Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week isn't simply moving from one park (Bryant) to another (Damrosch). It's also set to expand throughout the entire Lincoln Center complex when it begins its stay there on Sept. 9. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, officials from the performing-arts center described the range of programming, from runway shows scheduled for the complex's illustrious theaters to a fashion-oriented exhibition at the on-campus branch of the public library. "I want to see fashion on par with all of the other cultural activities here—the ballet, the opera," said the director of fashion at Lincoln Center, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who is responsible for coordinating Fashion Week and the various parties—including Lincoln Center, its constituent organizations, Fashion Week producer IMG Fashion, designers, sponsors and community members—involved in the event. To that end, several designers have signed on to present in Lincoln Center venues beyond the Damrosch Park tents. Designers like Chris Benz, Christian Cota and Catherine Malandrino (none of whom previously showed at Bryant Park) will display their wares at locations normally occupied by New York City Ballet, New York City Opera or the New York Philharmonic. Ms. Malandrino will use the grand promenade and portico of Avery Fisher Hall, for example, and Jill Stuart will present her runway show on the promenade of the David H. Koch Theater. Mr. Cota will hold his show in the David Rubenstein Atrium on Sept. 11., and Mr. Benz will utilize the same space two days later. Nautica and Rachel Roy will stage their presentations at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Ms. Wolkoff encouraged designers to make use of those venues out of an interest in combating what she saw as Fashion Week's increasing decentralization during its years based in Bryant Park, when many designers opted to host shows off-site. "It's about engaging them and showing them that the industry is localized and centralized and modernized here," Ms. Wolkoff said. "I want them to think of this as a destination and a campus, instead of a place to stop in and then leave." The Rubenstein atrium will also host a public exhibition of work by young designers, intended to commemorate Fashion Week's inaugural run at Lincoln Center. That exhibition will remain open from Sept. 14 to 16. Lincoln Center is also planning fashion-focused events, like lectures and film series, scheduled to take place after the tents come down. On Oct. 14, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will open "On Stage in Fashion," an exhibition exploring collaborations between fashion designers and performing artists, including Calvin Klein and Halston for Martha Graham, Isaac Mizrahi for Mark Morris and Marc Jacobs for Lar Lubovitch. Garments included in the show will come from the Museum of the City of New York, which is co-curating the exhibition, as well as from opera and dance companies. read more
Stores, like people, have personalities.Whether that personality determines the customer, or the customer the personality, is one of those chicken versus egg questions that’s a matter of perennial debate (well, at least among retail nerds). And it’s not only the high-end stores that have distinctive styles — the mass crowd does, too. Contrast the white linoleum and bright lighting at Target to the often-dingy feeling at some Wal-Marts, or the pile-it-high feeling at Forever 21 to the more restrained sense of Zara. Then there is Carrefour, which no matter how big still has a French élan, versus British hypermarket operator Asda, which seems to take all its leads from Wal-Mart, its parent. H&M Officials at H&M, which has more than 2,000 stores around the world, are fond of repeating its mantra: “Fashion and quality at the best price.” The Swedish fast-fashion giant’s stated aim is to dress women, men, teens and children for every occasion. Hence, its women’s collections range from basics like T-shirts to tailored classics like black pants, via sportswear, maternity clothes and avant-garde items inspired by style icons du jour like Lady Gaga. The Divided collection is aimed at younger consumers, with a heavy emphasis on denim, street fashions and funky accessories. Children’s clothes aim to combine practicality with fashion flair and cater to three age groups: zero to 18 months; 18 months to 8 years, and 9 to 14 years. H&M, which had sales last year of 118.69 billion Swedish krona, or $16.07 billion, is credited with popularizing high street-designer collaborations, as well as low prices, constantly changing inventory and a lightning quick supply chain. Since 2004, it has recruited the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Viktor & Rolf, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garçons and Jimmy Choo to design limited edition collections that routinely draw hysterical throngs. In addition to selling clothes designed by Madonna and Kylie Minogue, H&M has enlisted celebrities including Rihanna, Jade Jagger, Timbaland and Katy Perry to design tops for its Fashion Against AIDS collections. The retailer is also committed to increasing its use of sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, recycled polyester and tencel through initiatives like its recent Garden Collection.
To call China’s mass-market casual apparel field crowded is a massive understatement. By keeping its head down, Shanghai-based Metersbonwe has managed to come out ahead. The company has around 1,800 stores across the country, is the market leader in lower-priced casualwear with estimated sales of 4 billion renminbi, or $590 million, yet still holds less than a 2 percent share of the market. How have they done it? According to Cai Minxu, the company’s media affairs manager, the success of Metersbonwe — which sells nothing but apparel, shoes and accessories — has come from a tightly managed supply chain, deep sales network and a clear message to customers. Though its long-standing slogan is “Be Different,” the company mainly sells clothes designed to help teens and college students fit in with their peers — a very important attribute for the majority of China’s youth. Cai said the company aims to double market share in coming years, with new campaigns and new reach. But the core message won’t really change. These are real clothes, at good prices, for the youth.“People ask what is the distinguishing feature of Metersbonwe,” said Cai. “I say the distinguishing feature is that it doesn’t have a distinguishing feature. We will move forward in the goal of having ‘no distinguishing feature.’”
Dollar store format
One of the few retail sectors that expanded during the recession, dollar stores opened units at a fast clip. The dollar chains compete against discount supermarkets such as Aldi and mass retailers such as Wal-Mart. While the dollar store category is heavily invested in food and consumables, it’s been making strides with apparel and beauty. Dollar General’s proprietary brand, Bobbie Brooks, is manufactured by Gildan, which also makes Open Trails for men. The chain added Hanes in March. Dollar General Corp., which has sales approaching $12 billion, opened 207 stores last year and now operates over 8,800 units nationwide, most averaging about 7,000 square feet. Family Dollar Stores Inc., which has 6,700 stores in 44 states, has been launching national apparel brands in an effort to boost the category, which accounts for 10 to 12 percent of sales, which totaled $7.4 billion last year. Family Dollar in 2007 bought the Bugle Boy brand. Dollar Tree Inc., with sales of $5.2 billion, is expanding Deals, a 160-store chain it bought in 2006, with 25 new Deals units this year. At Deals, prices are more than a buck, giving Dollar Tree an opportunity to sell merchandise it can’t sell at the restricted prices of its self-named stores. read more
Bloomingdale’s has a new spin on shopping outlets, which it begins putting to the test today. The upscale chain is opening its first fashion outlet at Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, Va., seeking to maintain the allure of the treasure hunt, but with less digging through the racks. A second outlet will launch Aug. 27 in the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J. “Both are very shoppable and, at the same time, the customer feels there is a density of merchandise,” said Arnold Orlick, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president in charge of outlets. “They’re clean, simple, bright environments that feel like Bloomingdale’s but they’re not.” Sixty to 70 percent of the merchandise comprises excess goods from vendors; 20 percent is clearance from Bloomingdale’s regular stores, and 10 to 20 percent is manufactured specifically for the outlets. “The lion’s share of the goods are 40 to 60 percent off,” Orlick said, though discounts can be as much as 80 percent. The retailer plans four or five openings a year if the concept succeeds. “Bergen and Potomac are very important tests,” Orlick said. “The question is whether there is cannibalization or no cannibalization” of Bloomingdale’s stores. The outlets are marked by black-and-white checkerboard aisles, evoking the B-way in Bloomingdale’s full-line stores. But the aisles are vinyl, not the usual marble. The black-white motif is repeated on signs and fixtures, offset by pops of color from the clothing and wall art resembling designer sketches. The outlets also have polished concrete floors and exposed ceilings, giving them the utilitarian vibe of a sleek warehouse or loft. “An outlet store can be stylish,” said Jack Hruska, executive vice president of creative services at Bloomingdale’s. And flexible, as well, he added, with rolling fixtures and shelves that can be shifted from wall to floor displays so departments may be reconfigured depending on the size of vendor shipments. With 22,000 square feet of selling space each, the outlets are smaller than those of most major competitors. They’re not piled as high with merchandise in order to reduce rummaging. They’re still heavily stocked with men’s and women’s apparel, accessories, shoes, kids’, outerwear and intimate apparel, but no home, cosmetics or fragrance. At the Potomac Mills unit, a row of signs in the center aisle includes the cheeky message “Are you dreaming? No, silly. This is real,” and touts everyday discounts of 25 to 70 percent. Labels range from contemporary to bridge to designer, including Tory Burch, Burberry, BCBG Max Azria, Michael Michael Kors, DKNY, Elie Tahari, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Men’s brands include Theory, Joseph Abboud, Canali and Hugo by Hugo Boss. There’s an extensive shoe and accessories section with its own bank of registers and handbags from Botkier, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cole Haan and Tadashi Shoji. Shoe brands include Stuart Weitzman, Converse and Ugg, and there are sunglasses from Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Michael Kors, among others. Denim includes Paige Denim, J Brand, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, Joe’s Jeans, Rock & Republic and Seven For All Mankind. Bloomingdale’s will open an outlet in Dolphin Outlet Center in Miami in October and another in Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla., in November. read more
Talk about a fashion don’t! Madonna is being sued over the rights to use the “Material Girl” name for the trendy juniors clothing line that she designed with daughter Lourdes. Apparel manufacturer LA Triumph slapped the superstar with a lawsuit Thursday, claiming that it had been marketing clothes under the “Material Girl” brand since 1997. “Our client and its predecessor have been continually selling similar clothes in similar retail outlets at similar price points under their Material Girl brand since at least 1997 and Madonna and her newfound company do not have the right to trade in the same space under this brand,” said an attorney for the company in a statement, alleging that their client faces “a risk of being subsumed by Madonna’s profile, obvious worldwide notoriety” and massive marketing campaign. Madonna’s much-buzzed-about Material Girl collection, fronted by Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, launched at Macy’s earlier this month. Madonna has not yet commented. read more