Sunday, January 18, 2015

Salvation Army Savior

Chanel? Dior? Dooney&Bourke? Vera Bradley? Burberry? Prada? Saint Laurent? Salvation Army? … Brand New Look, Designer Labels and Lots More At This Super Cool, One-Of A-Kind, Concept Boutique Outpost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

When most people think about the myriad of international Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores, there probably is nary a thought nor an kind of an idea about any of those stores being well-lit, open, airy; having clean, chic, eclectic interiors, not to mention showcasing exposed brick walls, carpeting, high-end, designer clothing, accessories, footwear, home furnishings, artwork, books, and so on and so forth.

Well, get ready to rethink what you ever might have thought about any Salvation Army Family Store, especially if you were (or still are) a shopper, and be prepared to be shocked, awed and blown away, because all of this good stuff is now available for everyone’s enjoyment; all under one very cool roof; within an experimental, Concept Boutique shop in the trendy 11222 zip code zone of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Back in late December 2014, The Salvation Army did something for the very first time; something so new and so different; something so radical and controversial, in terms of how it wanted to approach its retail business; broaden its growth, image, sales revenues. Obviously, the change made waves and drew headlines, not just because The Army had decided to completely shift its mentality and its retail gears; lifted the veil on its new M.O., but, more importantly, because The Army decided to put its money where its mouth is; i.e., launch a totally re-done, re-worked, refurbished, one-of-a-kind, never-been-done-before, intimate, jewel box of a shop, at 981 Manhattan Avenue, smack dab in the heart of trendy Greenpoint; dubbed “the new Williamsburg” by more than just a few of those well-placed, in the know scenesters.

Welcome to Salvation Couture!

According to Major Joe Irvine, the soft-spoken and erudite, 25 year Army veteran, who was born to Canadian parents, and now serves as Administrator, for the Brooklyn Adult Rehabilitation Centers, all funded by the Thrift Stores, the idea behind the overhaul and renovation of the 35-year-old, 2,500 square foot shop into the chic, hip, Boutique-style Concept shop, is simple and direct. “Time to throw away the rule books and let’s see what works. We have to be forward-thinking, creative retailers, in order to help our people. We have 135 beds in Brooklyn alone; everything is free; while we do not take children; we will take anyone and everyone who needs help.”

For Irvine, his wife, Major Lisa Irvine, and William Franklin, Store Supervisor, the question of timing for the change was right on target; tying into Greenpoint’s location, hipness quotient, huge growth and rapidly changing face, popularity and population. According to Irvine, the former store, housed in a Salvation Army-owned building, and much smaller than any of the Army’s other Thrift Stores, probably would have closed; “the building might have just been sold off”; had it not been for the new model, which currently represents a first on the East coast. He expects the model to spread.

From start to finish, the overhaul work, which was mostly done by the Major, his wife and a few other Army workers in tow, embraced swapping out the old look of dirty store, (chipped, peeling paint on walls; cracked floors; horribly cramped aisles, boring, cheap clothing, hung cheek to jowl on old, falling down racks, dim lighting, sullen, rude employees, et al.) with freshly painted and exposed brick walls, elegant carpeting, interesting and bright lighting; lots of covetable, high-end, modern and vintage, designer merchandise, housewares, home décor, etc.; all easily accessible, neatly and beautifully arranged and displayed, either on fine hangers or well-folded inside of antique wood armoires, or atop open chests, plump couches, leather chairs, living room and billiard tables, etc. Definitely, no more falling down and dirty steel racks in this place anymore. And, while the old awning outside the shop remains for now, Irvine says that this, too, will change, as the shop grows and progresses. Then, there are the fashion-y, welcoming “Store Attendants” - Shannon and Tyasia – who were specifically hired to constantly provide excellent customer service; understand and cater to the younger, hipper shopper in a warm, non-threatening way.

Greenpoint's SA
Williamsburg is Jealous

In order to uphold the store’s retooled aesthetic, workers now cull through the gazillions of Salvation Army donations and then, cherry-pick those special, high-end goods for women, men, kids — or, simply unique items that just seem to fit; everything is then priced to sell from a mere $9.99, upwards to hundreds of dollars. On the day this Editor visited, there were well-priced, standout items galore; a natty, Burberry herringbone overcoat ($74); lots of cool Fedoras and knitted hats, scarves, gloves, pair of quilted, vibrantly colored Vera Bradley overnight bags ($46, $38); a really sweet Dooney&Bourke wristlet, complete with signature heart fob keychain/charm ($11); assorted cashmere and wool jackets, pants, sweaters; hip T-shirts, trendy athleisure gear; and lots more. Interestingly, a neat, oversized, men’s vintage leather bomber jacket ($68) was instantly scooped up by a cool Japanese girl from Astoria, who said that she first heard about all of the changes in the shop from her boyfriend who lives in Greenpoint. 

 Clothes Picked for You, Not Before You!

Explaining the raison d’être for the turn-around, Irvine explains, “the store was horrible; had long served its purpose; sales were at an all-time low; a struggle, in order to make $500 a day; staff, merchandise; atmosphere; everything in this store needed to be re-tooled and reinvigorated. Overall, the store simply represented a disservice to The Salvation Army, as well as the international Thrift Stores. The time had come to do something new and different, while at the same time, we needed to bridge the gap; stay true to our standards of always meeting the human need without discrimination; race, color, creed, budget, while continually honoring the customer, the donor and the beneficiary of all of our programs.”

Something Different, Something Simple and
Everything Better!

When asked about the possibility of some long-time neighborhood residents and former shoppers, being unhappy about the new shop and its new look, upscale, designer offerings, higher price points, hipster clientele, et al., Irvine does not miss a beat when he says,” some people are going to like the shop; some will not like what they see here. There are always positives and negatives in life and in retail, but I do believe that through the growth, on-going sales, word of mouth, popularity, etc., all of this will help bridge the perception of the store catering to only the upper class, young hipster.” Looking ahead, Irvine is more than just a bit optimistic for the shop’s growth and success. “The approach seems to be working well; sales have already increased by 30% to 50%. I’d like to see us realize around $350,000 in sales for the period through December 2015.”

Maj. Joe Irvine's Rebranding
Thrust SA to the Fashionista Front! 
--not too bad for a Major--

ADWB for C&C

Friday, January 9, 2015

Death, Sex, Glamour and Allure Become The New Black

Well, the proof is in the pudding; the devil is in the details. and truth be told, the combination of sex, fashion, glamour and mourning have definitely become Electra. Now, all of this is really true and really 100% honest, due largely to the examples, stories, notes, and last but not least, all of the fantastical, albeit slightly monstrous, if you will, images, which are so deftly portrayed throughout The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute’s first Fall Exhibition in seven years - aptly titled, "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” - on view in The Anna Wintour Costume Center through February 1, 2015.

As more than just a mere few Victorians saw death, mourning and the clothing, accessories, et al., which went along with paying homage to the dearly departed of the period, women (and probably a few men, too) in mourning were seen as contradictory figures— objects of sympathy and pity, to be sure; but also, and more often, no doubt, many of these mourners were often-times viewed as highly mysterious, sexually charged, and explicitly appealing.

Obviously, with all of this going on, most Victorian women were well aware of the contradiction; to wit: "There is a charm and fascination in the manner and conversation of a widow which is known and appreciated by the other sex," wrote Martha Louise Rayne in her 1881 book Gems of Deportment and Hints on Etiquette.

Yet another example of this type of contradictory attitude can be notated in the following story: After being told the mourning clothes she wore for her brother looked becoming on her, a Tennessee teenager named Nannie Haskins, wrote in her diary in 1863: "Becomes the fiddlestick. What do I care whether it becomes me or not? I don't wear black because it becomes me . . . I wear mourning because it corresponds with my feelings."

The above quotes are included within the Exhibition, which basically favors quite a strong (often-times startling and off kilter) position , in terms of defining and showcasing the key nuances of Victorian and Edwardian Mourning Attire, not to mention how the extremely chaste. prim and proper women of this time were viewed and regarded as dark and forbidden sexual objets d’art, in both their mode of dress, as well as their mannerisms; as related to the mourning of loved ones who had passed on.

The Exhibition features some 30 ensembles, many of which are reportedly being seen for the very first time, “reveals the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.”

Further, the “Death Becomes Her …..” title plays on this inherent contradiction: Most of us see death as an unwelcome aspect of life, and yet there is something undeniably sensual, sexual, dark, mysterious, chic, glamorous, et al., about every aspect of mourning garb, albeit even for those Victorian and Edwardian women who may never even have had any thoughts of arousing these attitudes and feelings, but still may have been thrilled, titillated and, or aroused; perhaps even that much more womanly, by being seen and thought of by others in these ways, which were surely out of the norm for the period.

According to Harold Koda, (Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is curating the current Exhibition with Jessica Regan, Assistant Curator): “The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes. The veiled widow could elicit sympathy, as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Frankly, for this editor, this type of allure is not all that perverse, especially considering the fact that most people (not just the New York fashion show crowd) still believe that black is everything; always chic, super stylish; sensual; goes with everything, everywhere.

Modern clothing and the love of black notwithstanding, Victoriana, in general, is always mysterious and a bit scary. Long veils invite a look underneath (what becomes the woman most is an understatement here). The period’s version of modern-day bling is fetchingly understated, when formed of nearly weird, black-only jewels. And, what more can be said about the virtues of Victorian clothing, which while might appear excessively ornate to the modern eye, seems totally smooth and ultra-elegant, when rendered in the monochromatic palette of blackness. So, with all of this being said, and though far from today’s design schematic; digitally enhanced, airbrushed, et al., ideals of modern style and beauty, Victorian mourning wear has much to say and much to show, in terms of an extremely potent and a bit frightening, blend of death, sex, glamour, lust, and restrained, if not out and out, femininity.

What makes this stand-alone, thematic and chronologically organized Exhibition appear most unique and interesting is that all of the thirty ensembles—most adorned with gloves, hats, and jewelry – feature an array of eclectic mourning dress from 1815-1915, primarily from The Costume Institute’s Collection. “The calendar of bereavement evolution and cultural implications are illuminated through a range of women’s clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the latter introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve.”

In the first stark-white display area, a grouping of well-coiffed, white-haired, period mannequins, show the wardrobe. A small, second room, displays a luxurious selection of accessories (including a gorgeous black silk parasol), as well as pages from British and French fashion journals and satirical drawings from the famed illustrator of the period, Charles Dana Gibson. An apt part of the Exhibition centers on rather ghoulish, post-mortem photograph of a child, suitably covered by a black velvet drape, offering protection from bright lights. During Victorian times, photographing the dead was not unusual; especially in the case of children, where the after-death photograph was often the only image the family would ever have of the deceased. Perhaps the Victorian standards of dress and comportment as related to mourning definitely have fueled the love affair which virtually every modern-day designer around the world (not to mention how women and more than a few men) feel about black in general (not only related to paying respect to the dead). The act of mourning, grief, et al., specifically the wearing of black clothing, jewelry, accessories, et al., was and continues to remain today, something to be seen as paying respect to those who have left the world as we know to be, of course, but more importantly, the terminology of sexuality, sensuality, glamour, allure, mystery, depths of darkness, etc., continues to play on and on; transposing from those long-ago, Victorian and Edwardian times – “Elaborate standards of mourning set by royalty spread across class lines via fashion magazines,” according to Regan. Clearly, and for the many viewers of the current Costume Institute’s Exhibition, many of these ideas, attitudes, auras and feelings, continue to have a deep and long-lasting impact today.

ADWB for C&C

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Live From New York … It’s JTV

Truth be told, most Fashion Editors (such as this Fashion Editor, no doubt) are quite jaded; rarely get excited about anything, but when a bored, jaded Fashion Editor does get excited about something, there really has to be quite a unique, different and interesting twist about that particular brand, designer, store, or, as in this case, about a very cool, pre-Holiday, 2015 Jewelry Preview Party, recently hosted in Manhattan, at the posh, Bryant Park Hotel, by the Knoxville, TN-based, home shopping network, Jewelry Television.

For those of you out there who are wondering about JTV and the mega spread of unique jewels - fashion, fine (and everything in between) – served up live, on air, 24/7/365, and via the internet (, at varied price points, the short story goes something like this. JTV focuses on the “jewelry for everyone” credo, which is a neat trick to accomplish, especially when considering that the company manages to offer a reported 30,000 jewelry options across its repertoire.

All of this translates into lots of designer and private collection offerings, from a mix of well-known and not so well-known names, many of whom regularly appear on air, alongside a JTV Show Host, where, while the jewelry is always the hero, the banter is chatty and casual, in order to obviously add that key personal touch, in order to bring shoppers instantly and directly into the mix.

Unlike the other Home Shopping Channels out there, JTV’s main event is all about the jewelry, all of the time; on air and on line. What this means is that JTV wants to tempt as many shoppers as possible (in the shortest time possible, of course) with the golden opportunity to take full advantage of a huge array of loose gemstones, petite and large cocktail rings, small to chunky necklaces, bracelets, and the like - with many different varieties from which to choose within each grouping- right along with diamond baubles (real and real-like simulants); worked in metals and 14k gold; “Made in Italy” pieces (totally haute couture in feeling; karat gold, as well as “look of gold”); precious pearls, embracing a wide range of extremely affordable, cultured pieces, as well as the more swanky, high-end varieties, such as Keshi, Tahitian, South Sea, Japanese Akoya. et al.

JTV works hard, in order to grab the shopper’s interest immediately. In this way, each and every on air and website presentation must always be well targeted; in terms of each jewelry collection, Show Host, appropriate designer appearance, etc. The goal, obviously, is to continually enhance and fulfill each shopper’s desire, to easily and quickly purchase and own that special piece of jewelry, because, no matter what that shopper’s budget may be; no matter the amount of her or his purse – perhaps just a mere few dollars or mega thousands – each customer is able to dream her or his dream, in terms of basically affording and owning that treasured gem at nearly every price level.

Now, as for the event, and pardon the pun here, absolutely no “stone” was left unturned during the JTV Rocks Cocktail Party. Set against the Hotel’s luxy, top-floor, Loft space, the sparkly gems mixed and mingled with the glittering, night-time Manhattan, skyline views. Sure, there were the requisite, huge platters of food and flowing wine and champagne for all guests to enjoy, but the real fun of the evening began with an invitation for everyone to select a ring from amongst the many offerings, which were nestled in oversized cocktail glasses, as part of a very glitzy, “Cocktail Ring Bar”. FYI, this Editor chose a huge, gunmetal tone/multicolor purple/white crystal dome ring (Off Park Collection); way more expensive-looking than the $39.99 JTV price, as was noted in the full-color, oversized, magazine-style catalog, handed out at the event). 

JTV'S Cocktail Ring Bar Served Up Very Dry Martinis
Some Were Stirred, Others Shaken, All Were Stylish

Further to promoting the highly visible, totally accessible jewelry as the main event, with focus, naturally, on the season’s specific “Trending” stories, several different, well-edited and tightly-themed groupings were laid out tabletop style, against stark white cloths, accentuated by softly colored silk ribbons. While for this Editor, nearly every trend and just about every piece of jewelry; all at varied price-points, were superb, there were definitely certain standouts. Here, this Editor’s picks for the best of the best:

“Welcome to the Jungle”: Titanic Jewelry Collection, Juliette’s Exotic Flower Brooch ($159.99); Off Park Collection, two-tone mesh Snake Necklace ($36.99) and crystal, glass, enameled silver tone Leopard Ring ($39.99).

Lighter Shade of Pale”: Mia by Moda Al Massimo, multicolor Murano glass bead 18k yellow gold over bronze strand necklace ($657.50),Stratify, 33.30 ctw oval Bollivian Orchid Amethyst/18krose gold over silver 3-row bracelet ($299.99) and 17.86ctw Brazilian Amethyst 18k yellow gold over sterling silver dangle earrings ($129.99), round Swiss-blue topaz sterling silver Floral Necklace ($299.99), Charles Winston for Bella Luce, Rhodium over sterling silver Cocktail Ring ($99.99)

“Bold and Beautiful”: CharlesWinston for Bella Luce, Tanzanite color 30.75ctw Rhodium over sterling silver Bracelet ($499.99), 33.35 ctw oval, marquise, royal London Blue topaz with 13.20ctw round white topaz sterling silver Bracelet ($479.99), Off Park Collection ,gunmetal tone crystal Flower Necklace ($99.99), free-form Red Sea bamboo coral Rhodium over sterling silver multi-strand 18 inch Necklace ($49.95)

“Stack It Up”: Splendido Oro 14k rose gold artformed silk ring (shown also shown in 14kwhite gold, 14k yellow gold ($87.50), Sophisticated Steel, 22.00ctw carnelian, manmade Swarovski Element glass stainless steel Necklace ($59.99), Off Park Collection, gunmetal tone crystal chevron multi-strand Drape Necklace ($39.99)

“Heavy Metal”: Moda Al Massimo, Made In Italy, 18k yellow gold over Bronze fancy curb link Bracelet ($149.99) and 18k yellow gold over Bronze circle link Necklace ($129.99); Stile Italiano Rhodium over sterling silver graduated Circle Necklace ($129.99) and Rhodium over sterling silver filigree design Chandelier Earrings ($79.95), Diamond cut 18k rose gold over sterling silver spiral round Dangle Earrings ($79.95)



Crap and Couture, Notes From the Back Row