Building Like MAD on Madison Avenue – New York Social Diary

New stores are sprouting all up and down Madison Avenue. We lost some; we gained some. And several moved off the avenue. There is talk of brands — even major brands —  taking smaller stores on Madison Avenue so that they have a showcase that doesn’t cost them a fortune. If you remember, flexibility is what got merchants through the pandemic; and adapting quickly is the new normal.
For now, it looks like all the hard work is paying off as people are on the streets — and they are shopping. And for the first time in a long time, tourists are back in New York. Most of them are American, but I am starting to hear snippets of French, Italian, German and other languages being spoken all over town. A return to the new normal is a welcome change.
Givenchy has exited their space in the mid-60s for a new one on the corner of 58th Street near Balenciaga and Celine. The space is smaller than the old one and this is definitely not Audrey Hepburn‘s Givenchy. Now designed by Creative Director Matthew Williams, the brand has taken a street-wise turn. While Vuitton men’s and Balenciaga have been hot properties for some time, I am not quite sure what is going on with Givenchy. Mannequins balancing on chairs welcome you to the store.
A huge replica of the brand’s Kenny bag sits in the middle of the boutique. There are more bags behind it, and a selection of shoes on the side of the store that carries women’s clothing.
Menswear — primarily a mix of streetwear and some tailored pieces — is on the the other side of the store.
The women’s clothing is on the casual side. And nothing is inexpensive. Jeans start at $500 and head north of $1,000 a pair, as do T-shirts of which logo tees are the priciest. There are some evening pieces in the store, too.
There are a lot of handbags, but not a lot of clothing. I am not quite sure if the product mix is a result of supply chain issues or a deliberate decision to dress the world in logo tees.
Givenchy, 625 Madison Avenue
Brunello Cucinelli clothing is not inexpensive. But the brand is known for investment dressing, so the ouch factor is not as high. They took space adjacent to their Madison Avenue store and enlarged it. Cucinelli’s already healthy profits increased by 31% in 2021, and the brand’s volume grew. In fact they just signed a new, very long term lease. Their loyal customers love the product. Made from the finest fabrics with skill, the collection is quiet luxury.
The women’s collection is on the downtown side of the store, and the men’s is to the uptown side. The sportier pieces meet in the middle. Sunglasses and other accessories are here, too.
A chic bar is located at the rear of the store offering coffee and a range of cocktails and shots.
A children’s department has mini-me chic head-to-toe dressing. It is not cheap, but the cost is proportionally priced. Just as neutrals dominate the adult collections, those neutrals dominate here as well.
There are some softly tailored suits in the men’s area. There are also soft jackets and uber-luxurious suedes, cashmere and exotic cotton styles. Cucinelli is relaxed power dressing at its best.
Brunello Cucinelli, 683 to 689 Madison Avenue
The fun, new Gabriela Hearst Chloé boutique just popped up on Madison. Literally. It is a temporary space for 11 months, and will probably morph into a permanent one. The hyper-detailed clothing is scattered about the boutique. As are bags and shoes.
The decor is deliberately eye-brow raising. There are no fancy custom features; just heavy muslin canvas hung on rods and display fixtures dressed to match. The interior is a statement in monochrome.
Shoes and bags are displayed in a small space behind the first room. A mysterious curtained corner beckons. Shoes, boots and creative sneakers and sandals coexist with new bags and accessories.
The next space has simple iron display cases full of new and classic Chloé bags. There is a ghostly monotony to the space, making clothing and accessories the focus. Compared to the new Fendi and Manolo boutiques, this space looks like a work in progress. The lighting is also dark and mysterious.
Across from the bags sits the “handmade” collection. A labor- and design-intensive selection of the best of Chloé, it crystallizes Hearst’s point of view. From a dress of leather squares crocheted together, to a long rainbow colored dress with hand knotting, this group offers a new tasteful take on embellishment. I wonder how the boutique will evolve.
Chloé, 715 Madison Avenue
Morgane le Fay has reopened on Madison Avenue. The New York designed and manufactured clothing is individualistic and elegant. The clothing is grouped by color, with pale pinks and neutrals on one rack and white and blacks on other rails. Some seasons you will find a splash of color, too.
The boutique is petite, and it is on two levels. The garments are made from chiffon, tulle silk and other luxury fabrics. The Soho store has been closed for now. That elegant space will be missed. Hopefully the brand will open another store downtown soon.
Morgane Le Fay, 743 Madison Avenue
Contemporary favorite ALC has also opened a small boutique on Madison. Designed by L.A. stylist Andrea Lieberman, the clothing is sharp and clean. The Soho boutique carries a wider range of styles while this store concentrates on daytime looks. It is a great addition to shopping on Madison Avenue.
There are more prints than usual this season. Mix and match them for cool looks.
Bags are a new category, and they come in all sizes and colors. Knit dressing is a specialty, with skirts, tops and dresses looking very new. The clothing is easy to wear and flattering.
The shop is designed with a series of arches. Though it is small, it feels larger than it is. The easy pieces make every season a standout season.
ALC, 1015 Madison Avenue
MARIACHER has opened a second store in New York. The Madison Avenue location has a different design aesthetic than the Bleecker Street store. Uptown the clothes are arranged along the walls with sculptural pieces placed in the center. The Argentinian designer offers up laid-back easy to wear pieces.
The boutique is filled with plants in fun containers.  Accessories and shoes bring the clothing to life. Mariacher’s shoes are fun and imaginative. Argentina is a big producer of leather and wool.
The boho clothing comes in a variety of prints and solids. The feminine styles do get mixed with some more masculine pieces like pants and jackets, which is the designer’s signature.
There are delicate white and black pieces with feminine lace touches for summer. The designer has a large business and 28 stores in South America at this point. Technically it is winter there. It will be interesting to see what comes in for the fall/winter season; and how the clothing adapts.
MARIACHER, 1071 Madison Avenue
Zadig & Voltaire is a French brand that is a known presence in New York. They had a smaller store in the Mark Hotel that they vacated. Come fall, that space will be a Caviar Kaspia restaurant. Their new space used to house Velvet. And it looks like they may be adding another space on Madison. Zadig & Voltaire has a rock-chic aesthetic, making clothing and sneakers for women, men and kids.
Owner Thierry Gillier is the great-grandson of one of the original partners of Lacoste. Gillier learned the art of knits in his grandfather’s factory. The line of sneakers, boots and handbags has expanded over the years. And these are the categories that fill the front of the Madison Avenue store and the SoHo store.
Knits are a specialty of the brand. They are patterned, fringed, covered in sparkling stones, and much more. You will also find leather with attitude here. Pretty much everything in the store has attitude, but in a good way. Not everything is knit as dresses, shirts, blazers and constructed and deconstructed pieces are part of the vocabulary of the brand.
Denim is an ingredient of Zadig & Voltaire’s success. As are comfortable sweats and track pants. And if you are looking for a sleek jacket and a pair of pants covered in mini-sequins, look here. The brand specializes in items that will rock your look.
Zadig & Voltaire, 1133 Madison Avenue
Unsubscribed is a new retail concept from American Eagle Outfitters. There are only five stores to date, in the Hamptons, Connecticut and Palm Beach. The price point is a contemporary one, higher than the AEO and Aerie stores. The look is completely different. Soft, easy dressy is the key.
Some of the product is made in house, but some of it is made by other brands to Unsubcribed’s specifications. The aim is to be consciously-made slow-fashion. This is clothing that will last for years as it is not tied to fast-fashion trends. Everything is made from better quality fabrics, with respect for the world.
The collection is quite large. Bathing suits and cut-offs, jeans and jackets, and dresses and tops. Two large rooms are filled with different categories of clothing, accessories and shoes. In natural fibers, naturally.
The store does not have a minimal design. There is a good selection of jewelry that is hand crafted in gold and silver using real stones. Vintage pieces are available in the stores, but not online.
Summer looks fill the boutique. Along with being sustainably made, Unsubscribed offers looks that women of any age can wear and relate to. So if you are fed up with “influencer-friendly” looks, the user friendly clothing in the boutique is made for you.
Unsubscribed, 1190 Madison Avenue
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn. 


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