Midtown Men's Malaise Edition

04CRITICAL2-blog427Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica returns to today's Thursday Styles with a surprisingly overdue visit to the new Topman section of the immense new Topshop flagship on Fifth Avenue. At first, it seems like our shopper is suffering from a bout of Menswear Myopia as he calls the fast-fashion giant a paragon of coming in second. We aren't quite sure what this is supposed to mean. It it second-best, or just the second of Topshop's New York flagships? At any rate, he seems to be predisposed to disdain the whole concept of affordable trend driven fashion retail. "As with most fast-fashion enterprises, Topman is essentially an exercise in parsing out what’s copyrightable and what’s up for grabs," he writes, but we all know that fast-fashion has its place. We learned it from Anne Hathaway's dumpy "cerulean" sweater in The Devil Wears Prada. Will Topman's knock-offs ever live up to the originals? No, but we need them to facilitate fashion's trickle-down effect. What our shopper initially seems unable to appreciate is that outside the #menswear bubble, Topman's approximations of more costly designer wear is not the second but the first choice for so many young men without access to the sample sales, flash sales and even store clearance sales that allow so many of us her in New York to put together an outfit whose retail tally would easily top a month's rent, but in reality only cost a fraction of it. You won't be so impressed by Topman if you are steeped in the original Raf and Dries and Hedi that they are copying, or if you are obsessive about which Japanese factory milled the bulletproof denim in the jeans you are trying to break in. And yet, our shopper starts to give in, noticing that some of this cheap stuff isn't so bad after all, winding up with what sounds like a very nice purchase for himself, 

Take the burgundy suede bomber ($250), which I tried on and virtually wore out of the store. It’s from the Topman Ltd. Collection, and was a totally passable version of something, say, Officine Generale would make.

Well, there you go, spend a little time down in those Topman basements, and thinkg start to look better than you thought they would.

Critical Shopper: opman Wins Big at Second-Place Fashion By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Topman 608 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street, Midtown


The Line To Get Into Topshop Fifth Ave Stretches Halfway To Sixth Ave


One might think that since Manhattan has had a Topshop in SoHo for a few years now that the frenzy around the opening of the second store on Fifth Avenue at 49th Street (where Lacoste once hung its crocodile logo) would be more subdued, but no. It is not. To be fair, the store's original stateside debut did not have superstar model Cara Delevigne and actor Max Irons (son of Jeremy) there to greet the first shoppers. When the Shophound passed by earlier today around 12:30 PM, the line to get inside the store wrapped around the front and stretched halfway down 49th street to the corner of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Early birds appeared to TopshopBag5thAvhave some sort of gift bag in hand (at right) probably holding gift cards and special coupons and such. It won't be the only major retail craze in the neighborhood this week as the H&M on the next block will soon be hosting a crowd of its own when it debuts the Alexander Wang guest designer collection tomorrow, ut for the moment, the spotlight is on Topshop whose newest store was celebrated by none other than Beyoncé last night. The chanteuse had her own collection with rival H&M last year, but she has switched camps to develop an activewear line with Topshop chief Sir Phillip Greene. 

So, no we will not be visiting the store right away, but what is causing such a stir is Topshop's largest store worldwide, whose 33,000 square feet second only to the 90,000 square foot flagship in London. Her on Fifth Avenue, there are four floors that, according to WWD, are expected to generate about $80 million in sales, given its high profile, tourist heavy location.
So, no pressure or anything.

It is the middle of of a meeting place of sorts for the new international apparel chains situated between the city's oldest and newest H&M stores, on the same block as Aritzia and just a stone's throw from huge flagships for both Zara and Uniqlo. There's even old Grandpa GAP a few blocks up Fifth. Inside, shoppers will find about 135 items for men and women that are exclusive to the Fifth Avenue store and a huge 45-foot backlit graphic at the back of the store. Greene has been notoriously picky about locations, which explains the lag time between the SoHo store and this one, but the plan is to ramp up U.S. store openings  and to even bring distribution centers and web-order fulfillment to the U.S. to expedite deliveries. Expect to see more Topshops everywhere soon, but in the meantime, we will wait for the crowds to subside before we venture to the newest one.

Topshop Enters the Fifth Avenue Fray (WWD)


Topshop Heads To Midtown

Those Topshop fans out there who have been wondering when we would see more more of the British chain in New York will wait no longer. A second flagship is on the way, at the corner of 49th Street and Fifth Avenue. Five years after the first U.S. Topshop opened in SoHo, the upcoming store is part of a continued push to establish the chain Stateside that will include major new stores in San Diego, Houston, Atlanta and Washington DC this year. At 40,000 square feet, New York's next Topshop will be the world's second largest  after the mega-flagship in London's Oxford Circus. It is expected offer all the chain's collections including Topman and limited edition designer collaboration lines in a 1931 landmark space with a striking green marble wraparound façade that currently holds a Lacoste store (renderings pictured above and below). “It’s taken a couple of years, we’ve negotiated a few times, gone right to the altar — and then been jilted,” said Topshop owner Sir Philip Greene of the search to place the store. Situated close to Rockefeller Center and across the intersection fro Saks Fifth Avenue, it will also be a half a block away from what is projected to be one of the biggest H&M flagship stores worldwide opening later this year, so competition will be highly concentrated, but then so will foot traffic thanks to the hordes of tourists constantly streaming up and down Fifth Avenue on any given day. Given that it will be in a neighborhood traditionally known for luxury, Green promises that the store will emphasize the more fashion driven Topshop Unique runway line as well as increased personal shopping services, and even suggests that a collaboration with a young American designer —a first for the chain— may be in the works. Mark your calendars. The store is currently slated to open as the city's biggest Halloween treat on October 31st.

Topshop Signs Lease for Fifth Ave. Flagship (WWD)


Arcane Collaborations Alert:

Don't-Call-It-Biba For Topshop
To Launch Next Week

HulanickiTopshopAnimal We have been seeing posts in about a zillion blogs over the past few days previewing a "Biba for Topshop" collection by Barbara Hulanicki that will debut at the store on April 28th.
Well they're all half right.
Topshop is launching a collection by Hulanicki, but Biba has nothing to do with it.
The designer, who was the creative force behind the influential London store of the 1960's and '70s tells WWD that she specifically designed the line NOT to look like Biba, a company she co-founded, but left in the mid '70s.
The Biba trademark is now owned by a group that has no connection to Hulanicki (who now works mostly in interior design), and after a failed relaunch in recent years as a designer collection designed by Bella Freud, the brand is now again dormant, as far as we can tell.
If you plan to hit Topshop next week, don't look for a swinging sixties or decadent seventies collection. Aside from a pair of palazzo pants with a flowing tunic, the line looks charming but not especially retro at all, featuring prints made from Hulanicki's distinctive fashion sketches. You can get a preview here and here.
Of course, if you are a Hulanicki fan, (and you even know who she is or are old enough to remember Biba firsthand which would put you some where in your late forties.) you would know that she had a different t-shirt collection for Bebe (yes, a mere two vowels away) a few months ago that hit the market with little fanfare. There are pieces still available here.
Perhaps the folks at Bebe could use a little PR help from Topshop, no?
Hulanicki's New Topshop Gig (WWD Fashion Scoops)
Barbara Hulanicki for Topshop launching April 28th (Official Site)
Barbara Hulanicki for Bebe (Official Site)
Biba (Official Site)

Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping:

Rank Pulling, Line Shirking Edition

22critic.190.enlarge Even though she took her time getting around to it —getting there only minutes before it officially became old news— Cintra Wilson's review of Topshop is worth waiting for, though we dearly hope it is the last one we will see. In tomorrow's Thursday Styles, the Critical Shopper du jour has not come to any wildly unexpected conclusions about the British wonder-import, but her own special way of expressing them is, as usual, enormously entertaining.
Wisely, she manages to use her clout as a New York Times writer to cut the ridiculous fake line that apparently persists at the store's entrance. Readers may remember that The Shophound endured the indignity of the line on opening day, but, in our defense, we were being plied with sugary snacks and practically showered with gift cards and tote bags. It was totally worth it at the time, but presumably those perks are long gone. Once inside, La Cintra is a font of observation, most notably that she has discovered the epicenter of the '80s revival.

Everything looks so sarcastic and right-this-second trendy as to be planning for a near-immediate obsolescence. Despite my willingness to wait in the endless fitting-room line, I was unable to find one thing I really wanted to try on; I happen to know from experience that 1983 is unlikely to last forever.

So true. After all, it didn't last all that long the first time around. We can't help agreeing with her that the style revivalists in charge of such things don't always use the best judgment.

The problem with fashion going Back to the Future of 1983 is that for some reason, the recrudescence of trends from any year tends to embrace the unhip and the clownish. It’s not what the cool people wore in 1983, but the Urkels, the Screeches, the Tiffanys, the hapless wannabes. These are cuts, prints and colors that I never liked on anyone, ever, for the simple reason that they look goofy, infantile and unflattering.

And there's a trenchant point. A decade's style seems to be best remembered by its lowest common visual denominators. While there are certainly many who fondly remember the '80s as the elegant and innovative heyday of Geoffrey Beene, Perry Ellis, and Comme des Garçons, to most people it's all Dynasty, Debbie Gibson and Donna Mills' rainbow eyeshadow and poufed hair. It just depends on whether your reference point was, say, Charivari or Contempo Casuals.
As for Topshop, you'll have to read on for yourselves to find out if La Cintra discovered any little treasures for herself, though if you have come to know her as we have, it's not much of a guess.
Critical Shopper | Topshop Past the Bouncers: What a Feeling by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
TOPSHOP 478 Broadway between Broome & Grand Streets, SoHo

Topshop Aftermath:

Let The Backlash Begin

We have to admit that we are now experiencing Topshop fatigue.
Of course, we have ourselves partly to blame for this, but we suffer all the same.
And not alone, it turns out.
Our friends at RACKED have transcribed a particularly disgruntled IM conversation suggesting that not everyone is enthralled by Topshop's version of cheap chic. Essentially they found everything to be cheap and flashy looking. (Isn't that part of the point?)

12:11pm) RackedBot: What about the shoes?
(12:11pm) NonTopshopper: You have to be daft to buy a pair of those things. Across the board, it's amazing to me. And the tee shirts! "Holy shih tzu" Um, really?
(12:12pm) NonTopshopper: Topman is like if Sheboygan had a really hopping gay scene.

They also pointed us to industry rag MR Magazine's website where one reviewer was generally disgusted by the sportswear except when he wasn't (high marks for the tailored clothing.)

Now the sport shirts. Like the tailored clothing, they looked great. But many of the shirts felt crispy: they were 65 percent polyester. I’m not totally opposed to wearing polyester, but I am violently against paying cotton prices for it. One, a black button-down collared shirt with gray pinstripes sells for $50. When I looked at the tag to check the blend, a frightening message in red capital letters screamed: “KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.”

Everyone seems to be universally contemptuous of the line that continues to appear periodically in front of the store. Apparently, the store is never crowded inside, so the line has become some sort of device to force unwitting shoppers into creating a theatrical presentation that exaggerates the store's appeal.
So we'll say it: It's time to ditch the line until the store has actually reached capacity, and every New Yorker knows what a crowded store really looks like, so there's no fooling us.
There's no reason to inconvenience shoppers just for appearance's sake.
IM Rant: I Just Don't Get Topshop (RACKED)
This Line is a Sham (MR Magazine)

TOPSHOP Linewatch:

The Line is Back

Sure, it looked like the rain and lack of media frenzy had left Topshop quiet and placid today, but the line is back, so don't count on casually breezing in to check the place out just yet.
It'll probably get longer during the weekend. There was no evidence of gift card distribution, and we only saw a few tote bags on the shoulders of waiting customers, but you can still count on some free water.


It's Finally Here

So this TOPSHOP place opened today.
Maybe you heard of it.
OK Ha Ha.
At this point we were feeling some Topshop overload, as would anyone who has been following any of the fashion blogs. Perhaps we were simply annoyed that we weren't at any of the press previews yesterday, but we certainly couldn't ignore the opening event today after hyping it endlessly over the past year or so.
We arrived at the store by 10:30. We weren't about to get there at some ungodly hour just to see Kate Moss cut the ribbon and be the very first one in. We have seen Kate Moss a thousand times, and we figured that even if the line was long, the four level store should be able to accommodate even a huge crowd.
Topshop1 The line wrapped all the way around the block to the center of Crosby Street between Broome and Grand. Normally, The Shophound would have turned on our heels and cooled them for a few days until the novelty wore off, but nearly everyone in line was holding a "Everybody Loves Topshop" tote, so the possibility of free stuff lured us to invest some time in the event.
Also there was food.
Lots of it, in fact, and almost immediately after we got in line, a Topshop staffer came around offering heart shaped "jammie dodger" cookies to those waiting. We felt better already. It turned out that waiting in line offered a bonanza of swag A few minutes later, another staffer started handing out a truckload of tote bags -literally. They had pulled up a small truck full of bags, and were making sure that everyone had one, or two, or as many as they could carry.
Then some donut holes came around. These were courtesy of Madewell, Topshop's corner neighbor, who graciously extended a welcome to its new blockmate with special window displays. The folks at J.Crew were no doubt over the moon about the extra traffic the British import will bring to it's Madewell shop and the upcoming J.Crew men's store next door. The line provided a captive audience for all sorts of opportunistic marketing as a staffer from Delicatessen came around with menus, and a radio station offered t-shirts. Soon some Pinkberry came around which was roundly appreciated, and shortly thereafter, cheese biscuits from Topshop which, in the British spirit of the day, were more like cheese cookies as opposed to fluffy American biscuit. We managed to eat them all the same.
Topmangiftcard When another Topshop girl came around with a handheld device to check everyone's gift card balances, our natural response was, "Where's our gift card?", and as if on cue, another came around offering TOPMAN gift cards to guys only, which might have a value from $5 to $250. Of course, 99% of them were $5 gift cards which wasn't a problem, because by the time we had gotten to the door, we had been offered four of them. One Topshopper, smartly turned out in the official schoolboy jacket, skinny rolled pants and straw hat told us to say "EVR loves Topman" at the checkout for a free t-shirt (size mediums only).
Topshopmediacrowd At 11 AM sharp, the line started moving slowly but steadily, and when we turned the corner onto Broadway, security efficiently maneuvered the line through metal barricades and ziz-zag bank lines to the front door. There we saw Deborah Harry carrying a Vuitton/Sprouse Speedy bag ushered into a side entrance. By 11:50, we were in, and it turned out that the elaborate security limits worked beautifully in our favor, as they deliberately kept the store from becoming crowded with overexcited, manic customers like H&M at a designer collaboration launch. Inside there was plenty of room to shop leisurely and calmly, and lines for dressing rooms or checkout were small and easily manageable. In fact, it was a pleasure. The DJ schedule told us that The Rapture was spinning, and the ambiance was probably far more enjoyable than it will be on a Saturday afternoon in a few weeks after security has relaxed.
Basically, inside it's another big store, but it's more lively and stylish than H&M, with a much better fashion sense than Zara or Forever 21. There are already a gazillion reports about the upper women's floors, but our first destination was the Topman shop downstairs.

Continue reading "TOPSHOP Opens:

It's Finally Here " »

Opening Festivities:

TOPSHOP Begins It's
Low Key Celebrations

TOPSHOP already let us know that here would be no extravagant Grand Opening Bash on the eve of its American flagship's début. Instead, Sir Philip Green has been hosting smaller more intimate private gatherings to celebrate the store. They are so small, in fact, that so far only British Vogue seems to be covering them. "It's mostly people we know, it's more intimate, more personal. We don't want a thousand people here. I think this is a bit nicer," the Topshop chief tells the UK website.
Well, great Phil! You're having little parties for the models and celebrities who already know about the store. How useful.
Does the lack of stateside coverage of these events represent perhaps a tiny bit of resentment among the local press for  being shut out?
Just askin'. After all, we're sure our invitation was lost in the mail.
Topshop Takes New York (Vogue UK)

The Spree:

Topshop Preview and More


We're having a few light days here at The Shophound to prepare for Thursday's massive Topshop Opening. That's our excuse, anyway. If you can't wait (and who can?) WWD has the first look inside the store with lots of pictures. (WWD)
In other news:

Billy Reid is coming to Gilt Groupe this afternoon! Other sales happening in the next few days include Ali Ro, Kwiat, Rafé, Women's Sunglasses, Ted Baker Clothing and Watches, Twenty8Twelve, Anthony Nak and Chloé. For an invitation, click HERE now.
• We don't believe in cheap sunglasses, unless they are from Cheap Monday, but you have to go to  Alter in Brooklyn to get them. (Refinery 29 Pipeline)
British Vogue's relatively low-key EIC Alexandra Shulman discusses the future of magazines. (The Business Of Fashion)
• Still popular Project Runway Runner-Up Daniel Vosovic takes the quiz. (The Fashion Informer)
Sascha (Borat) Baron Cohen's Bruno movie about a zany Austrian fashion designer has been slapped with an NC-17 rating! Expect scandal. (TVGuide)
• A rare J.Mendel Sample Sale runs through Wednesday at The Hudson Hotel at 356 West 58 Street, 3rd Floor. (Shophound Inbox)