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Why the New Dover Street Market Is a Wake-up Call for the Retail Industry

January 6, 2014 11:09am

Dover Street Market NYIs this the end of shopping as we know it? That thought kept insinuating itself in my head in December as I navigated the busiest spending time of the year. The revolution has been brewing for a while, of course, but this was the holiday season when I reached a personal tipping point in terms of favoring e-commerce over bricks-and-mortar. The physical act of visiting a store has finally become too depressing: You have to deal with the crowds, there’s rarely a sense of intimacy or discovery, there’s never anything in the size you want, the shop assistants in even supposedly upscale stores manage to be pushy and ill-informed at the same time (why is the line “Can I help you?” always delivered with a vague sense of threat?), and just try finding a taxi afterward. Better to stay home and log on. Ironically, one of the reasons the best online retailers win out is that they deliver a level of good old-fashioned service that their real-world counterparts have lost: Delivery to your front door (just hours after you’ve ordered if you live in New York), the ability to try things on in the comfort and privacy of home, and the option to return what you don’t like, no questions asked. Hell, if I’m logged in, one of my favorite e-tailers will even change the logo at the top of their site to Mr. Standen. It’s the little things in life.

No, I decided I was done with shopping the traditional way. And then along came Dover Street Market. I went to the press opening of the new multi-retailer space owned and curated by Rei Kawakubo and her Comme des Garçons team on the Friday before Christmas. Then I went back again a week later just to make sure my original opinion hadn’t been skewed by the energy of opening night. On both occasions, I came away with the same impression: Dover Street Market has made shopping enjoyable, even enlightening again. How? I think there are a few key lessons that other retailers could study.

1. Shopping should be a social experience first, a transactional one second.
The decision to put Rose Bakery on the ground floor immediately to the right as you enter was probably dictated by the contingencies of the physical space, but it’s a fortuitous placement. There’s nothing new about having a café in a store, of course, but what’s key here is that it doesn’t feel like a separate entity but a seamless part of the experience. The array of baked goods and the communal dining tables spilling into the shopping area immediately create a sense of well-being and bonhomie. That continues throughout the market with its seven floors and Aladdin’s Cave-like warren of individual boutiques. You feel like you are having a good day out even before you think about buying anything. That sentiment is probably helped by the slightly out-of-the-way Murray Hill location.

2. Shop assistants are the new rock stars.
First of all, they look the part here. But even if they’re dressed cooler than you, they don’t have that cooler-than-thou attitude. They won’t force themselves on a customer, but if you ask for assistance, you’ll find they are not only helpful but passionate and knowledgeable about the stock. None of this happened by accident. The assistants at Dover Street Market were cherry-picked from other independent shops around New York, then put through a rigorous set of interviews. I used to give other retailers the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was simply impossible to find great store assistants. DSM has proved it can be done.

3. It’s all in the mix.
Dover Street Market has the best variety of merchandise that I’ve seen in a long time. It adheres to the same formula that Kawakubo and Co. use in their other outlets in London and Tokyo, but perhaps because of the conservatism of most New York stores, it stands out in greater contrast here. DSM stocks a rigorously edited selection from—to name just a few—high-end designers like Prada and Saint Laurent, street/sportswear labels like Supreme and Nike, and up-and-comers like Shaun Samson and Gosha Rubchinskiy, not to mention a handful of items from an old-school French naval outfitter. Instead of feeling like you’re seeing the same things you’ve been looking at for months online or in glossy ads, there’s a sense of surprise here. Other retailers might argue that this approach wouldn’t be commercial enough for them. All I can reply is that nearly the entire stock of Supreme had turned over in the few days between my first and second visits. And it raises a larger point. Perhaps as traditional retailers do more and more of their business via their digital platforms, physical stores should become showcases for their more experimental ranges and most exciting goods, places where you enchant and engage your potential customers while the hard selling gets done online.

4. And finally…
Judging by DSM’s concrete facade, the shopwindow as we know it is dead.



I’m not going till next March, but its never too early to start thinking about where to dine in NYC.  We only have 4 nights, and those 4 choices are crucial ones.  Shigure is definitely on the short list…



My kind of place is comfortable, food-centric, and of course, anything Japanese naturally moves to the top of my list.  Yes, there are umpteen options, from yakitori joints to the uber-hip izakaya places.  I’ve been to several on previous trips and compared to Japan, I found them overrated and noisy.  I’m looking for something a bit less Disney-esque.

Shigure meets those requirements perfectly.  Its homey and low key, with exposed brick walls yet noteworthy music (if the NY Times mentions it, its got to be good).  The focus is clearly on Japanese oriented beverages and small plates meant to induce lively conversation and a memorable evening.  Check out the recent NY Times article here.

And for those of you who are slaves to the Tripadvisor restaurant reviews, I would suggest you take them with a grain of salt.  I find that a bit of detective work done on your own is a better measure of a great meal.



The Viceroy group opens in NYC today with a nautical themed space.  Ok, so this room is small, but sumptuous, and check out the Central Park view…insane!

Here’s what Hotel Chatter had to say about it…

Now if I can figure out a way to get comped when I go up next spring to see Celia perform at Carnegie Hall??  Gotta find a good angle, checking out the swimming pool maybe?

Living vicariously through other bloggers…will be in NYC next May, and this restaurant looks like a great option!

Summer Of George

There’s nothing I love more than catching up with a girlfriend that I haven’t seen in a while over a tasty meal and some cocktails. So I was psyched when, last week, Vivy agreed to try out a brand spankin’ new Laotian-inspired Southeast Asian restaurant in Tribeca.

If you love the flavors of Southeast Asia and are looking for an intimate and warm dining experience then look no further than Khe-Yo (Duane St, between Hudson St. and W. Broadway).

They had me at the bar.




After salivating over every item on the menu, Viv and I ordered a bunch of small plates to share and got down to the serious business of girl talk.


Some highlights:

(In reference to Viv having recently given a former beau a second chance.)

Viv:   “So yeah, we had a long talk where he basically said that he wanted to show…

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If you don’t have cause to cross the pond, you may not have heard of Massimo Dutti, but they’ve been around for some time in Europe, and you can now order their exquisite apparel (men and women!) online at

The company is part of the apparel industry giant Inditex, which owns Zara and  Berschka as well as several other large retailers, mainly in Europe.  Massimo Dutti is like Ralph Lauren’s Club Monaco division; its clean, hip aesthetic is ever-present, but there’s just a touch of preppy, similar to Tommy Hilfiger, but with a European edge.



Check them out and you won’t regret it.  Everything I have ever purchased from them has become a serious go-to in my wardrobe.

Even better, they now have a store in NYC on 5th Avenue at 54th street so check it out when you’re in the area!

The WSJ published an article by the hilarious Joe Queenan the other day that had me laughing so hard in the OB/GYN office that another lady sitting nearby had to ask me what the heck I was reading.  Since I only have a hard copy, and I looked everywhere to try and download the article in a format my followers could actually read, you’ll just have to download it yourself or find someone who has an online subscription(I’m afraid I don’t).evolution-hipster

Trust me, this shit is funny!

He states that a hipster’s ‘storehouse of sartorial sight gags are antiquated’ and posits that ‘the problem with such lurid self-nerdification is that the rest of us have to look at it’.  He goes on to point out that the whole look is a borrowed set of cliches, from John Belushi and Laverne and Shirley to Garrison Keillor.  One of my favorite quips in the whole piece was “the only human being I know of who wears a porkpie hat with any real conviction or panache is Spike Lee.  Everybody else looks like a jerk.”

His suggestions for updating the hipster look include the following gut-wrenchingly funny ideas: zouave pants, loincloths, sombreros, floppy perukes and fluffy shirts (I immediately thought of Jerry Seinfeld and the puffy shirt episode which made me laugh even harder), explicitly paleolithic i.e. fig leaves, etc., and of course the suggestion people are already buzzing about….golfwear, as in the mid-70’s look…burgundy trousers, white patent-leather shoes and belt, canary-hued knit shirt and a two-toned cardigan borrowed from Greg Norman.  Plus-fours. Muttonchops and bangs…OMG, he is too funny for words!

Get your hands on this article any way you can!


I couldn’t have said it better. The only one I would add is “13”, sorry, that’s all I can call her after House, in a stunningly modern white dress…



Photo thanks to The Chicago Life Blog, and if you want to see a few more pics…

fashion, food and flirts

The Met Gala is by far the most amazing, awesome, extravagant, luxurious fashion event of the year! How could it not be? It is organized by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, so if you want to see some breathtakingly beautiful dresses, the Met Gala is the place to be!
This year’s theme was: “PUNK: Chaos to Couture”. The possibilities are endless, I would say! It’s all about having the balls to wear something creatively insane, and rock it with a giant attitude! 😉
Let’s start with the night’s best-dressed :
Beyonce in Givenchy: hell yeah!


Anne Hathaway in a stunning Valentino dress! And I give her extra credit for her bold blonde new hairdo!

"PUNK: Chaos To Couture" Costume Institute Gala

Though I’m not a big fan of Nicole Richie’s hair colour, it is definitely punk! And her dress is gorgeous and affordable!! (Thank heavens for Topshop! )

MET nicole

Not exactly punk, I would…

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