More Than Goth On Madison Avenue Edition

29CRITICAL1-articleLarge-v2À 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


Fancy Feet Edition

17SHOPPER4-master180-v2Today's Thursday Styles brings us Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's visit to shoe guru Louis Leeman's new boutique on Madison Avenue. Before taking on Leeman's store, Caramanica takes the opportunity to assess the current craze for extremely expensive, highly embellished designer sneakers. The term sneaker is relative here, as none of these shoes are actually meant for real athletic activity, but then, most of the covetable instant sell-out Nikes that get customers to camp out on the sidewalk for days in advance will never see the floor of a basketball court either. Our Shopper is more amused than appalled, and he calls Leeman the love child of his Madison Avenue neighbors, combining the craftsmanship of John Lobb with the unbridled glitz of Giuseppe Zanotti.
Ultimately, this is what seems to flummox our shopper. We never really thought he would go on a spree there, but it turns out that, along with noticing some consistency problems, Caramanica finds that the Leemans he tries on are neither  flamboyant enough to be outrageous nor classic enough to be elegant.

Maybe it was the lighting — diffuse, soothing, slightly yellow — but in the mirror, they seemed almost dull

It turns out that on Madison Avenue, the middle of the road takes you nowhere.

Designer Louis Leeman Puts a Swagger in His Shoes By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Louis Leeman 793 Madison Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side


Givenchy's New Madison Avenue Boutique Is Busy With Shoppers While Its NYFW Debut Invites The Public In

It has taken nearly two years for the folks at Givenchy to transform the space at the corner of Madison Avenue and 65th Street into it's new flagship store (pictured above), and in that time, the space's former resident, Valentino has renovated a new multi-level store on Fifth Avenue as well as created a slightly smaller store on Madison, and Alexander McQueen has taken over the space next door which was also part of Valentino's boutique. 
Why it took Givenchy so long to get what is a sleek but not architecturally complex store open remains a mystery, but who can ever fully explain Manhattan construction delays? In the time since the store was announced, the Givenchy brand, which was just hitting its stride as a revived Haute Couture maison, has grown in stature almost exponentially. That is probably why on a muggy Monday afternoon on the last day of August, while most of the other stores in New York City were enduring the week-before-Labor-Day doldrums, the new Givenchy store was hopping with customers —and not "just looking" customers, but serious, buying customers.
Clearly, there is some pent-up demand for the Riccardo Tisci designed version of Givenchy that has been anticipating the arrival of the new boutique. The store is cleanly designed with a graphic black and white interior that sets of Tisci's often dark and graphic collections. Inspired by an art gallery (which is, frankly not a novel idea for a designer boutique in this day and age) the store's notable focal point is a group of high counters for accessories in the center of the store, neatly arrayed with handbags with their breathtaking prices noted beside them on the plank. The arrangement oddly recalls the original Helmut Lang boutique in SoHo which greeted visitors with similarly blocky displays, but these days, highlighting profit-making accessories is nothing novel. Apparel is relegated to the sides, and the men's line, another area of strong growth, is in the mezzanine upstairs in the back and set off by white glass-tiled walls.
The store is getting off to a strong start, and despite the fact that Barneys appears to carry about three times as much Givenchy merchandise a few blocks away, there remains a clear desire among some shoppers to buy in designers' own stores.
To celebrate the long awaited store, Tisci will take the unusual step of debuting the Spring 2016 Givenchy collection during New York Fashion Week on September 11th. While not unprecedented for a Parisian house to show in New York —Nicolas Ghesquière showed his Fall 2003 Balenciaga collection here to help promote the label's first U.S. boutique in Chelsea— it is a pretty rare occurrence that, this year, will help fill the void left by the unexpected departure of the Donna Karan Collection from the schedule. Creating even more excitement, the house announced today that it will distribute hundreds of tickets to the show to the public, another unusual move that is likely to set off just a touch of Wonka-like frenzy to get in as the date approaches. If it seems like Givenchy is hijacking New York Fashion Week, then you can feel confident that this is probably a one-time thing, but this season's fragmented Fashion Week can probably use the extra excitement as it tests out a new arrangement that spreads official shows between Moynihan Station in midtown and Skylight Clarkson Square in western SoHo.


Roland Mouret Is Already Moving To A Bigger Store On Madison Avenue

Though it has only been open for less than a year, WWD tells us that Roland Mouret's flagship store on Madison Avenue is ready to move to a new space nearby that is nearly four times the size. The new store, a 5,250 square foot 6-floor townhouse at 1006 Madison (pictured above) is said to better reflect the feeling of Mouret's London boutique with 20 foot ceilings and multiple levels to house the designers' expanding array of product offerings. Located a block or so north of his current store at no. 925, the new space will still be within the section of Madison Avenue that is under extra scrutiny lately as it includes the newly opened Apple Store as well as the Whitney Museum's recently vacated Breuer Building that will soon become a satellite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even more foot traffic is expected to be directed above 72nd Street. Other neighbors include Christian Louboutin, Missoni, and the Carlyle and Mark hotels, making the former home to the Peress Lingerie boutique something of a sleeper location waiting for a better use. There's no word on when the store will be ready to move, in fact, new os the lease comes not from Mouret but the owner of the building, Thor Equities. For the moment, expect Roland Mouret to stay right where it is for at least another season or two while its expansive new home undergoes what is expected to be some major renovations.

Roland Mouret Flagship to Quadruple in Size (WWD)


Elie Saab Will Wipe Away The Ghost Of Juicy Couture On Madison Avenue

The former Juicy Couture boutique at 860 Madison Avenue

See that old old Juicy Couture store above that never quite seemed to belong on Madison Avenue and 70th Street?
It's about to get a nice upgrade with real couture —no juice.
After sitting empty for quite a while in that unfortunate way that prime Manhattan real estate will do these days, The New York Post has announced that Beirut-based designer Elie Saab will be taking over the 4,000 square foot space for his first American boutique. The new store will put him just a few steps away from Prada, Céline, Tim Ford and Gucci just to name a few, so he really couldn't have asked for better company. The Post suggests that Saab is probably paying less than the $3.5 million asking rent for the store, but, really in Saab's world of over-the-top luxury couture, money has never been much of an object. There's no projected opening date mentioned, but we should all just sit back and wait for the glamor to materialize.

Elie Saab brings first store in the US to Madison Ave (NYPost)


Crate & Barrel Making An Early Exit From Madison Avenue

We smell a buyout.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Madison Avenue's Crate & Barrel flagship, the chain's first Manhattan store, will close on August 2nd, five years ahead of its lease expiration and about 20 years after its opening. The departure frees up 62,000 square feet of retail space over two floors in the building that is likely to be divided into smaller stores and rented at as much as five times the store's current rates. Crate & Barrel is something of a vestige from the Madison Avenue of the mid-1990s when its stores were more of a mix of retailers. Since then, the street has evolved into a pure luxury district, and while C&B is plenty upscale and presumably did good business there, it probably has a greater opportunity to grow further east or west in Manhattan where it can better catch the segments of its core customer base who are less likely to go to Madison Avenue to shop with them
Unfortunately, the chain does not have a replacement store lined up, and is not expected to open one in the near future, leaving its store at Broadway and Houston Streets as its sole Manhattan location (excluding the CB2 stores in SoHo and on the Upper East Side). "This was a difficult decision and we are grateful to our departing associates for their hard work and service," the company expressed in a statement. "We remain well positioned to serve the New York market through our SoHo store, as well as stores in the surrounding area and through our website."
While Crate & Barrel was astute to realize that by the time lease renewal would come around, its rent at 650 Madison would increase dramatically, it ostensibly has little to gain by closing the store early, as it is still well positioned to take advantage of Upper East Side customers and tourist business. One can only presume that its landlords made a very favorable offer to the store to encourage it to get out quickly so they could maximize  revenue from the building's retail space that much sooner. That would explain the store's abrupt closing without a replacement location in place.
Hopefully, Crate & Barrel will have a new location for the store soon. It could easily be supported on the Upper East or even West Side (or both) not to mention burgeoning Brooklyn. It would certainly help the store's 100 or so employees who will be out of a job come August.

Crate & Barrel to Close Manhattan Flagship Store (Wall Street Journal)


Kent And Curwen Shutters On Madison

What was supposed to be a grand relaunch and repositioning of a British heritage brand seems to have quietly fizzled as Kent and Curwen has just closed the flagship boutique it opened at 816 Madison Avenue just last year. Obscured by some unceremonious scaffolding when it opened, it was easy to understand why shoppers might have missed the store that was meant to launch the brand into the U.S. menswear market with creative director Simon Spurr newly installed to update the brand, but now, fully visible, it seems to have closed a couple of weeks ago. Spurr's collections have attracted good press and are currently hanging in Bloomingdales's and Saks Fifth Avenue for the Spring 2015 season as a worthy sequel to his own label from which he had previously separated. Exactly what is happening with the brand for the future seems to be unclear to the casual observer. Though there are still Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for the brand updated as recently as mid-May, the label's own website has vanished and now redirects to its parent company Trinity, part of apparel giant Li & Fung, which also owns venerable menswear brands like Cerruti 1881 and Gieves & Hawkes among others. Though there seems to be no evidence of a Fall 2015 collection to be found online except for a brief video interview with Spurr released by Forbes Magazine a couple of weeks ago, Kent and Curwen is still listed as a participant in the upcoming New York Men's Fashion Week for Spring 2016 set for July, so we aren't quite sure what the plan is for this brand. It seems obvious that a spacious boutique on the most expensive stretches of Madison Avenue was perhaps overkill for a little known English label, so maybe a move to a less rarefied spot downtown is in order? Time will tell, but as Spurr has engineered an appealingly stylish update of the brand for a younger, hipper market, it would be a shame to see it sputter out before it has really had a chance to catch on.


Madison Avenue Malaise Edition

14CRITICAL4-articleLargeIn Today's Thursday Styles, our Critical Shopper menswear specialist Jon Caramanica expresses his disappointment with Joseph Abboud's first New York boutique on the corner of 49th Street and Madison Avenue. Essentially, he has pegged Abboud as a purveyor of the tastefully bland, contrasted with our shopper's continuing affection for what sounds like a typically flashy V2 Versace Classic suit from the late '90s purchased post-college in service of indeterminate career goals.
This is a vaguely Kaczynski-esque reminiscence with tenuous relevance, but it does suggest that our shopper does not remember that there was a time when Joseph Abboud was America's hottest new menswear designer, a GQ favorite with an in-store shop in Bergdorf Goodman's men's department (in both the original version and in the new Men's Store). At that moment, he was on the forefront of cross-pollinating American classic style with Italian sprezzatura before most men had even attempted to pronounce the name Ermenegildo Zegna, and labels like Isaia and Kiton were yet to be discovered. Eventually a partnership with Italian mega-manufacturer Gruppo GFT sent Abboud, aesthetically, into a pit of homogenized Euro-style from which his brand never really recovered, bringing him to the innocuous grays, taupes and earth tones that you still see in his new store. This is what our shopper Mr. Caramanica is judging him on when he says, "On the left wall are racks and racks of suits ($795, mostly). They are handsome, a little stiff, not risking imagination of any sort."
Having been separated from his own brand by the kind of corporate machinations that bedevil so many designers these days, The Shophound was hoping that Abboud's reunion with his label and the opening of his first New York store —under the unlikely auspices of Men's Wearhouse— would have sparked some kind of creative resurgence, but it turns out he has simply picked up where he left off with pleasant but predictable upscale clothing. While Abboud is pushing the suits, it's ultimately the sportswear that catches our Shopper's attention, when he says, "much of what was in the rest of the store was surprisingly warm." You won't go too far wrong at Joseph Abboud. It seems to be a safe place for men who can't be trusted to pull together a new outfit without steady guidance, but apparently, it will never offer the thrill of an off-price suit from a Versace diffusion line.

Critical Shopper: Joseph Abboud Provides a Guiding Hand for the Suit Averse By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Joseph Abboud 424 Madison Avenue at 49th Street, Midtown


Exalted Luxury Edition

09CRIT3-blog427The Shophound is old enough to remember the days when an Hermès Kelly Bag, once the ultimate statement of taste and luxury, cost just somewhere north of $3,000, which was considered an exorbitant sum of money for a handbag. Back then, even the expensive ones rarely cracked the four figure ceiling, but those days are long gone. Now a basic Kelly is nearly $10,000, but it is no longer the exclusive statement it once was. It is an icon that announces itself. In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young explores two of the more recherché shops that are vying for customers looking for a more discreet expression of status by way of leathergoods.
First up is Goyard, which made the decision a few years ago to raise its profile with in-store shops at Barneys and Bergdorf's that unleashed a slew of widely copied tote bags in Manhattan. So, Goyard is not so much a best-kept secret anymore thanks to its signature geometric-patterned canvas that serves as pricier status alternative to the Louis Vuitton monogram without the crass display of someone else's initials. Once at the lavish new store, where the tote bags are pushed to the sidelines in favor of more elaborate items, our shopper discovers the $675 cat collar, and the $21,290 backgammon set, all customizable and ready for your own monogram. The luxury seems to be less in the products themselves, which are certainly extravagant, but in the way the customers are treated.

Service at Goyard is attentive. A salesclerk stays a cool 48 inches from your side, hands clasped, in case you’d like to see an item that is locked in a case. If you retrieve your phone to send a text, this salesclerk will politely look away, for privacy. When you point out the beauty of this or that item, the salesclerk will say, “Thank you,” a quaint little distinction that sums up the brand’s old-fashioned grace.

Then it's on to Valextra, a formerly little known Italian brand devoid of signature patterns and details save for good design for which you will pay a premium. After flirtations with Bergdorf's and Saks, it is now ensconced at a prominent counter at Barneys and, more recently, its own Madison Avenue boutique which is distinguished by a staff well versed in the understated selling skills needed to move those $1,440 iPad cases.

When I expressed mild interest in a bag, a saleswoman wrote all the information down on a card (price, color, name) and slipped it into my hand, just in case.

That's how it is done where shoppers are looking for more than a status billboard to hang from their wrists.

Critical Shopper: At Goyard and Valextra, Leather Goods That Are Durable, Versatile — and Invisible By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Goyard 20 East 63rd Street between Fifth & Madison Avenues
833 Madison Avenue between 69th & 70th Streets, Upper East Side


Reed Krakoff Suspends Operations And Plans Madison Avenue Closure To Reposition Label

Five years ago designer Reed Krakoff launched his own label in the most lavish way possible with an opulent Madison Avenue boutique and a few others around the world. It was an ambitious kickoff for the designer looking to migrate from the contemporary world, where he had turned Coach into a big-volume department store mainstay, to the more exalted and exclusive designer world, and it was not without its glitches. Critics gave his first runway shows lukewarm responses, and then Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson pulled no punches in her assessment of his store and collection in The New York Times. Deep pocketed backing came from his bosses at Coach, and after a couple of years, Krakoff seemed to settle in more comfortably with in-store shops in stores like Saks, celebrities supporting him on the red carpet and a second New York boutique in SoHo that opened last Fall. Things seemed to be looking up, but now Krakoff is no longer enjoying the backing of his former employer. Several weeks ago, he announced that he would not show ready-to-wear at New York Fashion Week because he was planning on transitioning his designer level accessory collection to the "Affordable Luxury" category, an oxymoronic moniker he actually coined to describe his collections for Coach which is having its own challenges at the moment as well. Retreating back to his commercial comfort zone (at least commercially if not aesthetically) seemed to be a smart move that signaled an end to his attempt to launch a fully formed luxury brand, but yesterday Krakoff announced that he would suspend operations entirely as he repositions his brand and gets his company back on track. To that end, Krakoff will shutter all of his stores including Madison Avenue (pictured above) except for the new SoHo location and the Woodbury Commons outlet. His e-commerce site will remain operational as well. WWD reports that there is still enough merchandise in the company to support the two remaining stores, but the goal at the moment is to find a new investor to invest in the company while it plans new, less expensive lines. So Krakoff is down, but not out just yet. Other designers have come back from worse, and he is smart enough that he is likely to come out just fine, but he may serve as a cautionary example of how not to launch a luxury brand.

Reed Krakoff to Suspend Operations (WWD)