Donna Karan's Urban Zen Will Take Her Spot At Bergdorf Goodman

A current Urban Zen look.
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There's a silver lining for true blue Donna Karan customers who were caught by surprise with last year's announcement that the superstar designer's main collection would be folded in favor of a revamped DKNY collection designed by the guys behind the Public School brand. With Donna herself relinquishing creative responsibilities at her namesake label, would this be the end for her as a designer?
As it turns out, no. In at least one store, her side project will take center stage.
In a not terribly surprising development, the Donna Karan Collection shop on Bergdorf Goodman's sixth floor, currently in its last days of selling her final Resort collection, will be converted to an Urban Zen shop by the middle of next month. For those unfamiliar with the line, her website describes Urban Zen as ". . .  a philosophy of living by Donna Karan, touched and inspired by cultures and artisans from around the world. We give back by supporting the Urban Zen Foundation, which has a mission to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of Preservation of Cultures, Well-Being and Education."
Put more simply, it is also the name of three freestanding shops in New York City's Greenwich Village, Sag Harbor, New York, and Aspen, Colorado that Karan has operated for several years independently of the now LVMH-owned fashion empire that she founded in the 1980s. Now, the line will take over Karan's Bergdorf boutique in what should be a fairly seamless transition. So far as we know, this is the first time that Urban Zen has entered the wholesale business, likely because, in previous years, it would have been too great of a conflict with the former Donna Karan Collection. Karan's fans who are unfamiliar with the label will be comforted to find that the apparel offerings, limited though they may be, basically look like classic Donna Karan designs including draped jersey dresses, roomy cashmere sweaters and leather accent pieces as seen in the image above from the current offerings. Don't be surprised to see Urban Zen's home accessories and other items in the shops well. Given one of the designer's longtime pet peeves that has returned to the fashion conversation, you can also expect the merchandise to be sold in-season with winter clothes in the winter and summer clothes in the summer.
Donna Karan has always had a special relationship with Bergdorf Goodman. It was where she launched her own label, and her personal appearances at seasonal trunk shows were known to cause mob scenes that nearly gridlocked the entire floor.
Bergdorf's won;t be the only store left with a gap in its offerings. Saks Fifth Avenue also has a Donna Karan shop on the second floor that, as of last week, was still offering what was left of the final collection. While they might not be looking to add a new shop to the floor that will soon be converted into a grand beauty department as part of a top-to-bottom store renovation, the development at Bergdorf's suggest that we might see Urban Zen grow a bit more to fill the inevitable void left by the end of the original Donna Karan label with new Donna Karan-designed merchandise.

Urban Zen to Bergdorf Goodman (WWD)


Madewell To End The String Of Failed Restaurants In Florent's Old Home

Many longtime New York dwellers like The Shophound still can't fail to cringe while strolling down Gansevoort Street when we pass the sad empty space at no. 69 where the beloved diner deluxe Florent (pictured above) used to welcome customers almost 24 hours a day. After the neighborhood stalwart was unceremoniously booted from the space in 2008, a succession of restaurants has tried to make a go of it in the space, but none succeeded, perhaps as a bitter reminder of the bad karma that builds up when an ill-advised landlord whimsically decides to push out a thriving neighborhood mainstay.
Well, the space's time as a restaurant has come to an end as Madewell has announced the address as it's newest Manhattan location. Expected to open sometime in 2016, it is not yet known exactly how much the space will be transformed, though it seems unlikely that it will still need a kitchen. While the interior will likely be completely changed, it is not yet known if the original R&L Restaurant sign and diner-style exterior will remain or if it can be altered at all as part of the Gansevoort Historic District. In any event, the string of post-Florent failures has made the space known as a cursed space for restaurants. Perhaps a change of purpose and a burgeoning national chain will revive the building's fortunes.

Madewell Store Coming To Meatpacking District In 2016, Company Says (DNAinfo)


Meatpacking District Boutique Owen Forced To Close At Month's End

New York's ruthless real estate scene has claimed another widely admired store as WWD reports that OWEN, which only opened in 2012, is being forced to close at the end of July due to redevelopment of the Meatpacking District building that houses it. It turns out that the store's lease had run out, but the landlord allowed it run from month to month until plans were confirmed to demolish the entire building at 809 Washington Street and rebuild it. The entire block of 48 Gansevoort Street to 74 Gansevoort Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets is reportedly set for a historic restoration and renovation pending the usual approvals by the Department of Buildings, Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Well, at least Owen wasn't forced out by some exorbitant rent increase, but the store is being pushed out nonetheless.
Owner Phillip Salem promises that Owen will return. “I’m going to revamp and relaunch the store. This could be the blessing we need to take the store to the next level,” he tells WWD, and is looking for a new location somewhere downtown. Salem made a name for Owen by focusing on emerging independent designers like Cushnie et Ochs, Jonathan Simkhai, Olcay Gulsen, Tanya Taylor, A.L.C. and Suno to name a few and opened with a striking interior design that featured open paper lunch bags fastened to the walls and ceiling. Those bags will have to come down soon. "On the last day everybody can take a paper bag as a memory," he tells WWD. Hopefully they will reappear in a new space without having to wait for too long. While the boutique is on hiatus, Salem will keep the name alive with the Owen branded handbag line that he has been selling since 2014. In the meantime, Owen fans should be sure to visit the store before it is gone at the end of the month, and grab one of those paper bags for the memories.

Redevelopment in the Meatpacking District Sends Owen Packing (WWD)


Abercrombie & Fitch To Become
A Lot Less Like A Gay Bar

One of the reasons you are even reading this blog is because one of our early posts likened the Abercrombie & Fitch store on Fifth Avenue to a gay nightclcub. 
That one went viral and played for a while, and several years later, it still seems like an accurate assessment of the boilerplate Abercrombie aesthetic (if we do say so ourself). That's all going to change, finally. Bloomberg is reporting that since the chain's sales, and those of its sibling Hollister, have been dropping faster than American Idol's ratings, management has finally decided to turn down the blasting music, brighten the lights, open up the shutters on the windows and start experimenting with revolutionary ideas like window displays, larger size ranges and, for the first time since the chain was transformed in the 1990s, selling clothes in the color black. Even the noxious perfumes that are atomized throughout the stores are expected to be substantially reduced —though, sadly, not eliminated altogether.
Baby steps.

Why all the adjustment now? The chains' sales have dipped before, but there was no rush to respond to customer pressures in the past from Abercrombie. It turns out that the impending changes in the stores reflects a hard won victory in the boardroom for activist investors who were finally fed up with Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries' autocratic management style. Essentially, since he took control of the company, he has personally dictated nearly every detail of the stores' operations and merchandising. His likes captured the target market's attention at the beginning, but like any group of consumers, they eventually moved to other, newer, shinier things. Jeffries resisted any major changes in strategy, and shrugged off complaints that became high-profile public issues ranging from sizing to diversity in hiring, much to the concern of stockholders who saw their once unstoppable stock holdings decrease in value in the face of competition from the H&Ms and Forever 21s of the world. Finally, the board stripped Jeffries of his chairmanship and has forced him to name presidents for both chains as well as a new CEO for the company that is not himself. Jeffries was almost pushed out altogether until he negotiated a truce last month with the main activist investor, Engaged Capital LLC, resulting in his demotion and the naming of four independent members to the company's board.

What all of these boardroom battles have resulted in is what is expected to be a noticeably different atmosphere in Abercrombie and Hollister stores over the coming months. Do you like those beefcake pictures on the walls? Take a long look, because they are headed for the dumpster. Shoppers can expect to see smaller logos, a larger size range and generally freshened up product offerings in the coming seasons —and they will actually be able to see them since brighter lighting is a major part of the store makeover plan. All of these changes at Abercrombie and Hollister are long overdue, but we have to admit that we will miss the idea of having an analog of a gay discothèque in every mall in America. The question that remains is: Now that the stores' tired attributes are being jettisoned, will they be replaced with anything exciting enough that will bring those free-spending teens back through their doors?

Abercrombie Tones Down Nightclub Vibe to Win Back Teens By Lindsey Rupp (Bloomberg via The Cut)
What, No Drink Tickets?: Abercrombie & Fitch (5.12.2006)


Jil Sander Out At Jil Sander

JilSanderPeterLindberghIt's a surprise, but really not, because it has already happened twice before.
In a Groudhog Day-esque scenario, designer Jil Sander has once again left the company that bears her name,
For the third time.
"Personal reasons" have been cited as the reason for her departure.

We have heard this story before, of course. The Spring 2014 collection she showed last month, only her third after returning again in February 2012, will be her last under her namesake label. The next line will be designed by her current design team. Though it was a surprise that she returned to the brand at all, she was instrumental in stabilizing it after the acclaimed, previous creative director, Raf Simons left to join Christian Dior. Ms. Sander memorably left the label for the first time six months after selling 75% of the brand to Prada in 1999 among rumors of strong disagreements between the designer and her new bosses. She returned after a few poorly received seasons under creative director Milan Vukmirovic, and then, after successfully redirecting the company, departed once again in 2004 for eight years during which she memorably created a hugely popular, affordably priced collaboration collection with Uniqlo called +J. That line was abruptly discontinued shortly before it was announced she would return to the Jil Sander label early last year. While the label has released an appreciative statement regarding the designer's contributions, there is no immediate word on a successor. Ms. Sander will turn 70 next month, and it is possible that she may just be ready to retire. A notoriously private person who started the brand 46 years ago, it's not out of character that she would want to avoid the kind of splashy farewell that other iconic designers have favored in recent years.

Jil Sander Departing Namesake Brand (WWD)