Legendary Billy’s Antiques Closing This Weekend, Paris Fashion Week Begins

I’m so confused about the weather, and nowadays I’m at least six degrees of separation from Al Gore and have no chance of getting the truth, inconvenient or not. The sun is high in the sky but the temperature remains low, and I want the winter that really never was to turn into a spring of boundless possibilities. I don’t know what to wear and everyone I know is in Paris for Fashion Week, trying to find out for themselves. I guess it’s the worst time to go to Le Bain or Le Baron with all those Frenchies having gone home for the spectacle – or maybe not. Le Baron has The Virgins tonight and that might be fun.

These Fashion Weeks in those fashionable cities abroad take all the broads (er, models) for work and/or play and all the playboy types and such that follow them. It really strains the bottom line of joints that depend on the jet-set crowd for bottle bucks. It does mark the end of the winter doldrums and the spring will bring all the snowbirds back from their warm retreats. I am restless for the new season. Yesterday I spied crocus and other tough little buds rearing their little heads…ready, like me, for action.
Every spring needs a cleaning, but I’m sad to report that dear friend Billy LeRoy is cleaning up and out of his tent that has been the home of Billy’s Antiques on Houston Street for 30 years. There will be a couple of days of events to mark the end of an era of a place that often looked like a comedy of errors, but more than often  was a place that dreams were made of. Over a couple or few decades, I have purchased tables and chairs, kitchen sinks, and mirrors for clubs I have been designing. It was at Billy’s that I bought that life-size Muhammad Ali bronze statue that stands in front of Snap Sports Bar. I would poke around Billy’s on most warm afternoons, chatting with friends that popped by for a chat. Regulars like Clayton Patterson, Paul SevignyArthur Weinstein, and Anthony Haden-Guest would converse and bask in the unreal realness of it all. The place always seemed "semi-legal" – and that described many of the regulars anyway. If you needed a trunk or a stool, Billy would have a nice one. If you needed to know what was happening with a neighborhood storefront or missing friend, Billy had the scoop. The neighborhood has changed and Billy’s old clientele looking for a moderately-used end table or obscure oil painting for their tenement apartment have been replaced with yuppie scum buying their furniture brand new at Raymour & Flanigan. Many of the old characters have faded into the past and, with the closing of Billy’s, Nolita loses much of its character. This Friday, March 9th at 7pm until Saturday, March 10th at 7pm, the Billy’s crew will say farewell.
Lorraine Leckie, always the class of the place, will perform. There will be "eulogies, art, poetry, and film" and many other performances. It might go late. On Saturday afternoon, they’ll take down the tent. "In a gothic burial ceremony, the flesh and bones of Billy’s will be placed in a coffin that will remain on display until demolition day. In the week leading up to the event, our landlord, Tony Goldman, will invite renowned artist and visual poet RETNA to paint the legendary Bowery and Houston mural. In the absence of the tent, a tradition of thoughtful creativity will endure."

Checking in with NYC’s Holiday Pop-Ups

It’s the holiday shopping season in NYC, which translates to not only over-the-top window displays, but a whole slew of fresh pop-up shops. Two temporary retail spaces open for the winter months are proving especially of note. First up is the Gap-sanctioned pop-up shop from the arbiter of all that is aesthetically pleasing and forward-thinking in design, art, music, and film: Cool Hunting. The seasoned website has assembled a Fifth Avenue shop full of locally sourced goods, each handpicked by one of Cool Hunting’s editors. “The resulting assortment ranges from Grado headphones to Amy Sedaris’ new book to exclusive one-offs by Jonathan Adler. We’ve also included a series of Cool Hunting collaborations, such as limited-edition Mast Brothers chocolate and an Outlier cycling cap, along with a mini-installation of our digital content,” says the shopkeeper.

Meanwhile, as The Scout points out, the Pop Up Flea is still on view over at Mulberry Street in the Openhouse Gallery space in Nolita, and, “Couldn’t get enough of Printed Matter’s art book fair? Ed. Varie has created an abridged version of it with their pop-up book shop. Opens this evening from 5-8pm at 208 E. 7th St.” Lastly, Wired Magazine is setting up shop in downtown NYC’s old Tower Records space offering goods for ogling and touching as opposed to actually purchasing.

NYC Retail Recovers, Less Pop-Ups To Come

The recession may be far from over, but retail in NYC is on the rebound. Rents are rising all across the city with regard to commercial spaces, but especially in and on shopping hubs like Soho and Madison Avenue. “Though unemployment in the city remains high — and the office market is showing only minimal improvement — retail leasing began picking up late last year and has been accelerating this year,” says the New York Times. And, thanks to increasing foot traffic by way of tourists, the potential for such improvement to continue looks promising. As for newcomers to the NYC retail game, the Times points to South Korea’s Hollister-esque Who A. U. and Spain’s undies-friendly Desigual. But, perhaps the most interesting facet of this change in the commercial real estate market is the effect it will have on the recession-induced shopping phenomenon: the pop-up shop.

“A year ago, there were probably 20 spaces where you could put a temporary tenant,” real estate broker Stephen Tarter told the New York Times of Soho’s pop-up shop options, adding, “now there are about three.” As commercial spaces continue to fill their floors with stock that will stick around indefinitely, the eagerness to put in boutiques willing to make just a few months commitment are likely to appeal to landlords less and less. So, while the novelty of pop-up shops has appealed to consumers much in the same way that flash sale sites and designer collaborations have (all being available for a limited time only), if rents continue to rise, the temporary retail trend looks increasingly less likely to maintain its appeal.

AllSaints Opens In LA; 50 More US Shops to Follow

British clothing brand AllSaints has just debuted its sixth US shop in Los Angeles, with plans for 50 subsequent shops to follow by 2015. Having premiered its first stateside store earlier this year, AllSaints is setting its sights on a major US expansion. This summer, they ingrained themselves into the mind of young New York by hosting private parties on the Williamsburg waterfront during the Jelly pool parties, and the company’s CEO for North America told Fast Company that AllSaints is looking to bring “affordable luxury to the U.S. market.” Think $400 leather jackets and designer denim starting at $110. Not bad.

Simply put, it’s a more exclusive price point of than that of AllSaints’s high-street competitors, like H&M and Zara; but still far cheaper than the goods most high-end fashion houses are slinging. It’s kind of like J. Crew for the rock n’ roll set. Fast Company notes, however, that AllSaints’s niche approach could hinder reaching increasingly wide markets, as not everyone is looking for draped knitwear, slim-fitting denim, and deconstructionist dresses. But, “with sales grown almost tenfold” in the last four years (over $200 million), AllSaints seems to have plenty of interested consumers. Is one step up from fast fashion, but not quite luxury line, the new hot spot as far as sartorial pricing is concerned? If AllSaints’s recent successes are any indication, signs are very strongly pointing to most definitely.

Fashion’s Night Out Goes Digital

Although Fashion’s Night Out was generally considered a success, a common complaint was that it was just too damn packed. We have to agree. The hundreds of people snaking around the Ace Hotel for Opening Ceremony‘s “Parisian” market was the longest line we’ve seen since opening night of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, way back in ’97 (although this crowd was admittedly far better dressed). Anyway, Vogue UK has announced they’ll be co-opting the spirit of FNO while eliminating the crowds, by sponsoring an event called Fashion’s Night In. So, instead of scrambling to hail taxis and worming your way through human swarms, you’ll be able to shop your heart out in the spacious expanse of cyberspace.

“The FNI event is set for Nov. 1 from 5 pm until midnight, during which participating online retailers like Asos, Net-a-porter, and Browns will come up with initiatives, discounts, and competitions to boost online traffic and sales,” says Fashionologie. Meaning, with sites like Asos and Net-a-porter offering shipping to the States, this is a UK event that shoppers on this side of the pond can still take part in. Welcome to the Global Village! The good people at Fashionologie continue: “Net-a-porter, for instance, plans to launch a dedicated Party Boutique for the evening, filled with party dresses, shoes, and jewelry picked specifically for the occasion – and free shipping will be offered.” Added bonus: Rather than kill yourself trying to catch a glimpse of Victoria Beckham in an overflowing Armani store, well, here she is! The internet: besting real life one day at a time.

E-Commerce Expansions: Gap, ASOS & More

Quite a few major retailers are beefing up their e-commerce operations this fall and expanding internationally. British mega brand ASOS just launched in the states, with free shipping to boot. But news has it the inexpensive clothier (whose price points are on par with the likes of H&M and Zara) is branching out with a Craigslist-like seller option soon. “Retail industry watchers report that the company has recently hired Leighanne Miles, the ex-head of UK mom-and-baby brand Mothercare’s ecommerce, to launch the ASOS Marketplace later this year,” says Racked. While there will be no bidding and only clothing, accessories and shoes will be available for immediate purchase, expect to see garments ranging from slightly used to vintage. GAP Inc. is building its e-commerce presence too, specifically with regard to markets abroad.

“The San Francisco-based company said its e-commerce capabilities will extend to 65 countries by year-end,” says Women’s Wear Daily, noting that this means expansions internationally for GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta, which all fall under the GAP Inc. umbrella. Online shopping options will further swell thanks to Zara and H&M. Unfortunately for the US market, both fast-fashion retailers are launching e-commerce in Europe starting September 2 (for Zara) and September 3 (for H&M). But, word has it Americans can expect their own virtual outlets from both brands to become available sometime next year.

APC’s New NYC Shop

A.P.C. is expanding its hold over the NYC retail market with an additional store come fall, the store’s blog reveals. “It will be on 92 Perry Street, right in the West village,” the A.P.C. Journal says of the boutique,which should be open before the end of September. A blueprint of the not-yet-opened space was also released, although it divulges little more than the its minute size. In a recent profile in Interview Magazine, A.P.C.’s beguiling founder Jean Touitou discloses quite a bit more about the shop. “We will open two stores on Perry Street—one more jeans-and-accessories-focused and the other one will be the full collection.” The feature also includes Touitou’s musings on how the 23-year-old brand came to be, men’s versus women’s wear, and Johnny Cash covers.

Touitou fell into the fashion industry at 26 (“Grown-up enough as a young man could be. Basically a man at 26 is like a woman at 16 . . . An adolescent.”), thanks to the creatives at Japanese label Kenzo. “Kenzo was my school. I did everything from packing boxes to accounting,” Touitou says. Also of note: the parallels between late 80s fashions and today’s in terms of women’s wear. “It was initially only a men’s line, but women liked it more, which should have been the contrary,” Touitou says of A.P.C.’s first collection. “But it was ’87, so that look was happening then. Women dressed as men.” As for contemporary menswear, Touitou lets it slip that he sees a large void in the market where his competition should be. “There are quite a few good designers out there, I believe, in men’s, but if you tell me I have competition, I’ll ask you who. Sorry, I know it sounds pretentious, but on an affordable, trendy, not-high-fashion, not-streetwear basis, I don’t see much out there that’s similar.”

As for women’s? There’s a lot more copying, Touitou says, not to mention a rapid consumption of trends, which consistently keeps brands on their toes. Touitou adds,”after being in this business around 23 years for A.P.C., you have to die and be born again. You have to say, ‘This store location isn’t happening,’ and make it fresh somewhere else”… which just might explain the new Perry Street location. “Maybe later this year I’m going to start a new music project of cover versions. Johnny Cash probably…”

The Cobrasnake Now Playing Shopkeep

Mark “The Cobrasnake” Hunter has been playing shopkeeper via a virtual storefront on his site for months, but as of yesterday, he’s now got a fully functioning bricks-and-mortar shop in his hometown of Los Angeles. The store, called The Cobra Shop, isn’t open for business until June 16, but last night the party-photographer-turned-fashion-week-fixture threw down for a store opening bash that was attended by the likes of Jeremy Scott, Shepard Fairey, model AJ English, Peaches Geldof, and hordes of other Cobrasnake friends and fans. “A combination retail store-art gallery-secret clubhouse-video game arcade-photography studio-hot spot-recreational facility, The Cobra Shop is a bold new expression of the Cobrasnake lifestyle that is going to change your life forever,” Hunter’s site reads.

Among the items up for grabs: The Selby’s debut tome (as well as accompanying The Cobrasnake Unofficial Bootleg), stickers, pins, and loads of vintage clothing. The eclectic assortment of goods also includes “archival pieces from his friend Jeremy Scott, limited-edition screen prints by Shepard Fairey, shoes from DJ Steve Aoki’s personal collection, and select RVCA x Cobra Shop designs,” says Style.com. Hunter has definitely been a trailblazer when it comes to self-branding and the transformation of a personal blog into total lifestyle phenomenon. So, don’t be surprised if other bloggers eventually start following suit with stores of their own.

Photo courtesy of The Cobrasnake.com

Gilt Groupe Takes On Groupon

In just a few years, Gilt Groupe has gone from budding e-commerce enterprise to an exponentially profitable household name. And as of this week, word has it that the sample sale auction house that in the past expanded to include a blog and sister sites like Jetsetter, is adding a whole new facet to its repertoire. Meet Gilt City, a new destination for discounts that are city-based, and, yes, a lot like those offered up at Groupon. “Gilt City offers deals from local businesses (restaurants, beauty salons, etc.) and events. Deals are available in limited quantities and for a limited time,” says TechCrunch.

But where does Gilt City differ? For one, deals are only offered once a week as opposed to daily as with other sites pawning similar sales. On the upside, Gilt City doesn’t require a base number of supporters to make a certain discount valid; if it’s offered in the first place, you’re good to go.

And the e-retailer doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping. Gilt Groupe recently hired former Nylon frontrunner Stephanie Trong as its first-ever editorial director. Meaning, expect much more original news content to come. In other words, Gilt Groupe appears to be looking to cover all bases–editorial and retail, as well as both national and local. The only downfall: Gilt City is currently only available in NYC. As soon as it expands nationally (which is inevitable), it’s sure to have competitors like Groupon shaking in their discounted Louboutins.