who have joined forces to launch the Gucci Collector mini-site today. It's an unusual team-up that allows the luxury house to participate more closely in the valuation of its heritage, and We're sure the folks at Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are watching closely to see how things progress with this venture.
The subsection of Christie's website allows people who have been keeping or collecting vintage Gucci pieces to have them appraised by the auction house —and by vintage we really mean pre-Tom Ford or earlier, and are pretty confident that Christie's does too. They are also offering the possible opportunity of Gucci buying special pieces back for their own upcoming museum or Christie's including items in future vintage fashion sales. All they need are clear color images of the front and back of the item, and a close-up of the Gucci signature or mark as well as dimensions, materials and other details. A history of the item as well as any authenticating receipts or tags or other materials are also requested. Christie's promises a response within two to four weeks.
Mom's old purse might turn out to be a little gold mine after all.
• In other news, the folks at Refinery 29 has gotten their hands of the look books for Target's upcoming Jean Paul Gaultier and Zac Posen collections, but were then promptly asked to remove the images! As far as we can tell from what we briefly glimpsed, they both look a lot better than the disappointing Rodarte items we finally saw in person at Target in Brooklyn yesterday.
Alessandro Dell'Acqua is back in the game with a new, sportier label called No 21 launching at Milan's upcoming fashion week. Much like Roland Mouret, Joseph Abboud and many others, Dell'Acqua no longer owns the commercial rights to his own name, and has titled the line after his December birthday. The designer promises wearable everyday clothes.
• And, yes, you have heard correctly, Sarah Jessica Parker is now the President and Chief Creative Officer of Halston. It's more than the advisory position we had heard about, and yet with her previous fashion experience (remember Bitten?) and smart business sense, we think this could actually work. Marios Schwab, who has yet to début his first Halston collection, will remain in position, while Parker is initially expected to focus on the Halston Heritage line, which revives vintage designs from the label's archives. Somehow, we expect a warmer reception for this development than there was for Lindsay Lohan's infamous collaboration at Emanuel Ungaro, mainly because SJP is not an erratic party girl, but now the pressure is really on for Halston's owners to finally engineer a successful revival of the brand.
Speaking of Ungaro, WWD has a look at current designer Estrella Arch's pre-fall looks. The jury is still out on Archs, but conspicuously absent are sequined nipple pasties and any mention of La Lohan.

Weekend Washouts:

Is Gucci's Sneaker Pop-up A Bust?

As you can see from the picture above, Gucci was prepared with velvet ropes for the hordes of people that were expected to descend upon opening of the heavily promoted Gucci Icon-Temporary store in SoHo last weekend.
So where were they?
When we stopped by the Crosby street store last Saturday at around Noon, there was not a soul in the place, let alone anyone waiting outside, except for the properly decorous staff, smartly turned out in crisp white shirts. So what went wrong? Was it the weather? Though it was gloomy, there was hardly the kind of rain that would keep an enthusiastic shopper home on a Saturday. Perhaps confusion over the opening caused problems, as Gucci had earlier announced last Friday, not Saturday as the opening day. Was it location? While Crosby Street is just off the beaten path in SoHo, it's hardly so obscure that people wouldn't notice the big neon Gucci signs behind Bloomingdale's (though the Meatpacking District would have been a far better choice).
Maybe it's none of the above. Perhaps the folks at Gucci miscalculated when they thought that in 2009 they should be centering a costly promotion around sneakers that sell for for more than $500 (including some styles going for up to $1400)  —superDJ Mark Ronson's participation notwithstanding. While the Gucci Icon-Temporary shop was set up to attract collectors, it appears that the luxury brand has limited clout among sneaker folk. After all, sneakers are hardly their stock in trade. Limited edition loafers? That might have attracted some interest, and made rather a bit more sense for the brand. Maybe a couple of years ago, when mindless extravagance was the order of the day, they could have whipped up more excitement among shoppers, but it's a different world now —and apparently a different Gucci. The shop itself is a well executed, crisp white interior, like the inside of an expensive shoebox, and Mark Ronson's boat shoe/sneaker hybrid, designed in collaboration with Gucci creative director Frida Gianini, is an interesting design, but most of the other styles look like Nikes or Adidas that have had their logos replaces with Gucci flair and perhaps a touch of alligator here and there. Apparently this is not enough to get the same masses who will spend hours in line in front of A Bathing Ape for every new release.
Perhaps things will pick up over the next two weeks of the shop's appearance. Maybe Miami, the store's next scheduled stop, will be more receptive to the merchandise before the whole affair heads off to London and Tokyo and other international destinations. If the rest of the world seems to be as underwhelmed as New York, however, this might be a good opportunity for the folks at Gucci to ponder exactly what they think their label is supposed to stand for.
Gucci Icon-Temporary Crosby Street between Spring & Broome Streets, approximately through November 7th (?)

Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping: Only A Pair Of Shoes After All That?

06crit6502Since she was thoroughly entranced by Dolce & Gabbana's new boutique late last year, we were curious how Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson would react to the new palace that Gucci opened last month. She is somewhat less bewitched by the new store in today's Thursday Styles:

The new Fifth Avenue flagship seems architecturally inspired by Hyatt Regency atriums of the late 1970s: chocolate walls and carpets, smoky topaz glass, gray slabs of twinkling granite.

We are pretty sure that Hyatt Regency is not exactly what Gucci was going for with this store's design, and yet they still seem stuck on a kind of slick mid-'70s glitz that was epitomized by those hotel lobbies and their glass elevators. Then there's this paragraph, or should we say run-on sentence?

Gucci seems to realize that it owes much of its recent popularity to hip-hop’s enduring affection for the Gucciness of Gucci, which, arguably, isn’t affection for classic Gucci as signified, but affection for hip-hop’s kidnap and brainwash of Gucci, which has been successfully turned out, Patty Hearst-style, to represent that cultural revolution of dazzling urbanites. (Yes, Madame, as a matter of fact, we did shoejack these loafers straight off Gore Vidal; they have now been properly swerved.)

Huh? Gore Vidal? Patty Hearst?
We admit that we didn't quite see the hip-hop influence on Gucci that La Cintra ascertains. We wonder if that isn't based more on some of the customers she happened to encounter when she visited. We tend to think that the brand's maximum opulence overload (More alligator shoes! More ostrich bags!) is really aimed at the rapidly emerging wealth in newer markets like Russia and China for whom too much appears never to be enough, at least for now.
Upstairs, Cintra's claws retract when she meets the charming Adolfo and happily submits to her salesperson's expert fawning. Of course, knowing how things work behind the scenes, we can't help wondering if the staff hasn't been primed to expect a visit from Cintra Wilson the way waiters would be trained to spot restaurant critics. Sorry for the cynicism, but we have been on the other side, you know.
After what must have been an extensive session of trying on and modeling, Cintra emerges with... a pair of shoes! Time is money, and it's a hazard of working in retail that you will inevitable encounter the enthusiastic would-be client who appears to be setting you up for a big sale but ultimately buys little or nothing (and believe us, in a store like Gucci a $525 pair of shoes is among the most minor of sales, especially after all that trying-on). Perhaps Adolfo's fawning was not so expert after all, but she might not expect such a warm welcome on her next visit to Gucci, as La Cintra has revealed herself to be that most dreaded of customers, the try-on torturer.
Critical Shopper: Gucci - Part Hip-Hop, Part Haughty, All Decadent by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Gucci 725 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street, Midtown

Have You Heard? Gucci is Here.

Gucci threw a little party this week at the United Nations. Did you hear? Apparently, Someone who calls herself Madonna was there.
Yes, yes, yes. Who hasn't heard about the huge bash at the U.N. benefiting UNICEF and Raising Malawi? The real reason for the party, however, was to celebrate the opening of Gucci's new flagship boutique in Trump Tower in the space where Asprey once struggled. Of course, calling it a boutique is like calling Madonna a girl singer. This is the sort of huge, image defining store we have heard about being opened in Tokyo neighborhoods like the Ginza, but have yet to appear stateside...until now.
Guccihandbags Recession? You would never know that there was any current economic uncertainty by the enthusiastically buying customers filling the store early on a Friday afternoon. Are they all foreign customers taking advantage of favorable exchange rates? Who cares. A sale is a sale, and they are clearly being made there. This is no expensive loss-leader billboard. Lavish as it is, the store is designed with selling in mind, which is obvious from the moment of entry. The first floor is packed with handbags and other accessories with canvas logo styles front and center. The exclusive "Gucci ❤ N Y" bags designed for the opening are there Guccimens in abundance, and, sorry Gucci, they are even less appealing in person than they are in the pictures. They look like cheap copies of a designer bag except, unfortunately, they are the originals. There's plenty else to buy though. Sunglasses are displayed in abundance at key points throughout the entire store as are plenty of other more sumptuous bags in alligator, ostrich or just plain old leather.
GucciwomensWith its profusion of natural light, this store erases any trace of the Tom Ford era's moody, dark interior design at Gucci. It's still modern and sleek, but presented in bright polished brass and exotic woods. At the back is a grand marble stepped staircase enclosed with vertical bars of brass and Lucite. Step up and find an expansive menswear display including shoes and accessories. Wanna buy some rubber flip-flops for $300? Run, don't walk! The floor is a mix of open space with floor to ceiling windows in the front and smaller Gucciexterior rooms in the back for customers in need of a more intimate shopping experience. Up again brings us to the women's floor with a similarly arranged layout. Designer Frida Giannini's bright Resort and Spring collections hang from square racks suspended from the ceiling. Just beyond is a huge and busy section for women's shoes.
That's not all. Separated from the store on the street level is a more hushed but no less opulent environment for Gucci's growing precious jewelry line.
With Giorgio Armani's similarly immense megastore planned for a block away, the bar for designer flagship stores has been raised high.
Gucci Trump Tower 725 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street

Gucci ❤ NY Exclusively This March

Gucciny Gucci is ramping up the publicity machine for the opening of its immense new flagship at Trump Tower this March. Creative Director Frida Giannini has produced an exclusive accessory collection (pictured at left) called "Gucci ❤ NY" to celebrate the new store.
The good news is that proceeds from the special items will be donated to Playground Partners and Patrons of the Central Park Conservancy, which funds the care and maintenance of Central Park's playgrounds.
The bad news is...well just look at them.
While all true New Yorkers genuine do ❤ New York, virtually none of them feel the need to ever emblazon that sentiment on their expensive handbags, except in the most ironic 'Omigod can you believe I'm wearing something that says "I ❤ NY"?' kind of way. Giannini and her designers have created an uneasy design marriage between the classic Gucci logo handbag and a cheap tourist's t-shirt available at the same stand where you can buy a fake Gucci logo handbag. It must have sounded good at some point.
Thanks for the sentiment, Gucci.
Know that NY ❤ Gucci back, and let's hope that the tourists love these bags just as much.
In addition, the folks at Gucci will also be offering a special line of Gucci Fifth Avenue items with less logo but a special label inside indicating their exclusivity to the Fifth Avenue store.
Gucci ❤ NY (Fashion Week Daily)

Diesel Coming to Fifth Avenue

We won't have to look at an empty space at 54th and Fifth for long after Gucci moves to Trump Tower in March. The Italian luxury group, who owns the building, plans to lease at least part of the 33,000 square foot store to Diesel for its sixth New York store. While the popular denim giant already has a strong presence in Manhattan with three flagships plus a children's store and the Diesel Denim Gallery, they still are missing the kind of presence that only a prime spot on Fifth Avenue can provide...but not for long. So far, Diesel's plans for the space are unknown, but WWD reports that they are ready to unveil a Megastore concept in Milan early this year which conceivably could be replicated on Fifth Avenue.
Diesel Set for Fifth Avenue (WWD)

Gucci Validates Trump's Claim


We are the first one to admit we snickered more than a little when Donald Trump claimed the corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue as the "world's best" retail corner. It's a good corner, of course, but not nearly as good as the one down the block occupied by next door neighbor Tiffany, or the ones inhabited by Van Cleef & Arpels, Louis Vuitton and Bulgari that he clearly doesn't own. Well, damned if Gucci didn't come along and bolster his claim! The luxury juggernaut has swooped in and leased 46,000 square feet of said corner at 725 Fifth Avenue where it plans a New York flagship even more lavish than the one a couple of blocks down Fifth Avenue which it only recently spent two years renovating at enormous expense. Perhaps the brand wants to further distance itself from bitterly estranged former designer Tom Ford who used that store as a template for the company's retail design. What a way to gloat about how well they have been doing since he left.

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