Where Will Gant Move Its Fifth Avenue Flagship As Blancpain Moves In?

Without being too cynical, it now seems inevitable that heritage sportswear brand Gant would have had to move its Fifth Avenue flagship store at some point. The 2,500 square foot store on three levels has provided a fairly lavish showcase for the brand that has grown significantly over the past few years thanks to its younger Gant Rugger line and Gant by Michael Bastian collaboration label, but, as Fifth Avenue rents on the prized stretch between 48th and 58th Streets have soared as high as $3,000 per square foot, the Olympic Tower store nestled between Versace and H.Stern has obviously become just a bit too rich for the still evolving sportswear brand. Not surprisingly, Blancpain, the celebrated Swiss luxury watchmaker is taking over the space which Gant exited at the end of last month. Lingering window signs direct customers to the smaller Gant Rugger shops in NoLiTa, Greenwich Village, Williamsburg and Cobble Hill and promise that the flagship store is relocating, but where exactly?.

For the moment, the brand is without a single store that collects the Rugger, Bastian and main Gant collections for men and women under one roof. The company is undergoing a bit of a transition this year as the final Gant by Michael Bastian collection will ship for Fall 2014, and Rugger designer Christopher Bastin has taken over creative responsibilities for the entire Gant brand. This should mean fewer logos and a more stylish point of view for the formerly staid main collection which is finally being wholesaled to American retailers like Nordstrom this year. It seems unlikely that a suitable space will present itself on Fifth Avenue in pricey midtown, so where might Gant's new flagship land? It seems like downtown might be the direction to look in. SoHo will have a similar appeal to tourists, or perhaps the brand will venture to the Meatpacking District which is transitioning from high end designer stores to more broadly based retailers. The Flatiron district has its appeal as well, and with Banana Republic relinquishing two sizable stores there to consolidate in a former Barnes & Noble space, for example, there might be some choices in that neighborhood that could keep Gant on Fifth Avenue, just in a different section. Hopefully, there will be an announcement soon, so stay tuned.



Cartier Spurs A Battle
Between Chanel And Tourneau

You would think that with all the luxury business in New York City, that there would be room enough for all the illustrious brands in a flagship-sized watch store, but it turns out that some brands have more clout than others, and they will wield it when it suits them. Chanel is suing the city's largest watch seller, Tourneau over a breach of contract regarding an aborted Chanel watch boutique originally installed in Tourneau's multi-level "Time Machine" flagship store on East 57th Street. According to Chanel's suit, when Cartier officials, including its CEO Stanislas Chauveau De Quercize, visited the Tourneau store earlier this year they essentially pointed to Chanel's new in-store watch boutique and said "Either that goes or we do".

In a store like Bergdorf Goodman or Saks Fifth Avenue, a vendor like Chanel might have a certain amount of authority to make demands by virtue of the huge amount of business it generates, but in the luxury watch world, things are different. Chanel's popular and widely copied white ceramic sports watches are mere niche players compared to the giants like Rolex, Omega, Patek Phillipe and, most prominently Cartier. The folks at Tourneau apparently weighed their options and decided that whatever trouble might arise with Chanel couldn't possibly be as bad as losing the Cartier business. Now, Chanel, which no longer does business with Tourneau, is suing for $15 million, and its former boutique is reportedly serving as a Christmas tree display area. Business with Cartier is, presumably, continuing as usual now that the offending brand has been removed, but what could this mean for stores like Saks or Bergdorf's which have multiple agreements with competing luxury labels with in-store shops throughout their stores? Will Dior be able to insist that a new Balenciaga shop be banished from its floor? Will Saint Laurent insist that Céline be moved elsewhere, or even out the door? While Tourneau's little watch battle may seem relatively innocuous, the ramifications might have a rippling effect throughout multi-brand luxury stores.

Chanel Sues Watch Retailer Tourneau in Contract Dispute By Chris Dolmetsch (Bloomberg)


Knowing S#!? From Shinola Edition

22zCRITICAL1-articleLargeWell, we couldn't resist the headline. In fairness, it is fitting, because in analyzing the unlikely reinvention of shoe-polish brand Shinola in today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica finds surprising parallels with the company's Detroit-centric focus and the kind of global "Fair Trade" businesses that have emerged over the past decade or so supporting developing countries.

Buying something made in Detroit, in this calculus, is not much different than buying a fair trade Andean sweater. You’re buying a small piece of the revival of a great American manufacturing city gone to seed. Or at least, you’re buying into the liberal idea of what supporting a distressed economy means.

In a particularly merciless mood this week, Caramanica pulls no punches in evaluating the goods available. The bicycles are handsome but stunningly expensive. The watches are attractive, but reminiscent of styles from Fossil, a brand not coincidentally owned by the same man behind Shinola's revival. There is also little charity for him as Caramanica calls him "a midprice watch mogul looking to go luxury under the cover of charitable business practices." Well, I suppose one could be called worse.

Critical Shopper: The Next Branding of Detroit By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Shinola 177 Franklin Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets, TriBeCa
Brand New Vintage: On The New Shinola Store And The Allure Of Faux Nostalgia


Girard-Perregaux Launches A New Watchmaking Generation

GirardPerregauxGrandCentralClick all images for a larger view in a new window

For the second time in as many weeks, The Shophund found ourself at the unlikely location of Grand Central Terminal for an GP-1event. This time, the folks at Girard-Perregaux lured us to Cipriani Dolci on the West Balcony to launch The New Face of Tradition, Eight Young Watchmakers and the Art of Making Time, a print and online journal highlighting the young watchmakers who construct the coveted brand's precious timepieces by hand.

GP-2Actually, it doesn't take too much to get us out to look at gorgeous watches, especially when waiters are regularly serving up tasty snacks. In fact, it all felt a bit decadent to swill Bellinis and munch on lamb chops while we perused the latest, ingeniously crafted and designed Girard-Perregaux watches (above left) as well as current stock and an extraordinary collection of vintage pieces that date back to the early 19th century (at right) —but not so decadent that we felt we had to tear ourself away.

Later we got a chance to meet one of the watchmakers himself and observe one of the brand's famous movements being assembled. We were even allowed to put in a cog ourself, and we can report that when they call them grandes complications, they aren't kidding.

It was an extra-special treat for any watch enthusiast, and there was something oddly fitting about having a watch-related event in a train station that runs on a strict timetable. The terminal's legendary architecture didn't hurt either. You can find out more about Girard-Perregaux's young watchmakers HERE or visit the company's Madison Avenue boutique

Girard-Perregaux 701 Madison Avenue between 62nd & 63rd Streets, Upper East Side


Two Big Watch Brands Exit SoHo
As Victorinox & Swatch Shutter

A walk through SoHo last Saturday may have been ill advised —as if we needed to be reminded that slack-jawed tourists walk even slower in the Summer heat— but we noticed that two prominent stores have fled the scene. The Swatch store (below), a longtime resident at the corner of West Broadway and Prince Street has packed up its plastic watches and moved on. We won't miss it, exactly. In fact, we don't think The Shophound had ever even been inside that particular store. We are more interested in what will happen to the space now that it is available. Will it go to a brand with some excitement that could add some luster to West Broadway's odd mix of famous designer brands, a few lingering galleries and some not quite A-list boutiques? SoHo has started attracting major designers again, but names like Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent have all opted for the neighborhood's more desirable side streets rather than what is supposed to be its main drag.

The other departure is somewhat more disappointing. We always liked the Victorinox store (above) if not for its always reliable watches, sturdy luggage and travel accessories, then at least for its complete selection of Swiss Army knives, a tool we have always found to be endlessly useful. Unfortunately, the brand's apparel line has never made quite the impact it was meant to, but we're hoping the gadgety brand finds itself a new home somewhere.

The fine folks at Victorinox have contacted us to let us know that while their Prince Street store is currently closed, it is relocating to 114 Wooster Street and set to re-open in November. Their lease was up. We'll have to go a few months without those pocketknives, luggage and watches, but they will be very much back in business just in time for Holiday shopping.

As for Swatch, as far as we know, they're still out for good.



Tourneau Takes A Tip From Apple For Its New Concept Store

You might wonder why a store like Tourneau would feel the need to open a new concept store only four blocks from its huge "Time Machine" on East 57th Street. After all, that three level watch extravaganza would appear to sell every watch brand on the planet, but the new store actually replaces a long standing unit that used to be at the other end of the block of Madison Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets. While the "Time Machine" serves as an all-encompassing flagship meant just as much for browsing as for buying, this satellite has always catered to serious and, as far as we can tell, mostly male* watch buyers. The focus at this store is clearly on higher end brands and their connoisseur customers, but what is really new about the store is its design by San Francisco based architectural firm 8 Inc., who also happen to be reponsible for designing Apple's stores.

8 and Tourneau have jettisoned the traditional watch and jewelry store set-up of long counters snaking around the store's perimeter in favor of a grid of glass-topped tables containing a dizzying array watches. The new arrangement allows customers to walk all the way around what used to be counters, and not incidentally, seems to give the store an opportunity to show even more of its merchandise in less space. Though the design scheme is different, the concept is not unlike an Apple store, where floor models are displayed on tables for customers to test without having to ask a staff member. At this new Tourneau, sales staff can pull trays and other supplies from underneath the tables, and when the store's website is revamped this fall, they will be able to create a "digital tray" off your favorite watches to consider that can be emailed to you along with links for product information. Conversely, customers will be able to go online in advance of a visit to the store and choose particular watches that they want to see which will be ready for them upon their arrival.

While the store is designed for maximum sales potential, when The Shophound visited recently, the staff was friendly and helpful enough to take a look at a vintage watch that we brought along from a not particularly well-known maker, and give us some advice on its value and special features. No charge.

Of course, all this is only half of what's new at the concept store. On the other side of a dividing wall is a flully fledged Rolex boutique —the city's first, as far as we can tell. While the format there is more traditional, it does a remarkable job of showing off more variation on the classic Rolex Oyster than you could ever have thought possible. For fans of the most iconic watch brand, that's really all you need.

The Times told us last weekend that people are wearing watches again (they stopped?), and —there's really no way to express this without a painfully obvious pun— Tourneau has shown excellent timing in discovering new ways to serve a newly energized customer.

Tourneau Concept Store/Rolex Boutique 510 Madison Avenue at 53rd Street, Midtown

*The Shophound is making this observation based on what appears to be an overwhelming number of men's watches on display at the store. While there are women's styles available as well, and many styles could be seen as appealing to both genders, the overall impression based on displays is that men's watches outnumber women's by a substantial margin at the store. Must be a guys and gadgets kind of thing, no?