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.
Well, you can't please everybody.
Since it was discovered that an Apple Store was opening on the corner of Madison Avenue and 74th Street, (pictured at right under construction) a group of neighborhood residents has been protesting that new establishment would destroy the genteel character of the neighborhood and create disruptive lines with the company's periodic product launches. Last week, 89-year-old Herbert Feinberg, a longtime neighborhood resident and the leader of this NIMBY protest, filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court to prevent the store's opening which is scheduled for this Saturday, June 13th. Court papers state, "Madison Avenue is one of the great New York City Streets ... (and local residents) are opposed to the congestion and commercialization of the neighborhood that the store will bring,” as the suit attempts to prosecute complaints about the upcoming store such as the "massive increase in pedestrian traffic" it is expected to bring. According to Feinberg, the neighborhood is only meant for small luxury boutiques and galleries. Despite the measurable drop in traffic since the Whitney Museum at Madison and 75th decamped for the Meatpacking District, The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is planning to make use of the building in the coming months, is expected to make up the shortfall with even larger crowds. The suit also refers to the over 400 signatures Mr. Feinberg has collected to block the store as the leader of group called "Saving the 74th Street Residential Neighborhood." Of course, it has been widely reported that merchants on Madison Avenue above 72nd Street are suffering from the drop in traffic since the Whitney's departure, and are actually hoping that the Apple Store will do exactly what Mr. Feinberg is predicting it will in bringing shoppers to the area.
According to the Daily News, Mr. Feinberg has taken it upon himself to personally file suit because the city officials responsible for such zoning issues had ignored his pleas to save the neighborhood from this retailing scourge, which would actually suggest that they are ignoring frivolous and unreasonable complaints, hopefully in favor of dealing with more pressing issues. Though The Shophound is not a legal expert, it is hard for us to imagine that any judge not dismissing this case outright , especially since Apple claims to have specifically conceived the store to be in keeping with the neighborhood's hours and character and no actual laws or zoning rules appear to have been violated. It doesn't seem like this will end well for Mr. Feinberg who is likely to have accomplished no more than confirming the stereotype of Upper East Siders as self centered snobs.
In today's Thursday Styles, our Mr. Critical Shopper, Jon Caramanica, is kinder than we might have expected to the resolutely preppy Vineyard Vines store that recently appeared on what he calls the "lower Upper East Side". It's a brand that offers not so much fashion, but a particular style that remains constant and generally included pink whales on a kelly green background in some form or another. "... it is a label that offers the veneer of dignity in undignified situations: the beach cookout, the college football tailgate, the frat rager, the 9:30 a.m. marketing meeting," he tells us as he proceeds to describe the allowing shirts in a colorful but just a little washed out color palette, toeing the preppy line of not wanting anything to look too new or fresh. The "five-alarm leisurewear" apparently takes classic northeastern summer/weekend wear and gives it just enough of a jolt to look fresh not to jump start the recently completed classic American trend, but to attract the eye of those who never really stopped dressing like that, but there really is no in-between with this stuff. You are either a patrician devotée like Walter Cronkite, Colin Powell or John Kerry whose testimonials hang on the shop's walls —which should give you some idea of the age of the target customer— or you avart your eyes when passing by. We can't say for sure that our shopper this week is truly one of the latter group, but we have read enough of his reviews by now to be pretty certain that he is not one of the former at heart.
Critical Shopper: Vineyard Vines Takes Leisurewear to a Colorful Dimension By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Vineyard Vines 1151 Third Avenue at 67th Street, Upper East Side
You have seen all of the slinky, see-through gowns and crazy headpieces from the Met Ball, but sometimes the actual exhibition that is being celebrated can get lost in all that partying. Not this year. While it is a challenge for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to keep topping itself with its blockbuster spring shows, this year Curator Andrew Bolton has pulled out all the stops with China: Through The Looking Glass, its collaboration with the Met's Department of Asian Art which opens this Friday. The Shophound got a preview on Monday, and we can't wait to go back to see it again. Since being announced last year, the show has undergone a title change (formerly Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film & Fashion) and expanded to 30,000 square feet including both the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries as well as the entire Chinese galleries on the museum's second floor. The whopping show, unprecedented for the Costume Institute, is about three times the size of the department's typical spring shows according to Bolton, and its expansiveness is justified by some of the most striking installations the museum has ever seen. The celebrated Chinese director Wong Kar Wai served as the show's creative director, and his input is felt in the mesmerizing, cinematic way the exhibition unfolds with a deliberately disorienting "Through The Looking Glass" sense of fantasy. Each section is punctuated with carefully selected film clips ranging from Cinema's first Asian screen goddess, Anna May Wong, who had to move to Europe to escape steroptyped roles in American movies, to Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, to clips from Mr. Wong's own classic films like The Grandmaster and those of his contemporaries like Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and Raise The Red Lantern to a jaw dropping clip from Vincente Minelli's 1946 Ziegfeld Follies featuring Fred Astaire in a Chinese inspired dance number that is only slightly less offensive than his famous blackface "Bojangles" tribute in Swing Time —but that's really what the show is about. It's not just the spectacular Chinese-inspired gowns and jewels that are the showpieces, but the ongoing interplay of Chinese aesthetic filtered through Western sensibilities that creates a fantasy of China that has been constructed by both sides equally. Rather than seeing a bastardization of pure Chinese culture, which has been a common point of view of politically correct scholars in recent decades, Bolton and his collaborators take the often highly commercialized fantasy vision of China as its own form of artistic expression that leaves room to discuss things that have rightly raised the hackles of many Chinese like Fred Astaire in truly dreadful "Oriental" makeup, or the controversy created when Yves Saint Laurent named his blockbuster perfume Opium, romanticizing not just addiction but the Opium Wars of the mid 19th Century.
Ultimately, it's doubtful that Saint Laurent's perfume got anyone addicted to narcotics, and the curators leave the abundance of dazzling images they present up to the viewers' own interpretations —and dazzling they are. In some ways, the show focuses on some of the usual suspects, devoting an entire room to Saint Laurent's lavish 1977 Chinese-inspired Haute Couture collection and filling the now darkened and spooky Astor Court with pieces from John Galliano's extravagant 2003 Haute Couture collection for Dior. There is plenty from those two, who may have the most pieces in the show along with famous looks from Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Valentino, Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren, and several pieces by Tom Ford YSL that paid homage to the '77 Haute Couture collection. Vivienne Tam's ironic Mao-printed dresses are also given prominent exposure (pictured in the gallery below), but the real discovery is Chinese designer Guo Pei whose gilded ballgown commands a room full of Buddha sculptures all by itself, and who has already been lifted to a new level of cultural significance by dressing Rhianna at the ball on Monday night.
Ultimately the exhibition is more than the sum of its parts. British designer Craig Green's black and white warrior outfits might not mean quite as much if they weren't placed in a breathtaking forest of perspex stalks meant to represent bamboo in a room devoted to Wuxia or "Martial Hero" films (pictured above). Over that past few years, the Costume Institute has tackled themes like Punk and Superheroes with mixed results that often seemed either forced or facile, but this time, they hit the right balance of breathtaking images with depth and history underneath for visitors to find. Plan your visit carefully, and prepare for some long lines. China: Through The Looking Glass has raised the bar again for the Costume Institute's annual blockbusters.
China: Through The Looking Glass starts Friday May 7 through August 16th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side
Now we can finally report about something that's going to open rather than close. The sign in the window of Donna Karan's former home at 819 Madison Avenue tells us that it is in the process of becoming the new home of Neapolitan luxury menswear label Isaia. As the sign says:
Stamm' purtann' 'o sole 'e Napule.
nun jate 'e pressa!
We are bringing you the sun of Naples.
Be patient please!
So far, little other information is available about the upcoming store other than it appears to be the label's first North American standalone boutique, so we should probably expect a showplace. Over the past decade or so, Isaia has grown its U.S. business substantially, and its little red coral logo can now be found in Barneys, Bergdorf's, Saks, Neiman Marcus and about 30 or so of the country's best specialty stores. Known for its impeccable hand tailored men's clothing and shirts, the new store will form a luxe menswear mini-district of sorts with Lanvin's and Bottega Veneta's men's shops as well as fellow Neapolitan Cesare Attolini all within a couple of blocks of each other. Sadly that other esteemed import from Naples, Luigi Borrelli has closed his shop at nearby 790 Madison, so fans will have to look elsewhere for those handmade shirts, but, for now Isaia and Attolini will have to represent southern Italy's renowned sartoria on Madison Avenue's most luxurious stretch.
The Thursday Styles has rung in the New Year with a new set of Critical Shoppers. Matthew Schneier's take on the new COS store in SoHo got lost in our Holiday Hiatus, but this week, our other newcomer, Molly Young, stops in at Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier's new Madison Avenue flagship and is immediately struck by ...Its cleanliness?
Well, it is true, the store is, indeed pleasantly austere. She cleverly assesses Maier's aesthetic "as if Bottega Veneta had teamed up with Ikea on a diffusion line", which is not far off the mark given Maier's sense of real, practical clothes for grown-ups with real bodies. Not everything item is a triumph, however. One cotton shirt tried on made our shopper look like "an old paper bag twisting in a subway-grate blast". Our shopper's discerning eye is no less pleased by the presence of Maier's very subtle palm tree emblem on his shoes and handbags, but the misses seem to be outweighed by the buttery leathers and the trend-transcending separates.
So far, on her first trip to the market, Ms. Young seems to have slid nicely into the Critical Shopper's seat. While she lacks the carnival-freak-crazy sensibility of Alex Kuczynski, she does show just a hint of the indispensable wit and skepticism that still makes us miss our #1 Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson, which is a promising sign. Let's see how she settles in.
Critical Shopper: At Tomas Maier, a Vision of the Closet as Toolbox By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Tomas Maier 956 Madison Avenue bet. 75th & 76th Streets, Upper East Side
Some brands are so confident in their rarefied appeal that they seem to operate under the radar, secure in their expectation that their savvy customers will find them. Goyard, the venerable French luggage and leathergoods brand is one of them. Earlier this year, some flamboyantly festooned plywood scaffolding went up at 20 East 63rd Street indicating that a Goyard boutique was on the way, but with little announcement as to exactly when it would open or how big it would be. In fact, it was only through Instagram that most of us discovered that the store was being built at all. Tucked away on the side street, it is easy to miss, even from heavily trafficked Madison Avenue around the corner, which is why we didn't notice that the store had opened a couple of weeks ago. Our friends at Racked finally realized that it had opened, and report that the discreet, two level store is very much the hushed, elegant luxury boutique one would expect, expanding the offerings from what is available at its in-store shops at Barneys and both Bergdorf's stores including more pet accessories and custom monogramming options —a must for true Goyard fans.
Goyard Quietly Debuted Its First NYC Store This Month (Racked)
Goyard 20 East 63rd Street, Upper East Side
The luxurious French cult brand Jitrois is looking to raise its profile this Spring with a new boutique on Madison Avenue just a stone's throw from fellow countryman and purveyor of expensive things Christian Louboutin. The sleek, 700 square foot shop at 959 Madison Avenue, formerly the independent boutique Shen New York, (pictured below) near 75th Street is expected to be renovated and redesigned in just a couple of months in the style of the label's other boutiques with dramatic lighting and undulating walls and fixtures designed by architect Christophe Pillet (see renderings above). The store is being opened by Texas-based technology entrepreneur and fashion fan Jodi Shelton who has partnered with industry veterans to manage the new venture. This will be the second U.S. store for Jitrois after one in Aspen, Colorado which is operated separately from the upcoming New York unit.
Known for sexy, figure hugging leather apparel often touched with extravagant embellishments, designer Jean-Claude Jitrois' label has been known for decades by a devoted but extremely exclusive clientele, probably a result of the four-to-five figure price tags typically found hanging on the items. The strength of the luxury market particularly in New York has encouraged the label, still privately owned by the designer, to seek out more store locations in major U.S. markets such as Miami and Las Vegas, so you can expect to see more of the Jitrois label around, but at those prices, most of us may be doing more looking than buying. Look for a projected opening in February.
To be perfectly honest, The Shophound doesn't need much of any kind of excuse to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the museum has been particularly generous in inviting us to preview its upcoming exhibits this month. This week's visit concerned Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection the small but remarkable exhibition of Imperial Indian jewels from the collection originally formed by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani of Quatar. The exhibition features a carefully curated selection of pieces from the Mughal period in the 17th Century to contemporary pieces. More than just a collection of brooches and necklaces, it is a fascinating look into the lavish ornamentation of Indian court life, where it was the men rather than the women who were festooned with gemstones including daggers and swords, turban ornaments, anklets, nose rings and basically any other possible vehicle for wearing jewels. There are items passed down through generations of emperors as well as newer pieces, but take it as an opportunity to Marvel over some of the mind boggling treasures that can be produced from vast, dynastic wealth from a bygone era. After all, where else are you going to see a headpiece made from enormous diamonds linked together with hand wrought golden bands decorated with huge ruby drops for good measure? (Have a look at a few of the pieces in the gallery above) Put it on your list of things to catch at the Met. This month we have already been treated to the Leonard A. Lauder collection of Cubist masterpieces, Death Becomes Her at the Costume Institute and now this lavish display of Imperial Indian splendor. Block out an afternoon and head up to the Met. It will be time well spent.
Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection through January 25th, 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side
In fashion and retailing right now, it seems like there is no megaphone loud enough to announce any designer's new store, collaboration line, runway collection, fragrance or whatever. That's what makes it so counterintuitively impressive that Tomas Maier quietly opened his first New York city boutique last week to little self generated fanfare at all. The new store replaces the DeLorenzo Gallery at 956 Madison Avenue, but retains its former occupant's distinctive metal gates and many other aspects of its original 1925 design. “I always liked this store,” Maier tells WWD. “For me, it was important to keep the integrity and the details — such as the grilles, the metalwork, the door handles, the architectural elements — and then I started to look at the concept around that.” How unlike the typical designer's inclination to gut and re-construct any potential retail space to drive home a unique, but endlessly replicated "brand image". The seemingly laid back attitude extends to the collections inside. Maier has achieved great success in forging a consistent fashion direction for Bottega Veneta after it was purchased by the then Gucci Group (now Kering) from its family owners in 2001, so The Shophound wasn't surprised to find equally well designed handbags and leather goods under his own label on the first floor when we stopped in over the weekend. The prices, however, may raise an eyebrow or two, but in a good way, with many bags priced well under the $1,000 price point that is so commonplace on Madison Avenue. Perhaps as the collection develops, we may see more lavish materials and embellishments, but for now, Maier is keeping things simple and saving the flash for his other gig. The same goes for the apparel collections upstairs, featuring well-cut basics and military-inspired sportswear for men, and sleek minimalist knits and leathers for women. Though the shapes seem simple, details are carefully considered, such as in the simple cashmere v-neck sweater which upon closer inspection reveals a completely seamless construction.
The recent appearance of Maier's own 17-year-old label on Madison Avenue, is partly due to an infusion of funding and support from Kering and represents a strengthening of the relationship between the designer and the company that owns his major employer. You will be seeing more Tomas Maier stores in major cities soon including a second New York unit set to open in April on Bleecker Street in the West Village (Where? The former Juicy Couture space? Or maybe in the recently closed Manatus Restaurant?). In the meantime, don't worry about Maier's relatively low-profile new store getting lost in the general fashion clamor. Placed within a few steps of the Whitney Museum (which is soon to be turned over to the Met) and a block from another building that is in the process of being turned into the city's latest Apple Store, Maier's new store is likely to get plenty of valuable foot traffic without having to scream too loudly.
Have a few more looks at the store in our slideshow below.