Having been fortunate enough to make a trip to New York in late May with one of our longest standing clients, it seems appropriate to focus on NY retail in this latest issue of ‘Stores we love’.
New York is a city that’s always evolving and retail in the city is going through a bit of a revolution right now. The retail monoliths of 5th Avenue are changing hands quicker than ever and we’ve never seen so much prime real estate lying dormant or being refurbished at the same time. Change is in the air.
We focused our three days on three distinct areas – Uptown, Downtown and Brooklyn – and our six favourites come from those centres. Two new international arrivals have made a statement on 5th Ave.
& Other Stories has made its boldest statement to date with a new flagship at the lower end of the Uptown stretch of retail on 5th. The new store shares a site with COS, but outshines its more premium sister with a great space, immaculately merchandised and very well zoned and managed. It creates the buzz of an independent with the confidence that comes from being the younger sibling of H&M, now an established anchor on the strip. A great store beautifully realised.
Just south of & Other Stories is the latest Muji flagship. Externally a modest store, it comes to life inside with a variety of very engaging insertions and very targeted shop-in-shops, selling aromatics, travel goods, Muji Found (an exploration of their heritage ranges) and more. It’s again a superbly edited and merchandised space. Muji cleary knows what it wants to do and does it with great conviction, it’s a brand that knows itself very well. New Yorkers are responding to that very simple, minimal, compact Japanese aesthetic that somehow seems very much at home in Manhattan.
Downtown a few new arrivals and some significant refurbs steal the show…
The relaunched Barneys Downtown brings home a brand that’s been missed by the residents of Chelsea for a few years now. It’s a super confident statement for Barneys in a very pure textural white box that really works. It’s compact but feels spacious; minimal but feels warm and intimate. It’s premium but feels welcoming. The Barneys signature materials and merchandising standards have been transferred from Uptown on Madison, but this is a store that stands up on its own, it makes its own statement. The pivitol spiral staircase is the architectural statement in the space, very well executed with a dedication to quality that is rare.
In a review of stores we love it seems a bit odd to be suggesting Samsung 837. If we define stores by what they sell, this isn’t really a store – it’s a showroom, an experience. The only thing you can buy is a good cup of coffee, and even that’s free if you’re willing to register your contact details with the staff. Samsung redefines what it means to be a shop. The space given over to experience far outweighs the space given over to demonstrating Samsung product. The great café, the live music venue and immersive VR experience all add up to a must-see destination in a district that’s finally beginning to fulfil its promise. The adjacent kick-off point for a High Line walk only adds to the relevance of a visit to Samsung, when you’re next in NY.
DKNY has always seen its Soho store as a transforming representation of the brand, and the newly refurbished space is a superb reinvention. We’ve been going here for years and are always impressed by the way the space has been maintained; this time it’s a deeper and more impactful statement that really works. The ‘unfinished’ nature of the shell is softened by layers of cloth and light that create rooms for capsules of stock, and make a series of boutiques rather than one large store. It’s a really clever concept that looks immediately fresh and premium at the same time. Very on-brand.
In Brooklyn the pace slows down and the scale is more local, more personal. Here the retail revolution is at its most visible… challenging established brands, challenging established formats, there is more to see here every year but it doesn’t get any easier to find. Keep looking and you’ll be rewarded.
The Sketchbook Project is a very quiet but significant gallery in Williamsburg. An unassuming building houses a collection of A5 notebooks – sketchbooks which are sold in the space for artists and others to fill with their own creations. When you’ve filled your sketchbook, you send it back to the gallery who then scans the work to show online and in their space. You browse the gallery of sketchbooks by logging key words into an iPad, and it offers up options that are selected specifically for you. They’re viewed in the space then carefully put back in place by the ‘librarian’. Part of the back of the gallery is available as workspace which brings people in every day. It’s a modest concept but it’s gaining traction globally and we will be adding to the collection at some point in the near future. It’s hard not to be drawn in.
So, this skimming review of new, and not-so-new retail in NY might whet your appetite for a visit. I didn’t mention the hugely impressive Valentino store on 5th Avenue, the consistently inspiring Anthropology at the Rockefeller Centre, the ever-changing Story store in Chelsea, the very creative space in ABC Carpets, the engaging tone of voice in West Elm, the superbly confident Club Monaco in Midtown. Right now NY is worth a look, it’s every bit as vibrant as London, but with the advantage for us that we don’t live there, so everything’s fresh and new to our eyes. If you want to know more about New York and our recommendations, just ask.