UNIQLO Innovation Project's
Second Collection Arrives Today


While there will be no more installments of The Shophound's favorite +J Collection at UNIQLO, we can console ourselves as the latest delivery of the UNIQLO Innovation Project for Men and Women hits the chain's Fifth Avenue and 34th Street stores today. Amidst the publicity blitz of the big store openings last Fall, this new collaboration with superstylist Nicola Formichetti and Uniqlo's creative director Kashiwa Sato and design director Naoki Takizawa quietly sold out as its combination of sporty functionality and technical advances struck a chord with customers. The newest installment translates the concept to lighter weights and brighter colors for Spring, and there's more to come, so stay tuned.

UNIQLO (Official Site)


Carhartt Goes Upscale In SoHo

Everybody knows Carhartt. They are the unofficial designer of construction workers everywhere. The stuff wears like iron, some of it is even flameproof, and best of all it's cheap —which therefore makes it equally popular among young hipsters in that ironic/rugged Americana sort of way. Those who are used to picking up their canvas chinos and chore coats at Dave's Army & Navy, however, will be in for a surprise when they get a load of the new Carhartt store on Crosby Street that opened yesterday. There they will find slim-cut khakis, soft flannel shirts and jackets that have been trimmed down dramatically from the brand's traditional refrigerator-shaped fit along with prices that are double and triple what they are used to seeing.

This new store is the stateside debut of Carhartt's Work In Progress line. For a few years now, Carhartt has been selling a European-designed premium collection overseas that leverages the brand's appealing, durable reputation for a line meant for people not as likely to be waking up early to lay bricks or pour a concrete floor. Let's say it's a latent, but not unwelcome version of the Red Wing Boot/Wolverine 1000 Mile/Pendelton/Woolrich effect. It's the authentic workwear look people now want at a the luxurious quality level acceptable to the sort of person who knows what an authentic workwear look is. While prices are substantially higher than the traditional Carhartt line, they tend to fall in the men's contemporary range with jeans and shirts checking out at around $100-$125 for example, so it's not a total luxury takeover of the brand. There are gloves, belts and other accessories that also balance the label's rugged image with the level of refinement in suited to the premium line.

The new shop has a simple, brick wall/wooden shelf look that befits the brand's no-nonsense roots, jazzed up with a neon script Carhartt sign glowing on the wall. We would love to say that the staff at the new Carhartt shop were thrilled to see a customer come through their doors on their rainy first day open, but they seemed to be too busy congratulating each other to pay much attention to The Shophound poking around. What can we say? Considering that the shop is on a particularly sleepy stretch of Crosby Street, we are guessing that necessity will force them to better engage their customers, especially after having to repeatedly explain who they are to the inevitable misguided construction workers who find themselves there.

Carhartt Work In Progress Now open at 119 Crosby Street between Houston & Prince Streets, SoHo


J.Crew Plans A Men's Store
At Columbus Circle &
A Fashion Week Debut

Jcrew30Rock J.Crew is clearly on a mission to continue upgrading its New York City Stores and they aren't finished yet. The latest project includes plans for a new men's store in Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle set to open this fall. It's current two level unit on the second and third floors of the shopping complex has been one of the chain's smaller but busier locations, and now the company will take over a second floor space formerly occupied by Sisley and Benetton for its sixth men's store, the fourth in New York. The space is prominently located near Border's whatever takes over Border's with high visibility, and is said to be modeled after existing men's locations on Madison Avenue and in SoHo featuring suit and dress shirt departments and broad selections of third party brands (though we hope that, unlike those branches, it will still carry sale goods). The previous store will be given over fully to womens' and Crewcuts, the brand's children's line.

Having just unveiled major renovations at its flagship store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (pictured above left) this week and, a few months ago, on Lower Fifth Avenue, J.Crew can't seem to serve its New York City customers enough, and continues on its unlikely but successful strategy of trading up with more expensive and exclusive merchandise in a challenging economy. It's other big news this week is that the label will participate in New York Fashion Week for the first time this September with a presentation scheduled for the 14th at 9:30 AM at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. We don't know whether it will focus on Men's or Women's lines or both, but given the high esteem the industry has for J.Crew's creative team, it is guaranteed to be a prized ticket. We're putting in our request now.

J. Crew to Open Men's Store in Columbus Circle (WWD)


Levi's Launches A Capsule Collection
For City Cyclists

As New Yorkers continue to debate the value of all the new bike lanes that continue to pop up in the city, Levi's is launching a new denim collection aimed at those who have turned to the bicycle to get themselves where they need to go on a daily basis. Available in select Levi's and Urban Outfitters stores this month, the Commuter by Levi's 511 jeans and specially redesigned Trucker Jacket have been subtly infused with a plethora of features, both high and low tech, meant to improve performance, convenience, safety, mobility and protection for bike commuters without their having to turn to athletic performance gear. Senior vice president of Men's Merchandising and design, Erik Joule tells us,

“This product was born from innovation, classic American style and a personal passion for cycling – it’s about designing product for people who ride bikes, by people who ride bikes.  We knew that our jeans were already being worn by urban cyclists across the country, including our own designers.  We listened to what they wanted and created a product with performance traits for biking that also functions as daily street wear.”

Levi's designers took the brand's most popular men's skinny jean, the 511, and adapted it in both cropped and full-length versions. Why a skinny jean, you ask? Well, it's for cyclists who are usually skinny because they cycle everywhere. It's certainly making us think harder about getting a bike. Also, nobody needs baggy jeans flopping around when they are on a bike. Anyway, the jean has been reconceived with various cutting edge technologies that add stretch, of course, but also repel dirt and water and add resiliency. Special hygiene functions will protect against odors and that's shiny 3M Scotchlite you see in the picture above binding the seam edges for reflectivity and placed in strategic places. A raised back yoke will keep the waistline from falling under the equator while pedaling (no coin slots, please), and reinforced crotch gussets will protect that particular high-stress area. The Trucker Jacket has been adjusted in similar ways with extra pockets, accordion sleeves and other modifications engineered to make it more suitable for cycling. (The fine folks at Cool Hunting were lucky enough to test drive the line a couple of months ago, before it was officially announced. See more pictures HERE) With all those extra added features, the jeans are still retailing for only $78, and the jacket for $128.

To promote the line, Levi's and Urban Outfitters are teaming up to launch the “Get in the Saddle” Bike Shop Tour hitting major U.S. cities starting with New York this August. The mobile shop will include a bicycle tuning center, a custom commuter tailoring shop and that cycling necessity, a bicycle photo-booth. It winds up its journey in Portland, Oregon in late September, so if you aren't in New York, keep an eye out for it in a city near you.


Club Monaco To Enliven Its Men's Department With Third Party Brands.
Wonder Where They Got That Idea?

Clubmonacocolmubus Trendy contemporary chain Club Monaco has announced a partnership with influential blogger Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean to add heritage branded merchandise to the men's departments of several key store locations. While the company's women's lines are still offering popular interpretations of designer trends, it's men's apparel has not fared as well under Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.'s ownership, falling into a rut of preppy basics and monochromatic Thom Browne copying. Menswear has been removed entirely from the chain's two Upper West Side stores. Williams will be re-merchandising the men's shops in one Club Monaco location in Toronto as well as the flagship store on lower Fifth Avenue to include items from brands like Wolverine, Tanner Leather Goods and other independent, American resources. The stores' men's areas will be renovated to offer a less minimalistic setting, and the new effort will include a premium collection of exclusive, American made suits, shirts and ties.

It's a unique idea that nobody has tried before... oh, wait...someone's been doing this for a few years now already. The chain claims that they are not copying J.Crew's much admired program that has brought many third party brands into that company's stores, because Club Monaco is inspired by classic men's specialty stores... which is totally different, right?

Yeah, totally different. So they are blatantly copying J.Crew's strategy for which they can hardly be blamed considering how well it has worked not only for their competitor, but also for the vendors that have been featured. The good news is that you don't have to be totally 100% original to make a successful improvement, and Club Monaco needs it. With Williams, they are in good hands. For the past couple of years, he has made his annual Pop-Up Flea a lively collection of American Heritage labels ripe for revival, and if he can add even a fraction of that excitement to Club Monaco's men's line, then the chain should feel a welcome boost this Fall. The main question is, what took them so long?

Club Monaco Adds Heritage Brands to Mix (WWD)


Dickies Joins
The Luxe Workwear Brigade

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Add Dickies to the list of classic American brands who have boarded the premium bandwagon. The maker of durable work apparel for 88 years has announced a capsule collection to be launched in July called Dickies 1922. The line is named for the year the company was founded and will, as expected, be accompanied by an offbeat promotional campaign featuring New York musicians photographed wearing the clothes. The four piece collection will include two shirt and two pant styles based on archive pieces and will be made with the same quality and methods that the company would have used in the 1930s of completely American sourced materials in one of the label's Texas factories, according to WWD.

Dickies follows a host of companies who have launched more exclusive labels or repositioned themselves and managed to capture the attention of key retailers and bolster their own business including L.L.Bean, Levi's, Woolrich, Pendleton, Timberland, Land's End, Red Wing, Wolverine, Sperry and Filson among many others. As a maker of clothing like coveralls and painters' pants for construction work and other kinds of labor, Dickies may be the most plebian of these brands, which paradoxically makes it all the more appealing to an upscale customer hungry for authenticity in clothing. Dickies will score extra points for using domestic materials and production to replicate archival styles. It's this slightly twisted logic that will allow the company to charge $175 to $200 for the line while much of the rest of its products retails for under $50.

In a similar but unrelated effort, the company will be promoting its basic 874 work trousers as a fashion item. A mainstay of its product line, the pant has remained unchanged for decades, but Dickies will be adding new fabrics and updated fits in an effort to get it in front of a younger, hipper customer (in other words, getting it into Urban Outfitters).

Dickies Creates Vintage-Inspired Capsule Collection (WWD)
Dickies (Official Site)