Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Best Shopping in Grey Box

You know those maps posted inside New York City cabs - on the back of the front seats? Have you ever noticed that amidst the colorful neighborhood coding for such favorites as the Upper West Side, Chelsea and the East Village lies a grey box situated in the middle of the east-20s? Well, this is where I live, and have lived since 1997. I belovedly call it "Grey Box." If you're from out-of-town and look at this map, you'll probably figure that it's some industrial wasteland - and back in the 90s that may have been somewhat accurate. Kidding. However, there are some shopping and eating spots that are more than notable. And definitely not grey. Here are some of the best:

Les Nanas de Gramercy - This small Parisian boutique caters to the ladies of Gramercy Park, but offers clothing, jewelry and accessories for all ages, shapes and sizes. All personally selected by the owner, Natalie, shoppers are guaranteed a wide selection of intriguing items. She visits Paris several times a year and literally shops for her customers and then ensures her staff are thoroughly familiar with the goods so that they can act as personal stylists. I have picked up some of the most stellar knitwear and skirts here. Things that are literally not sold anywhere else in town. They also now have a permanent 50-percent-(or more) off sale in the downstairs section. 70% on some off-season items if you pay cash!

Housing Works - This is one high-end thrift store that auctions the most interesting and valuable items in the City via magnificently styled windows including antique and designer furniture, apparel, shoes and art. Housing Works strives to ensure that homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and their families have adequate housing, food, social support, drug treatment, health care, and employment. They've raised millions for that cause through their thrift stores, of which there are several in NYC.

Ricky's - This beauty extravaganza just moved from the low 20s into the old Jennifer Convertible store. Anything you need in make up and hair, adult "toys" - they have it. Except they don't have as good a candy selection as they did in their former space. WHERE IS THE PEZ!?

Rodeo Bar & Grill - Frozen Margaritas. I would end my tale there, because these are the best and most lethal on all of the island formerly known as New Amsterdam, however they also dish out really good Tex-Mex food and free music until 2 a.m. And there's a daily happy hour with $5 margaritas and $3 draft beer (Monday -- Saturday 4p.m. - 8 p.m.; Sundays 6p.m. - 9 p.m.) So it's the perfect storm for a neighborhood haunt, a mere one block from my house. And yes, I am a snob too and it does kind of look like a Bennigan's. But trust me, it is not. Go.

Curry in a Hurry - In a hurry? Fancy a curry? Well here you go. Get enough food for two for less than $10, including a bit of salad and various sauces. I love this place so much they even gave me a free mug one Christmas. Drawback: You Will Get Fat.

Recent notable closings: Sacco - A shoe store I like that offers some unique jewelry and accessories. I think that the salesperson who worked here drove customers away. At least that was the case for me. Don't worry though, there are other locations still sprinkled around town. Rodeo apparel (or whatever it's called) - What was once a vacuum sales and repair shop, recently turned into a rockabilly country-and-western store connected to the Rodeo. I didn't get a chance to go in and now it looks like it is closed indefinitely. Remains to be seen...

Monday, April 28, 2008


So I went to no fewer than 5 stores this weekend looking for jeans (there's a story behind my search that I will disclose soon).
Maybe it's just the time of year, but it appeared all along 5th Avenue that there is next to no merchandise anywhere! And what is going on in Ann Taylor? It was like a color blind monster barfed in there. The work-appropriate apparel seemed all but gone.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

LeSportcac Sale This Week (April 24)

I don't know if you were like me, but back in the early 80s LeSportsac was IT. For all of you who follow this blog, you know I have an adversarial relationship with the almighty PURSE, but there was nothing quite like the turquoise SportSac I had back in 6th/7th grade. So! This leads me to news about a sale going on now at LeSportsac(s). I may have to check it out, for nostalgia's sake, if nothing else...

One-week sale at all LeSportsac boutiques and lesportsac.com, starting Thursday April 24th, 2008: LeSportsac Madison Avenue, 1065 Madison Avenue; LeSportsac SoHo, 176 Spring Street ; LeSportsac Beverly Center, 8500 Beverly Blvd., #750, Los Angeles

Spend $100 and receive 20% off your purchase
Spend $300 and receive 30% off your purchase

(Sale subject to product availability and applies to all merchandise. Promotion can not be combined with another promotion or discount. Maximum discount is 30%. )

Friday, April 25, 2008

Travelling on a Weak Dollar

I am taking a day off and presenting you with some travel tidbits from a contributing blogger. Heather Johnson is an industry critic, as well as a regular contributor on the subject of airline mile cards. Enjoy...

It’s time to stop blaming whomever is in charge of the economy and how the dollar pales in comparison to the Euro. Bottom line: people are still going to travel. If you’re used to staying in posh London for a jet-setting weekend, get geared up for a domestic flight to Chicago and get holed up in a Days Inn. Whatever you’re accustomed to is going to take a hit during these dog days of the weak dollar, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to have to become a hermit. Here are ways you can still go away on a tighter budget:

Hotel? No. B&B? Yes. You’ll save half on a night in a bed and breakfast than at a hotel, plus you’ll get a free meal and a cozier room. Yes, cozy often meaning tiny. But cozy nevertheless.

Skip the Hard Rock. If you’re in a foreign city, then expect them to speak their own language. If you’re searching for a place that advertises, “We Speak English,” then you’re asking to pay through the nose. They’re going to know you’re a tourist and they’ll make you pay like a tourist.

Travel during off-peak times. You only go to Paris in the summer? Tough luck. It’s time to start looking around for deals and major cities like Paris, London and Rome are fascinating at any time of the year, plus much cheaper destinations when you go off-season.

Trust the guidebook. If you’re eager to see the sights on your first day in Europe then save the potentially thousands on a guided tour and pick up a reputable guidebook. It will give you the same walking or driving tour that some local yahoo is looking to charge you tons for.

Hit up your friends and relatives. Got a distant cousin in Ireland? An aunt in Italy? Get in touch with them and make arrangements to stay with them. Use it as a chance to “get caught up,” but you’re really going to save a bundle on lodging.

Localize your tastes. If you’re used to drinking coffee and eating doughnuts every morning then take a look around and realize what country you’re in. They drink tea in London and drink beer in Germany. The customary local fare is always going to be cheaper than the novelty that you’re about to order.

Buses are cheaper than trains. The romantic train ride is going to cost you. The bumpy bus ride is going to save you. Especially in the British Isles, traveling by bus is the cheapest route. Depending on the length of your journey, you might save a hundred bucks – or euros!

Heather invites your questions, comments and inquiries. You can contact her at: heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clashing Fashion

Today's New York Times Urban Eye talks about how men are now "allowed" to wear what they may consider to be mismatched separates, such as plaids and paisleys, and also points to a NYT Fashion & Style article by David Colman on the subject.

Great, so now (most) men who don't know how to dress to begin with will have another excuse as to why not.

But my real point is this: women have been doing this for years. You will see this, particularly if you've spent time in Chinatown or on the subways that run through there. But seriously folks, as you will see in today's photo, I have managed to adorn myself in a flower print skirt, horizontally striped tank, white eyelet blouse and a black loosely knit shrug/cardigan thing. So far nobody has outright laughed at me, so I think it "works." The key being: stay in the same color/hue family and don't involve more than one fabric. In this case I have all kinds of cottons in black, white, green and orange.

And if you are a special kind of fashionista, you are allowed to step over the line. But this kind of risk-taking is reserved for professionals only. Cuidado!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

IRIDESSE First-Ever Sample Sale - Apr. 28-30

This isn't my thing so much, but maybe for Mother's Day?
IRIDESSE First-Ever Sample Sale
Earrings • Necklaces • Strands • Rings • Bracelets
Cultured pearls of all kinds including: Freshwater • Akoya • South Sea • Tahitian

Exclusive Designs by:
IRIDESSE • Anthony Nak • Gabrielle Sanchez
Chrisse Coleman Douglas • Christian Tse

Prices are 50%-60% off retail at this 3 day event
Retail $250 to $9,000, now $100 to $4,500

Monday, April 28th, 11am to 7pm
Tuesday, April 29th, 9am to 7pm
Wednesday, April 30th9am to 6pm

The Warwich Hotel
65 West 54th Street in the Oxford Suite (Corner of 6th Avenue)

Mastercard, Visa and American Express and Cash accepted.
All sales final. No exchanges. No refunds.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fortune: Lord & Taylor's New Hope

See? I knew it! My "secret" department store has been bought and is being transformed into something else. Presumably something that actually makes money. No wonder I can't afford to shop there anymore. Sigh...
Well at least the talk of L&T being shut down (and probably turned into a giant Chase ATM machine) can cease. So that's nice.
If only I had the business acumen (and the money) perhaps I could have brought this deal to Mr. Baker myself!

Note to Mr. Baker: Before you do anything else, CHANGE THE FLOORS ON THE GROUND FLOOR! They are miserable.
Also, according to this Fortune magazine article, you have now caught the fashion bug. If that is true, I have the perfect mini-project for you that I haven't yet disclosed on this blog. You could consider it your "fashion philanthropy."
Just drop me a note and we'll do lunch.

xoxo Guerilla Shopper NYC

28 April 2008

Richard Baker, the scion of a Greenwich, Conn., real estate dynasty, has made a billion-dollar bet on Lord & Taylor and an esoteric list of designers. Is he fashion's next power player, or will he be the latest deep-pocketed outsider to lose his shirt?
MOMENTS BEFORE THE LIGHTS DIMMED for the Peter Som show this past February, the fashion world's heavy-hitters cut through the tents of New York City's Bryant Park to take their front-row seats. Som, an emerging designer, drew an A-list crowd of top executives from Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Also perched in the front row was Richard Baker, an unassuming real estate developer with a baby face. Just two years ago Baker would have had difficulty landing a ticket, much less a prime seat at the event.
Although he has quickly been thrust center stage, Baker, 42, entered the fashion business by accident when his investment firm, NRDC Equity Partners (not the environmental group), spent $1.2 billion in June 2006 to buy Lord & Taylor, an aging East Coast chain in need of a facelift. His initial interest was in the underlying real estate value of the stores, but he soon caught the fashion bug. In quick succession Baker agreed to invest an additional $500 million over five years to revive Lord & Taylor, and then launched Creative Design Studios (CDS), an apparel manufacturer, to make clothes for the chain and possibly rival retailers. CDS spent $10 million for a 65% stake in Peter Som and signed deals with a grab bag of other designers.
Baker didn't stop there. The night before the Peter Som show, he was on the phone with his lawyers until midnight hammering out the final terms of his latest conquest: an acquisition of Fortunoff (a tired jewelry and home furnishings chain), which NRDC agreed to buy out of bankruptcy for $110 million. And as late-night TV pitchmen like to say, "Wait! There's more!" In October, NRDC raised $400 million for new acquisitions, and the firm is said to be eyeing Dillard's and Saks. and
These bets have transformed Baker from an unknown to fashion's latest sugar daddy. But before he is genuinely welcomed into the club, he will need to show that he can make money, not just spend it. Very quickly he has had to learn new skills-choosing designers, rebuilding a client base, rebranding stores-all of which are foreign territory to someone who made his money building shopping centers anchored by Wal-Marts. "My background is in business, but I also have a creative streak," Baker tells Fortune. "I'm not an artist, but I think about my work in a creative way." Which is his way of pointing out that he is not some deep-pocketed rube seduced by big-city glitterati.
What Baker lacks in Seventh Avenue pedigree he makes up for with a sophistication that isn't always apparent beneath his boyish charisma. ("Gee whiz" is a favorite phrase, along with other Wally Cleaver--isms, including "I don't want to stick a thumb in your eye, but...") The Bakers own a significant modern-art collection, and Richard's father, Robert, who founded the family real estate business and is one of four NRDC partners, is a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum.
In fact, the most tabloid thing about this child of privilege is that he travels from his home in Greenwich to meetings in a black Cadillac Escalade that he's pimped into a mobile office, complete with flatscreen TV, wireless Internet, fax, and printer. From the minute he drops off his three children at school in the morning, Baker shuttles from one appointment to the next, conducting business from its creamy leather seats. He is also a world-class connoisseur, equally at ease discussing Château Lafite or Jasper Johns.
UNLIKE THAT of a typical collector, Baker's recent shopping spree is not just an attempt to amass trophy properties. He wants his design company to provide clothes for his department store, and his newly acquired jewelry-cum-home-furnishings business to become part of the mix. "We are not spending all this money just to sell clothes at Lord & Taylor," he says. "What I am talking about is a new paradigm for department stores."
Talk is easy; creating a "new paradigm" in a hidebound industry will be harder. More than a few would-be garment kings have lost their shirts (or at least their reputations) trying to restyle the rag trade. Witness the travails of Robert Campeau, whose 1988 buyout of Federated Department Stores resulted in bankruptcy. There was also R. Brad Martin, whose 1990s roll-up of regional chains, capped by the acquisition of Saks Fifth Avenue, was hailed as genius until it became apparent a decade later that the businesses added little value to one another. The latest whiz kid to stumble: financier Edward Lampert, whose reputation has been bruised in a so-far botched reinvention of Sears.
Baker's business plan has some big obstacles of its own to surmount He's committing capital to retail at a time the economy is faltering. While Lord & Taylor has undergone a more upscale repositioning, its sales per square foot hover at $290, less than the $350 to $400 of Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom, according to industry sources.
Fortunoff, meanwhile, is reeling from an unfocused merchandise strategy and inadequate back-office systems. CDS, in addition to managing the egos of competing designers, is trying to create a profitable wholesale business from scratch when even established Seventh Avenue manufacturers are struggling. "Richard's got a tough road ahead," says Matthew Rubel, CEO of Collective Brands, which owns the Stride Rite and Payless shoe companies. "He's up against strong competitors and a difficult economy." Former Bloomingdale's CEO turned consultant Marvin Traub, who has talked to NRDC about teaming up on some projects, calls Baker an "original thinker with some fresh ideas," but adds, "He's got three major businesses that need to come together. The question is, Can it all work?"
SOON AFTER BAKER bought Lord & Taylor, he took his three children-two sons and a daughter-to visit the stores. "I told them they could buy anything they wanted," Baker recalls. "They said they didn't want anything. Well, gee whiz, I didn't have to be a genius to figure out that was a problem." Soon new vendors were populating the children's department, including Scoop, Lilly Pulitzer, and Lacoste. Today his daughter buys her party dresses at the retailer. His sons wear navy-blue Lord & Taylor blazers to their private school.
Scouting stores on weekends is a routine from Baker's own childhood. "Instead of taking him to a baseball game, we'd get in the car and go look at shopping centers," says Baker's father, Robert. Baker's grandparents were also in the real estate game. His maternal grandfather, Loomis Grossman, bought and sold Manhattan properties, while his father's mother, Sylvia Garber, 98, developed residential and office space. "I'd sit at the breakfast table, and my grandfather would explain to me why I should never guarantee a loan," Baker says.
Despite that background, Baker initially had ambitions other than joining the family business. At age 15, while attending high school, he started a catering business called Party Perfect. From small dinner parties for friends' families, Baker worked up to serving dessert at a bar mitzvah for 100 people. "Richard doesn't perceive there are limitations to what he can accomplish," says Roger Hirschhorn, a childhood friend and partner in the catering enterprise. "Whatever the venture, he goes into it with the mindset that the sky's the limit."
After attending college at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Baker studied cooking in Paris and planned to open a restaurant in Philadelphia, but the deal fell through. Instead he went to work for his father at National Realty & Development Corp. Today National Realty owns 100 shopping centers comprising 20 million square feet, making it one of the largest privately held real estate development firms in the country. Back in the late 1980s, however, many of National Realty's tenants, companies such as Caldor Corp., and Bradlees, all of which have since gone out of business, were struggling. Baker had heard about a fast-growing company called Wal-Mart Stores, which at the time had no stores in the Northeast. "Richard cold-called me, and then he shows up at our offices," says Michael Gardner, a regional vice president of real estate for Wal-Mart, who has worked for the company since 1989 "He didn't walk in here like he was representing his daddy's company. You could tell immediately that even though he came from great wealth, he had this desire to accomplish something on his own."
Over the next 15 years National Realty would develop 30 Wal-Mart stores along the East Coast. By 2004, though, creating new shopping centers was an uphill battle. Land was scarce and zoning requirements were strict: Saturation had set in. Baker was casting about for his next project when his father's longtime friend William Mack, the Apollo Real Estate Advisors founder, suggested they join forces. Along with another Apollo partner, Lee Neibart, the foursome formed NRDC Equity Partners, which made unsuccessful bids for Toys "R" Us, Burlington Coat Factory, and Pathmark before buying Lord & Taylor. "I told Richard that I thought he was crazy-that Lord & Taylor would be too big and too complicated for us," Baker's father says.
Baker persuaded his partners to take the plunge, and in so doing the group bested a field of more than 20 contenders, including the private equity firms Cerberus Capital Management and the Blackstone Group. The four partners put up $100 million of their own money and borrowed the rest. "There is no question that Richard is being aggressive," says Adam Ifshin, who works at a rival real estate development firm, DLC Management Corp., and has known Baker for years. "Is he right? I don't know. Is he smart enough to be right? Definitely."
CONSIDERED THE OLDEST U.S. department store, Lord & Taylor was a pioneer in many ways, becoming the first to install an elevator, the first to open a branch location, and the first to hire a woman CEO, Dorothy Shaver, who was instrumental in making it a beacon for American designers in the '40s and '50s. Lord & Taylor's troubles started in 1986, when parent Associated Dry Goods, which had owned the chain since the early 1900s, was acquired by the May Co. May piled the store with moderately priced merchandise and ran frequent sales. It also kept a tight rein on investments. "Under May, Lord & Taylor was starved of capital," Traub says.
When Jane Elfers was named CEO in 2000, she set about restoring Lord & Taylor's carriage trade heritage. To get younger shoppers back, Elfers dropped dusty brands-Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nautica-giving up $350 million worth of sales in the process. That helped her get trendier labels, including Coach, Tracy Reese, and Ted Baker into the store. Today 85% of the merchandise found in Lord & Taylor wasn't there three years ago. Another smart move: Elfers closed 32 underperforming stores in 2003 The remaining ones are in some of the East Coast's best malls.
Then came Federated's 2005 acquisition of the May Co., and Lord & Taylor's future was once again in doubt. When NRDC emerged as the store's new owner, Elfers, like everyone else, thought it was a real estate play. But, as Baker is fond of saying, "a funny thing happened on the way to the closing." Thanks to Elfers's hard work and the changing retail landscape, Lord & Taylor's business started to rebound. Profits and sales soared to their highest level in 15 years. The store, which has sales of $1.4 billion, also got a lucky break. Federated, now known as Macy's, closed or rebranded dozens of stores it had inherited from May, knocking out much of Lord & Taylor's competition in key cities. "We quickly realized that there was more to Lord & Taylor than we initially thought," Baker says.
Getting the company fully back on its feet would require money. Many of Lord & Taylor's stores hadn't been refurbished in more than a quarter-century, and they looked shabby compared with the competition-none more so than the New York flagship. Baker is currently awaiting city approval to downsize the 611,000-square-foot store by nearly half, add a boldface-name restaurant (Nobu is a possibility), and build either office space or luxury condos above. Some $60 million was spent in 2007 on new fitting rooms, fixtures, and carpeting at satellite suburban locations. More-ambitious plans are on the way, including a redevelopment of the Stamford, Conn., property to include a Whole Foods and parking garage. (NRDC needs to first overcome opposition from local residents and the zoning board.) The changes are starting to turn heads. "For a while, we weren't even looking at Lord & Taylor's sales when we analyzed a mall, because they had one foot in the grave," says Steven Greenberg of the Greenberg Group, which advises retailers on their real estate. "But over the past 12 months, their business has improved dramatically."
Seeing the potential in Lord & Taylor led Baker to a grander vision: What if he could fundamentally change the business model? Department stores had come to rely on in-house brands for a growing portion of sales and profits, but these "private-label goods," as they are called, tend to be of inferior quality to designer merchandise. A desire to raise the bar led Baker to launch CDS. The startup recruited Charles Nolan, who had created multimillion-dollar lines for Anne Klein before launching his own label; Joseph Abboud, the men's-wear designer known for his twist on the classics; Cynthia Steffe, who had recently sold her company; and Bryan Bradley, the creative juice behind the Tuleh fashion label.
CDS intends to make clothes for Lord & Taylor (the exception being Peter Som, whose creations are too high-end for the chain) and also for other retailers, thrusting it into wholesale manufacturing at a time established players such as Liz Claiborne and the Jones Apparel Group are stumbling. Selecting and managing fashion talent at CDS is proving a tricky business too. A line designed by Bryan Bradley has been discontinued, raising the question of whether the designers Baker has handpicked have enough commercial firepower. Bradley did not respond to phone and e-mail messages. Designer Cynthia Steffe has also parted ways with the company. An NRDC spokeswoman confirmed Steffe's departure but declined to elaborate. "I'm focused on other opportunities now," Steffe says.
Baker's latest acquisition-Fortunoff-is also something of a head-scratcher to fashion industry insiders. The chain, founded in 1922 by Max and Clara Fortunoff, has lost its reputation for high-quality goods at reasonable prices and is unable to compete with big-box rivals like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. In 2007 the company lost $36.6 million on sales of $464 million, according to the bankruptcy petition. Baker figures there is a simple fix. In addition to spending $100 million to renovate Fortunoff's existing 23 locations, he plans to open Fortunoff outposts in Lord & Taylor stores, solving two problems at once: The added volume will help stem Fortunoff's losses and give Lord & Taylor an additional brand name to generate foot traffic. "The great thing about Richard is that he's open to new ideas," says Collective Brands' Rubel, whose wife is a longtime friend of Baker's. "Many people in our industry take the attitude of 'Been there, done that.' Because Richard is an outsider, he examines things on their merits."
AT THE END OF MOST BUSINESS DAYS, the Escalade chauffeurs Baker far from the hubbub of Seventh Avenue (or from his office in Purchase, N.Y.) to his estate in Greenwich-one of three homes he owns; the others are in Telluride, Colo., and on the North Fork of Long Island. Located in Conyers Farm, a 1,500-acre tract of land straddling the Connecticut-Westchester border, the gated community boasts stables, polo grounds, and lots of famous residents, including the filmmaker Ron Howard and former New York Knick Allan Houston.
Once on Baker's ten-acre property, the Escalade hums along a curving drive and stops in front of the barn. About 100 yards from the house, the structure, which was reassembled from the stone and timbers of early-American barns, serves as the ultimate family room, a place for the kids to skateboard or for Richard and his wife, Lisa, to host parties.
The real surprise is what's hidden below. For all of the barn's rustic charm, once visitors descend a winding narrow staircase, they get a shock of the new. The focal point is a 50-foot pool designed by the installation artist James Turrell. The pool is rimmed with long fiber-optic strands of light that change color, based on a computer program, shifting the mood from ebullient to ethereal. This evening the soft blue of the lights combined with the sound of Buddhist monks chanting over the sound system creates an otherworldly atmosphere. The adjoining bathroom and gym, with treadmill and weights, make for a giant piece of livable art. Baker normally starts his day swimming laps in the pool or on the treadmill watching CNBC projected onto the far wall.
Outside the barn, in a tree near the tennis courts, sits a six-foot glowing, round object. Designed by Robert Whitman to resemble the moon, the sphere changes color and flashes images of the real moon's surface. The house itself, overlooking gardens and a second, outdoor swimming pool, is filled with sculptures, paintings, and the photography collected by Lisa, whom Baker met through a mutual friend soon after the two graduated from college. "For the Bakers, art is part of their everyday life," says Walter Smith, an architect formerly of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, who is now curator of Baker's latest project.
Called the Bakerie-a shorthand name for Baker International Exhibit-the fledgling museum has commissioned works from about two dozen artists. Some of the art will be showcased at NRDC properties. Some of it will be donated to museums, but the goal is for most to be displayed in an old town-hall building in Stamford that Baker is in discussions to lease.
Baker developed his appreciation for art as a child when his mother, Bettylou, who divorced his father in 1979 and died in 1998, took him to museums. But for a long time he didn't understand the significance of the pieces. "When I was about 32, a light bulb went off," he says. "I realized contemporary art was about thinking differently, and that if you think differently, you can be successful [in business]."
Whether Baker's different approach to fashion generates the same wattage is an open question. Lord & Taylor is a far more exciting place to shop than it was five years ago. But customers are fickle and competition stiff. In fashion all the right moves are not always enough. That is especially true for regional players, which will find it tougher to compete in a world dominated by national chains. There is one aspect of the deal, however, that Baker can claim as a victory. Real estate executives currently value Lord & Taylor's property, including the 22 stores it owns and the 20 for which it has ground leases, at upward of $1.7 billion-some $500 million more than NRDC paid for the company. Of course, realizing that value will depend on whether Lord & Taylor can once again become a must-shop destination. For that to happen, the dealmaker-turned-fashionista is prepared to wait beyond the next few seasons. "In real estate," he says, "you hold a property for 40 years. In retail they want to know, How are sales today?"

FEEDBACK skapner@fortunemail.com

Kifka+Heller: Open Today

It's back! I will be visiting and reporting back soon:

Kifka & Heller
445 W. 49th St. (near 9th Ave.)
Hours: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Monday - Sunday

Olga Kapustina Sample Sale: April 30 - May 2

I think I will have to try to check this sale out if I can. Now that I have made it through one whole week without drinking any kind of soda or eating any ice cream (even of the froyo variety), perhaps I can bear to wear summer clothes in a couple of months...PERHAPS.

Olga Kapustina
Annual Sample Sale
Wednesday, APRIL 30th & Thursday, MAY 1ST, 9AM- 8PM
Friday, MAY 2nd, 9AM- 7PM
161 W 22nd Street, Between 6th/7th Avenues, 3rd Floor
50-70% off summer and spring dresses! Silk "party dresses" and cotton office looks. Sizes 0-10.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My New Hair Secret

OK, so I told you I'd provide full transparency on the whereabouts of my hair wizard, Helik Torres (formerly of Dop Dop Salon), once I had a chance to visit him. Well, I visited him this weekend at his new weekend home: Mario Diab. Set in something of a mini-co-operative business space in Soho at 62 Crosby St., the salon is tucked in the basement (if my short term memory serves me). Completely outfit in black and white, this calm environment allowed me to get my hair done efficiently and effectively in front of a huge floor-to-ceiling mirror while drinking green tea. I was in, I was out (possibly for less money than Dop Dop??) and on my way. With my hair bouncing happily atop my head.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Brooklyn Flea Market is...


I mean there were a few unique things, but most of it was stuff that you see at other flea markets. And not while not wildly overpriced, certainly not cheap. For example, there were some really interesting, seemingly high quality, vases and mirrors, but for $195 and $600 respectively? Come on! Also, I was hoping that Brooklyn would kick out more jams hard core-style - like a booth selling custom-made leather lingerie or something. But alas, there wasn't too much of that, with slight exceptions:
  • Wrecords by Monkey - Handmade recycled record accessories (see pic.) - interesting decorated wrist cuffs made out of old records that made me feel wonder-womanlyish when I tried a few on.
  • Mohawk Studios - Welding, fabricating and custom steel creations. If I had managed to make my apartment more urban-hard-rock, I would have bought some of this guy's stuff - interesting coffee tables, chairs and other creations that appeared to be a bit torture chamber-like. Oh and giant bugs made out of railroad ties and nails.
  • Celle Adore - Perfumes that smelled 100% like girl. Uncommon scents.

Friday, April 18, 2008

June 1: Styling for The Soul – An Afternoon of Fashion

The G.S. really believes that wearing clothes that fit great and make you feel sassy can change the way you feel about yourself, which will in turn help you to live a more fun-filled fab life. Give it a shot and learn how on June 1:

Styling for The Soul – An Afternoon of Fashion
with Dame Lori, the Duchess of Finesse and Marianne Talbot, Directrix of Modern Venus Ltd.
Hosted at the Alicia Mugetti Design Salon
Sunday, June 1, 2008
12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Wouldn’t It Be Amazing . . . to own your styling vision, own your beauty, own your body and own your spending before you begin shopping?

The Dame and Marianne want to take each of you on your own personal style journey in one afternoon …. And as an added treat, there will be special Alicia Mugetti designs for you at special prices!

Come play with Dame Lori and she will:
* Become your personal stylist for your soul
* Help birth you into chic beauty as your Pleasure Doula
* Teach you to be your own Mistress of Metamorphosis

Learn how to:
Find out what turns you on! Who are your fashion icons and muses? Let’s create your Collective Soul Style today!
Get inspired about creating your Styling Spending Plan. Where to go? What are the best sources for you so that you can get instant gratification and get it for free or almost free? Or at full price!
Collect the 7 most important pieces that will bring you maximum wardrobe pleasure.
Conjure the most fabulous and perfect items effortlessly and with endless creative fun!

In addition, Marianne Merritt Talbot, the Directrix of Modern Venus Ltd., New York’s premiere lifestyle and career coaching company, will dance you through a “Top 10 List on the Art of Presentation”– which will add more substance, power and sparkle to your professional presentation style, particularly in the workplace.

Date: Sunday, June 1, 2008
Time: 12-6 p.m.
*Registration and special shopping opportunities: 12-1 p.m.
* Program: 1-5 p.m.
* Networking, wine and more shopping!: 5-6 p.m.

Location: The Alicia Mugetti Design Salon, 675 Madison Avenue (near 61st St.)
Price: $95.00, which includes a finessed fashion find!

To register or for any questions, email info@ModernVenus.net or call 212.929.9999

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show: April 25 & 26

It's that time again - the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show is on at the Metropolitan Pavilion on W. 18th St. between 6th & 7th Aves. on Friday, April 25 (1-8 p.m.) and Saturday, April 26 (11 a.m. - 6 p.m.). There's a $20 admission fee, but if you visit the Web site you can join the VIP list to get $5 off.

The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show is the ultimate vintage showcase bringing together more than 75 of the country’s top vintage clothing and antique textile dealers under one roof. This upcoming show has been expanded to encompass the entirety of Metropolitan Pavilion where you will find tailored, timeless and beautifully constructed clothing & antique textiles.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Behold the Bra

Someone sent me this article from Consumer Reports. Thought it might be useful, and give my female readers some extra support:

3 bras, 3 prices
Which is the best deal?

Twenty-two percent of women in a new CR survey said they always or often regret bra purchases. That's especially annoying when some bras cost more than $100. But does a woman need to pay that much for a well-made bra that fits? We bought three nationally available bras of similar style and size—seamless, with lightly padded cups and underwire, in 34B—for very different prices, then put them to the test. We hand-washed them three times, had three women who wear 34B try on each bra and comment on comfort, and had our experts and a lingerie designer with more than 50 years' experience check the bras' construction.The results show that women may be spending lots of money for no reason. (In fact, the designer said that her own everyday bra costs $14.) Below, the intimate details.

La Perla Vintage, $127
The bra, sold at several high-end stores, boasts top-quality materials, nicely contoured cups, and flexible, well-padded underwire that won't cut into skin. But after three gentle hand-washes, the elastic material in the back twisted and curled, and stitching on straps puckered.

Victoria's Secret Ipex demi, $45
It has cozy fabric and cups that provide coverage without bulk. But the underwire may pinch, since fabric around it is thinner than in others, and strap stitching is flimsy. Poor cut of the fabric on sides made it pucker, and the straps curled in the wash.

Gilligan O'Malley padded demi, $11
Bra-vo! It has better cup molding than the Victoria's Secret bra; the underwire is flexible and well padded, so it won't pinch or poke. This bra (sold at Target) also held up better after washing. All three panelists found it comfortable, with a good fit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recent notable closings in my 'hood

Sacco - A shoe store I like that offers some unique jewelry and accessories. I think that the salesperson who worked here (on 23rd St. across from Madison Square Park) drove customers away. At least that was the case for me. Don't worry though, there are other locations still sprinkled around town.

Rodeo apparel - What was once a vacuum sales and repair shop, recently turned into a rockabilly country-and-western store connected to the Rodeo Bar & Grill. I didn't get a chance to go in and now it looks like it is closed indefinitely. Remains to be seen...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring Sale: Lord & Taylor - til April 23

Spring Sale: Lord & Taylor

Not that it's warm outside, but just in time for so-called "spring," everyone's favorite American department store, Lord & Taylor, is offering 15% off on regular and sale merchandise, until April 23. Just print out this coupon and take advantage. Perhaps by July you will be able to wear your new spring frock.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ike Designs: Black Diamond Necklace

Ike Designs: The Black Diamond Necklace

Local Williamsburg jewelry designer, Dori O'Dea (aka Ike Designs Jewelry), is offering a limited supply of sterling silver black diamond necklaces online only for $95.00 + $8.00 S&H.

Did you know that black diamonds originated in dying stars, when shock waves from exploding red giant stars crushed carbon into dense aggregations of black diamond and sent them hurtling into deep space? Eons later, the Sun's gravity lured some of this material into our solar system, where blocks of it slammed into our atmosphere, shattering into the fragments we find strewn over select areas today, perhaps billions of years after they formed! Interested in wearing the ancient solar system around your neck?

Visit http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=9066648 and buy it online.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Housing Works: By the Pound Opens April 17

Soon to Open: By the Pound
Housing Works just announced the opening of its new bulk clothing store, By the Pound, at 330 W.38th St. between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. Open for business on Thursday, April 17 at 10 a.m., By the Pound will sell clothes for $3 a pound.

By the Pound will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. All profits go to Housing Works, the nation's largest grassroots AIDS service organization. Housing Works' mission is to end the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

WSJ: Seeking Comfort in the Power Heel

I think I'm more inclined to go the Cole Haan route - but read the article if you are in need of comfortable, appropriate work shoes that can go all day long...[Taryn Rose "Dree" sandals pictured, $465 (!)]

On Style: High and Mighty: Seeking Comfort in the Power Heel
By Christina Binkley
10 April 2008
The Wall Street Journal

Feet hurt?
These days, stylish shoes come in two heights: flat and towering. Fashion magazines and stores are showcasing more flashy three- and four-inch heels than ever -- and sometimes adding on platforms that we once thought only Elton John would wear.
The pinch of high heels isn't an issue just for fashionistas. At the office, high-heeled pumps are the feminine equivalent of wingtips. A woman who wants a power shoe -- or added height -- will usually wear heels, even if they leave her wriggling her tingling toes in the privacy of the space underneath her desk.
But in recent years, a small but fast-growing group of shoemakers have tried to combine height and comfort, seeking solutions in orthopedic and athletic-shoe technology. I decided to try some of the latest heels that are marketed as comfortable and healthy, to see how they lived up to their billing. I also tried several shoe brands that have long been known for being more comfortable, if sometimes less fashionable.
All these technologies attempt to absorb and spread pressure, addressing the fact that tiny foot bones weren't designed to carry the weight that heels put on them. When you're wearing a three-inch heel, the pressure on the ball of the foot is akin to the pounding that part of the foot takes when you're running. And few people run for 10 straight hours -- the length of many workdays.
To see which were most comfortable for a full day of work, I bought six pairs of shoes ranging in price from $89 to $495, with heels from 2 1/2 to 3 inches high. I wore each one all day and even hiked through airports with two of the pairs. For comparison, I also tried inserting arch supports and toe pads into some of my own heels.
There was a clear winner for comfort married with style: Taryn Rose, the most expensive shoe in the group. With contrast piping, metallic leathers, slim wedges and peep toes, the shoe line looked highly stylish. The $495 price for the Daphne model I chose could make such shoes prohibitive for some pocketbooks, but special built-in supports made it a cradle compared with the others.
A $275 pair of Stuart Weitzman heels lacked thick padding, but this shoe's sturdy footbed and toe room made it one of my airport stompers. And the selection was the most glam of any brand, with a wide range of materials from patent leather to snakeskin. Cole Haan's $275 Nike Air pumps also deserve a special note for combining comfort and style; they come in a variety of sleek-looking styles, including razor-point toes, open toes, slingbacks, wedges and some with a small platform. Still, the pointy toe made my toes numb.
I also looked at Naturalizer, Aerosoles and Ecco -- brands that have focused on comfort for years. Of the three, the $84 Naturalizers blended comfort and style most effectively, and, given the price, they were the best deal of all six pairs. Aerosoles, $83, and Ecco, $144, had more-limited offerings for office looks, though they had wide selections in lower heels and walking shoes.
For inserts to my own not-comfortable heels, I tried Dr. Rosenberg's Instant Arches in a favorite pair of pumps, and I stuck Foot Petals cushion inserts in the toes. The result was an improvement, but the built-in supports of the other shoes felt better overall. I would recommend inserts only for people who want to improve a favorite pair of shoes.
There's a reason that Taryn Rose shoes performed well -- the company was founded by an orthopedic surgeon named, naturally, Taryn Rose. She recently resigned from the privately held company, but continues to hold a minority stake, people there said. The director of design, Roberta Covari, described to me a construction process that starts with a wide, ergonomic "shoe last" -- a form around which a shoe is made -- to allow the foot to "lean properly." There are soft sheep-leather linings, a layer of a shock-absorbing material called "Poron," a sole made of a light material called "Wearlight," and a bottom that is part leather and part rubber for flexibility where the foot bends. Despite all this, Chief Executive Andrew Forbes said, "We don't like to think about them as orthopedic shoes."
It's a good bet that we're going to see more of this sort of thing. Taryn Rose's revenue doubled in the past two years to reach $40 million in 2007, says Mr. Forbes. And Cole Haan, owned by Nike Inc., has seen fast growth since it began inserting Nike's tiny airbags in some women's dress shoes several years ago. Cole Haan Air helped sales of Cole Haan dress shoes more than double over the past year, says Chief Executive James Seuss. The dressy Air shoes now represent approximately 30% of the company's assortment of women's shoes -- triple the amount of fall 2006. In fact, it's been so successful that Cole Haan plans to add the Nike Air bags to "all possible" men's and women's shoes in the spring 2009 line, Mr. Seuss says.
But don't expect super-high heels to go away anytime soon. Stuart Weitzman says he offers a range of mid-height heels each season, but when fashion editors arrive at his showrooms, they ignore shoes that aren't either flat or radically high. He argues that the pressure to get photographs in magazines forces less-established designers to create eye-catching high heels in order to get attention. The effect, he says: "They are almost forced into designing shoes that are uncomfortable."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Salealypso Warehouse Sale thru April 11

The Calypso Warehouse Sale Carries on!!

Clothing, Home & Accessories
Reduced Prices
Skirts $10 & up
Dresses $20 & up
Clutches $20 & up
Pillows & Comforters $50
& much more…

Extended thru April 11th
Tue 10-7, Wed 10-6,Thur 10-7, Fri 10-6,
261 W 36th Street2nd Floor(Between 7th & 8th Ave)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Anna Sui Store in Hearst Building?

My newest, and perhaps most devoted and in-the-know stringer (who doubles as one of the best PR people in town during the day) just contacted me with the interesting news that there is an Anna Sui logo on the retail/street level of the Hearst building on 8th Avenue near Columbus Circle. Realizing that this area is now known for Whole Foods and the block is better known for Duane Reade and McDonald's, we just spent a few minutes pontificating what we are hoping could be a new Anna Sui store, underscoring an interesting corporate strategy: put your wares right out in front of the editors of some of the world's top books: Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Bazaar, etc. and see if your editorial coverage surges - or at the very least - your sales. Anyone with any news or insight into the legitimacy of our assumption, please advise...

Perry Tailoring: "He's Rad"

Hey You Guuuuuyyyyssss!!! I have been given a special insider's tidbit from a man I have only met on IM. But he sought me out today to disclose an important bit of information for the boys. It's called Perry Tailoring, and here's what he tells me, in real time:

he is indian, born and raised in london
went to london school of fashion
works in little 150 sq ft shop
on 6th fl of non descript buidling
he's rad
160 broadway
6th fl
perry tailoring

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Stickley Furniture Challenge

At long last my furniture from Stickley Audi was to arrive last Thursday. I took the morning off of work, pushed the old furniture (that I still haven't managed to rid myself of) aside and prepped for the arrival of my new family members. And then the call came in, "The driver broke his thumb, we can't come today."

Sigh...Such build up, and such a let down. BUT all was not lost, for they promised to come the next day, which they did and...

...the loveseat/sleeper sofa would not fit through the door. Not horizontally, not vertically, not diagonally. Solution #1: The feet had to be removed. Unfortunately solution number one did not appear to be the solution. The door knob was still in the way. But the devoted delivery guys - one with a broken thumb - managed to lift the seat of love up over the knob and eventually put it in its rightful place in the living room.

I am so loving my new furniture. I will be loving it even more once I can unload my old furniture (if you want a futon/loveseat, wicker recliner or speaker stands, please let me know!) and manipulate the feng shui to my liking.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

John Varvatos at CBGBs

(Photo by Chris Harris/MTV News)
OK, I am only going to say this once and MUCH to my chagrin: the new John Varvatos store in the old CBGBs space is like the ultimate goth rock bachelor pad. It kicks so much ass. It truly does. I really wanted to hate it and spit in its general direction, but whomever they hired to design and architect it should win an award.

I need to get back down there and shoot some covert photos, but it appears that they have kept the old walls and some of the old details. It is painted entirely black and features an alter of burning candles in red glass holders as well as a giant black chandelier that is actually a bunch of regular-sized chandeliers that are grouped together on the ceiling to take on the vibe of a giant alien-like lighting phenomenon. There is a section of old school high-end stereo equipment and on the other wall a bunch of old rock vinyl. There are giant stained glass windows hanging high on the wall where the middle of the bar used to dwell. There are pictures and posters of all the regular suspect rockers on the walls. Basically, if some guy lived here, I would definitely make out with him (this time much to my mother's chagrin).

I haven't even made mention of the men's clothes and shoes, which are exceptional as well. However they are so insanely expensive (a $900 cotton sport coat?), that I'm not sure who will actually shop here. Young up and comers can't afford it. Real rock stars will get it for free. So I guess they will be worn by an unfortunate set of rich lawyers and financiers who fancy themselves...well, who just fancy themselves.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

WSJ: Organizing More Than 100 Pairs of Shoes

Hey guys, my friend the fabu shoe guru is the star in an article in today's Wall Street Journo, Read and learn!:

The Wall Street Journal
Organizing More Than 100 Pairs of Shoes
April 3, 2008

Meghan Cleary, who makes her living speaking and writing about shoes, contends that the current economic downturn is a great time to shop for and buy shoes. "I can't afford to get five new suits, but I can afford a new pair of shoes," she says.
To gauge value, Ms. Cleary suggests thinking about "cost per wear" -- spending the most on shoes you'll wear several times a week, and the least on trendy styles that might go out of fashion by next year.
Ms. Cleary, author of "The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You," shops online at merchants that allow free returns, orders the style she wants in two sizes, and keeps the pair with the best fit. She continually canvasses for price reductions. "Be a little open to something that's off the beaten path -- such as a pump in forest green rather than black -- and you'll get the best deals," she says.
Her biggest challenge is organizing. Ms. Cleary owns about 120 pairs, which she keeps in her one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan's West Village and her office nearby. According to a 2007 poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center for ShopSmart magazine, the average American woman owns 19 pairs of shoes (excluding sneakers), with 15% of women owning 30 or more pairs.
She rejects many of the obvious organizing tools, like storage bins and over-the-door hangers, which she says take up a lot of room, cost too much and can be impractical for large collections. She also dismisses the oft-suggested tactic of keeping shoes in shoe boxes with Polaroid photographs taped to the outside. "It's too complicated: You take out one pair of shoes and the entire thing falls down," she says.
Ms. Cleary, who worked as a marketing consultant to the investment-banking division of Deutsche Bank Group before beginning to write and blog about shoes, incorporates her shoes into her décor. For instance, she recently leaned a 9-foot ladder against the wall of her foyer and hung about 15 pairs of stilettos on it. In the past she used a pair of red sparkly Dries Van Noten slingbacks as a table centerpiece because she thought they were too beautiful to use immediately.
She has other "special occasion shoes" on display in her bedroom dresser and windowsills. "They are beautiful pieces of art -- like beautiful sculptures," she says. She says she has been obsessed with shoes since she was 5 years old, when she bugged her mom to get baby-blue wedge espadrilles with flower embroidery at Kmart.
To help her shoes last, she stuffs the toes of her better pairs with white or pink tissue paper. (Newspaper, she notes, will leave ink marks.) Ms. Cleary's radical tip for "very cantankerous" new leather shoes is to get the shoes completely wet. She spritzes her more-delicate leather shoes just until they are damp before wearing them until they are completely dry. But if the leather is thick, she runs the faucet over them.
In coming weeks, she says, she plans to do her annual spring "shoe edit," in which she donates to charity all shoes she hasn't worn in the past year (except those she really can't part with). Her goal, she says, is to get the number of shoes she owns back to around 100.

--Vanessa O'Connell

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

37" LCD TVs Worth Buying: Sharp & LG

I have been on a 3-month quest for the perfect flatscreen 37-inch LCD TV. I took this project on very seriously, as I realized this would be the first new TV I ever bought myself in my life. I researched, I discussed, I even came close to purchasing other models, but it seems that the Sharp Aquos LC-37D62U or the LG 37LB5D are the best bets. I also felt that the 37" size was best for a New York City apartment - not too big, but you will certainly see a difference, literally.

You can find both of these models for sale online for - in some cases - low and vastly varying prices. However, if you live in NYC and don't have the doorman luxury, I would suggest heading over to B&H on 9th Ave. near 33rd St. They have decent prices and you won't have to pay delivery or tip the driver. You will, however, need to get yourself over there and take a cab back home. Also, know that B&H is closed for the sabbath early every Friday and all day Saturday (and is also closed the entire week of Passover), so plan your trip accordingly. They are open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on most Sundays, however, so that adds a convenience factor.

I would tell you which one I bought, but I am no corporate shill! You must take my wise words and make your own decisions.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tahari & Calypso Spring Sample Sales

Elie Tahari - Spring Sample & Stock Up To 80% Off
510 5th Ave. @43rd St.
Tuesday, April 1 - Saturday, April 5
(Tue - Fri 8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.; Sat - 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Handbags now $289-$349, orig. $595-$995
Shoes now $99-$139, orig. $195-$395
Women's leather jackets now $349, orig. $998
Dresses now $159, orig. $598
Men's leather jackets now $399, orig. $998
Men's shirts now $69, orig. $198

CALYPSO Christiane Celle
Up to 75% off; most pieces under $100
261 W 36th St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves, second floor (212-947-8748)
Wednesday, April 2nd through Sunday, April 6th
(Wed, Thu 10am—7pm; Fri 10am—6pm; Sat, Sun 11am—5pm)