Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Archives: A Relic of Early Modernism in Midtown Manhattan

In this post, 34SP's archivist Anne Kumer shares some 34th Street retail history. This post also appears on NYC Circa, Anne's history blog about New York City and its public spaces and buildings. 

Recently, I went shopping with 34th Street fashion guru and Fashion Herald author Tricia, and she noticed the new Steve Madden store, along with a few guys talking in front of it who did not look like tourists, casual passersby, or purchasers of the 5-inch heels Madden is known for. (That last one is an unfair assumption. I have for sure seen many a gent rock a heel way better than I can in this city.) We accosted them, and after explaining what we do for the district, found out that one was the architect for the store. He then dragged us out into the street saying that we were right this minute across from one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. This one -- 22 West 34th Street.

Photo: A. Kumer, 34SP
I had noticed the building before, but never thought much past why is there would so much wall and so little window. Also, it's backed up against the Empire State Building on 34th Street, so it isn't as if there's nothing else to look at. He had such a glow in his eyes as he described the unusual modernness of this design for the time it was built, that I can only imagine he sees it like this instead.

Photo: NYPL digital collection

Designed by architecture firm De Young, Moscowitz & Rosenberg, and built in 1934, it's known in my trusty AIA Guide to New York City, and the above photo, as the Spear & Company building. Originally established in Pittsburgh in 1843, Spear's was a furniture store known for selling knockoffs of modern-style pieces. In addition to a whole lot of facade wall, the building was equipped with air conditioning, indirect lighting, and an auditorium, and cost about $300,000 to build.

In a 1938 New Yorker Skyline column, Lewis Mumford (also cited in Christopher Gray's 1995 Streetscape column) accused the building's designers of practicing fake functional with that small bank of windows facing east, and covered by the Spear's sign, which was yellow neon on a blue background.

By the early 1990s, many of the windows were painted over, Spears was long gone, and signage on the building looked like this:

Photo: N. Mintz, 34SP

A few years later, and a lot of work on behalf of the 34th Street Partnership, the wall sign is gone, though there is still a remnant of a vertical sign and masked windows.

Photo: 34SP
Now thankfully, (scroll all the way up for a refresher), the windows are unobstructed by vertical signage and paint. Mumford would be at least a bit more pleased.

Additional citation:
The Architectural Guidebook to New York City, by Francis Morrone and James Isla, p. 140

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Long Vests and Wedding Dresses

My colleague Anne and I went shopping the other week for weddings. She has two weddings to attend, and both are evening events. Anne was hoping she could find one dress that could do for both, or two that wouldn't break the bank. We went first to H&M Herald Square and got stuck there, but in a good way.

I got distracted immediately by all the trend pieces by the door on the first floor, and found a long, furry black vest that says "fashion week uniform" to me. Anne tried on this purple lace dress as she was trying very hard to not buy black, and we both liked it. Till she tried on a black dress.

Click to see the pleats. More perfect. And it's the perfect amount of sheer for an evening wedding (not enough to be trampy but enough to make it dressy). After I drooled over this long motorcycle vest I took a little time to shoot Anne. But not enough time to get a shot with her eyes open. Sorry, Anne! My excuse is I was reliving my '80's metal days. And I always get excited with the (millionth) resurgence of the motorcycle jacket trend. Anne got the black dress and a soft pink dress as a back up, so she's set for weddings. Me, I'm still thinking about long vests.

H&M Herald Square 34th Street and Sixth Avenue

Monday, August 29, 2011

European Style Hunt: Day Four

This month, in the dog days of summer, I'm posting a weekly diary entry from a designer friend who travels the world for inspiration, fabric samples, and all the other myriad things a fashion company needs from abroad. For five days on her European spring trip, while sourcing material for Spring 2012, she took some notes and photos while working from city to city, and reported for us some current must-have looks and trends...and I'm looking for these now on 34th Street.

Day Four: Kimono Belts

*Kenzo...brightly colored Kimono belt straps with double wrap-around wider straps seen with the double knot finish. Both fabric and leather belts are updated with this knot finish and eastern influence. Perfect with a maxi dress to simplify and streamline the waist. A simple ribbon tie was also seen against a print dress.
Must Have: Double wrap-around brightly colored belt.

Editor's Note:

Now I'm obsessed, I need that Kenzo belt, but without the Kenzo price, so I'll be hunting 34th Street. In the meantime, I saw this kimono jumpsuit restocked at H&M Herald Square recently, but sadly still not in my size.

Friday, August 26, 2011

34th Street Weekend Sale Pick: Macy's Shop For a Cause

#1. Macy's Herald Square
Our one and only pick this weekend, because Macy's tomorrow is hosting their Sixth Annual Shop For A Cause benefiting charities across the country. I'm going to let the press release do the talking because I'm in the middle of a beach evacuation. But don't let that nasty Irene stop you from shopping, saving, and doing your part for your favorite charity tomorrow! 

On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Macy’s will host its 6th annual Shop For A Cause benefiting charities across the country. This one day event is a fun and effective way for non-profits, school booster groups and other charitable organizations to raise funds and awareness for their causes.

By purchasing a $5 shopping pass from any participating organization, customers support their favorite causes and receive 25% off most regular, sale and clearance purchases in the store or online all day Saturday, August 27. The shopping pass offer is also valid on most brands that are usually excluded (such as Coach, INC, designer handbags & sportswear, Ralph Lauren, etc.) Plus, customers have the chance to win a $500 shopping spree.

In addition, Shop For A Cause passes are being sold at all Macy's stores through Aug. 27, and at on Aug. 27. All of the passes sold in store and online will benefit the March of Dimes, a leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.

We encourage you to rally your readers and join us for Shop for a Cause! In fact, we’d love to help you support your local charity too! Please send us a link to your post, which includes the charity you’re supporting, so we can tweet about it from our @MacysEvents profile!

Please find a full list of participating organizations here:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty in Polka Dots at Zara Herald Square

Spotted in the window at Zara on 34th Street near Herald Square. Haha! No, really, I'd be just fine with looking like this a few days a week. And I can really respect a business look that incorporates a leather skirt.

Zara 39 W. 34th Street just east of Sixth Avenue

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

H&M Herald Square; Really Hot for Fall

As I said on Twitter the other day, walk into H&M Herald Square, go immediately right on the first floor, and grab multiple fabulous pieces for fall. It's all here: short capelets, granny jackets, and long vests, furry and motorcycle styles. The trend section is now right in the front of the store on the first floor, and it's one great item after another. Kill-ing it.

 Here's a small sampling. I really need the gold beaded granny jacket. More pictures to follow once I've figured out why my netbook is loading them improperly. I'm on vacation this week, so I'm not going to be working too hard on this. Don't hold your breath! Save it to run to H&M Herald Square before all these wonderful pieces disappear.

H&M Herald Square 34th Street and Sixth Avenue

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teres Kids: Fund It!

Don't want to read this whole post? No problem, just click here to support a small business that makes adorable clothes for kids with tactile sensitivities, including those with autism, sensory processing disorder, and eczema.

Although my best friend is the designer of Teres Kids, I am in no way biased when I go on and on about how fabulous TK clothing is. Well, maybe a little, but my daughter is the one you should really be listening to as she wears Teres Kids. But can she properly vocalize her preferences for clothing at 22 months, you ask? Of course! Every morning she communicates her distaste for my choices with loud, piercing screams! To avoid this, I should just fully outfit her in Teres Kids because her TK froggy T is always happily worn with no vocal complaints. I don't have a picture of her in her favorite T but here is the really cute seahorse T.

Teres Kids is made in America with organic cotton. But most important, Teres Kids is designed for the utmost in comfort for children, particularly for those with tactile sensitivities. No irritating seams, no rough tags, no uncomfortable anything inside, and always the softest of fabric against the child's skin. Now you can help Teres Kids produce their 2011 winter collection. Go here, buy a scarf, a kid's T-shirt, or get one of the bigger packages, like 25% off through 2012. Yes, I'm getting the double-sided scarf for me and the Princess T for my girl.

Monday, August 22, 2011

European Style Hunt: Day Three

This month, in the dog days of summer, I'm posting a weekly diary entry from a designer friend who travels the world for inspiration, fabric samples, and all the other myriad things a fashion company needs from abroad. For five days on her European spring trip, while sourcing material for Spring 2012, she took some notes and photos while working from city to city, and reported for us some current must-have looks and trends...and I'm looking for these  now on 34th Street.

Day Three…. Hang on to your Stripes.

*If there were an ‘It Bag’ for the season, my vote would have to go to Prada’s bold stripe clutch. Stripes are seen in every bag silhouette: beach bag, hobo, weekender and the classic casual clutch. Bold colors and retro deckchair pinstripes are a fresh twist to brighten any spring outfit.
*Must Haves: Striped weekend bag and pinstripe day-to-evening clutch

Editor's note:

Just give in already, as the stripe is it not just for summer but for fall this year as well. You've seen all the cool girls wearing stripes?! And then there are those of us who for years have had to curtail striped-top shopping for fear of ending up with an all-stripe closet.

On 34th Street check out JCPenney Manhattan Mall for the very '70's I heart Ronson striped shirt, and for a more classic stripe go to Old Navy for the raglan boat-neck sweater.

JCPenney Manhattan Mall lower levels 1 & 2, 33rd Street & Sixth Avenue
Old Navy 150 W. 34th Street between Broadway & Seventh Avenue

Friday, August 19, 2011

34th Street Weekend Sales Picks: The Early Fall Sales

#1. Esprit
Because not only are their fall florals looking very fresh with sweaters and jackets, but their separates are 30% off the entire purchase of a top and bottom (full-price only).  21 W. 34th Street

Separates. And I love this floral camo jacket but I don't think this is on sale yet!
#2. Aeropostale
Because all their jeans are 50% off and their sweats are $20. I love the below as the logo is small and the rolled cuff is so very "now."  15 W. Street and Manhattan Mall level 1, 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue
#3. Charlotte Russe
Because their fall boots are BOGO for $15. That means you can get the manly lumberjack boot for $40, and then the more feminine wooden heel platform bootie for $15.  Manhattan Mall, level one, 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Bar III at Macy's Herald Square

I'm starting to hoard for fashion week, and dropped by Macy's Herald Square last week to see if the bar III would fulfill my now high expectations. I needed something for a wedding last weekend that could also work for fashion week, and was hoping to find this semi-mullet dress still on the floor:

No such luck, but I did find this other black Bar III dress that I wore to the wedding:

The shoes are my old Pierre Hardy for Gap, the bag is my old Hayden Harnett, and the balloon is Baby Herald's, who was wearing a very cute dress bought in Colorado by her aunt. Her headband, however, is all BabyGap. I love the Bar III dress, the kind of bizarre shape, the zipper up the front, and the strong shoulders, but I was unprepared for the whole bending over thing. I don't normally go so short. And when you're chasing a toddler you're doing a lot of bending over, especially when you've got to pick them up and empty their crocs of dirt after gymnastics mishaps.

I also had the pleasure of being overdressed for the wedding. I wish people would specify "informal" so you're not showing up looking like you tried while everyone else is in shorts and T-shirts. Seriously. I would like to quote LeslyKat who suffered a similar situation recently: "COME ON PEOPLE!" 

Macy's Herald Square 151 W. 34th Street between Broadway & 7th Avenue

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

European Style Hunt: Day Two

This month, in the dog days of summer, I'm posting a weekly diary entry from a designer friend who travels the world for inspiration, fabric samples, and all the other myriad things a fashion company needs from abroad. For five days on her European spring trip, while sourcing material for Spring 2012, she took some notes and photos while working from city to city, and reported for us some current must-have looks and trends...and I'm looking for these  now on 34th Street.

Day Two…Secret Garden 
*This Season’s florals take on every scale, from exploding brush strokes of petals to ombre wash effects inspired from remote tropical botanicals. This mix of everything colorful is staged in a retrospective of gardens from around the world.  Marc Jacobs & Missoni have both been influenced this season by the perfect ‘blush reds & berry tones’ which have a sun drenched, rich hue. Accents with yellows are the perfect compliment to bold floral accessories. 
*Dream Must Haves: *Mulberry’s floral bag, floral T-Shirts,Perfect in Pink Sandals (Dior)

Editor's follow-up:

Note the floral Esprit window in our designer's inspiration board. I dropped by the Esprit flagship on 34th Street this morning to check out their current floral situation, and while the store was not yet open (*ahem* it was after 10am, retail foul), their windows were bursting with fall floral. Love the mix of floral prints with fall jackets and sweaters.

Esprit 21 W. 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steve Madden's 34th Street Facelift

My co-worker Anne and I have been debating whether or not we were talking to Steve Madden (the man, not the shoes) in the store on 34th Street this morning. I kind of don't think so as he wasn't wearing a hat, although his attitude seemed much in line with how a very important shoe person would act. Very "who the hell are you and why are you asking me questions about exposed brick on my building?" I gave the usual response that starts with "We work for the 34th Street Partnership..." and got the same WTF look I always get when I try and explain what we do. It's like when I start complaining about gum on sidewalks, fake Bugs Bunny, and bad trashcans.

Speaking of gum on sidewalks...

The exposed brick above the window is what started all this. Anne, our archivist and 34th Street historian, found it curious, so naturally I dragged her into the store to further inquire...

Ewwww. Now that I pointed it out to you I promise it's going to drive you crazy forever. You're welcome! But isn't the new look for the 34th Street Steve Madden boutique pretty fabulous? Streamlined, sexy, open, and probably still a work in progress as that sign looks temporary. Feel free to zoom in and tell me if that's Steve Madden in the doorway talking to his architect, who soon monopolized Anne to discuss 34th Street buildings. I was, of course, engrossed. I then made Anne shop for shoes. We both bought bags instead, but that's for another day. Please check out the fabulous redesigned interior below:

Crap iPhone photo.
Slightly not-so-crap iPhone photo.

Such a smart looking boutique. This was done at near Extreme Makeover speed, as just last week I noticed construction on the storefront. Bless the Steve Madden efficiency as we all need the store to stay open every day for fall shoe shopping.

Steve Madden 34th Street 41 W. 34th Street just east of Sixth Avenue

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rainy Day Gear: The Best Umbrellas on 34th Street

Last week, during yet another summer rain storm, I ran across the street to Duane Reade for an umbrella but they were sold out. I was cursing myself for not picking up more of these the last time I was at Daffy's Herald Square:

I have to keep this hidden away, or every day I'd be bumping into the bumblebee. Those are also Daffy's pajamas.*

Daffy's never lets me down with weather gear. Raincoats, hats, gloves in the winter, a wall full of scarves, and always a brand of fabulous rain or snow boots, you should definitely stop by here (and grab two umbrellas, one for home and one for the office) before you pay full price for stuff like, yes, bumblebee umbrellas. The above was under $5 in the kid's department. It was between this and an Elmo umbrella, and I'm confident I made the right decision.

*Oddly I have a hell of a time finding decent pajamas for toddlers that aren't rough cotton and $$. These pajamas, also Daffy's Herald Square, came with pants and shorts, are soft, and cost around $10.

Daffy's Herald Square Herald Center, 34th Street and Broadway 

Friday, August 12, 2011

34th Street Weekend Sales Picks: Back To School Part 2

#1. Call It Spring
Because they are having an extra 30% off sale, which keeps returning college kids in budget while stocking up.  Manhattan Mall, level 1, 33rd & 6th

 #2.  Express
Because when you buy one pair of jeans you get the second for $29.90. And their new flares (below) are in store in several different washes.  Manhattan Mall, level 1, 33rd & 6th, and 7 West 34th Street.
#3.  Desigual
Because they are having a 50% off sale for summer items, and a lot of those prints you can layer year-round. Also look for the really cute bikinis marked down.  34th Street at Fifth Avenue and 35th and Broadway

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Desigual by Lacroix

Every time I'm trying something on at Desigual on 34th Street, I gauge my love for an item by asking myself if it's Underwear Party Worthy. This means, would I stand in front of the store for hours in my underwear to get two items for free.

I'd seriously consider standing on 34th Street in my underwear for the above two Desigual by Lacroix pieces. I didn't think much of the jacket ($244) on the hangar, but it's adorable on, and the attached sleeves are so much fun, and it's so comfortable...and I think the cropped cargo pants ($139) are perfect. I'd also be tempted to leave the big "L" for Lacroix tag hanging off them.

The grey sweater ($139) is like getting two for one, as the sleeveless black shirt with the ruffled collar and hem is detached. I wasn't 100% on the sweater or the shirt on the right, though. 

I'm not so crazy about the dresses, either. Although that black top/dress (left, above) is totally not me, too graphic, I kept coming back to it. I tried on a few other dresses, but nothing special, and some downright ugh. My two cents? This collaboration is more disappointing than fabulous. It felt too Desigual and not enough Lacroix. It was a challenge finding the Lacroix in the store as it looked like everything else around it. The very Lacroix cropped black velvet jacket was not at 34th Street. Also, no leggings from the runway shot, no big, cowl-neck sweater, and no very Lacroix skirt. But prices are great, the same as the regular Desigual line. And girls in love with the current pattern mixing trend? Go discover Desigual already!

The Desigual by Lacroix line is available at:
Desigual 34th Street 358 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The UGG Collection Launch

That tall UGG boot on top must be mine.

If you liked the leather UGG boots I showed from their Madison Avenue opening, you're going to really fall in love with their new, Italian handcrafted UGG Collection.

Thanks to the good people at UGG Collection for inviting me to the launch of this beautiful collection at their showroom last evening. I aspire to own that tall boot in the first photo, the "Analieri." It also has a fabulous leather cousin, called the "Cavalieri," below, inspired by the Italian field boot and featuring a detachable leather shaft. Does that not say it all? UGG Collection hits UGG flagship stores and online at September 1st. No, it won't be available anywhere on 34th Street, sadly, but hey, sometimes a girl has to cheat.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another One Got Away?

Here's a big problem in my line of work, with this constant trying on of clothes: regrets. I've had a lot more than a few. And here's another:

I should have gotten this JCPenney MNG by Mango dress, right? It's a cute print, it's 20% off ($79.92), it's an easy cut, and I would totally wear it in the fall with boots/booties (transition piece...). But honestly, in the dressing room I thought it made me look fat. I don't own a lot of dresses, so perhaps I'm excessively exacting when it comes to dress shopping. Am I asking for too much? Should I run back to JCPenney Manhattan Mall tomorrow and ransack the sale rack? I'm thinking yeah.

JCPenney Manhattan Mall Lower Levels 1&2, 33rd Street & Sixth Avenue

Monday, August 8, 2011

European Style on the Hunt: Day One

This month, in the dog days of summer, I'm posting a weekly diary entry from a designer friend who travels the world for inspiration, fabric samples, and all the other myriad of things a fashion company needs from abroad. For five days on her last trip in the spring, while sourcing material for Spring 2012, she took some notes and photos while working from city to city, and reported for us some current must-have looks and trends. She prefers to be anonymous, but I'll call her Incognito Girl for now because it's getting late on a Monday, naming things is hard, and every other stylist seeking and trend hunting name is taken. Yes, this is called #fashionbloggerproblems. Read on below and look for 34th Street follow ups this fall to see how these summer trends translate through the fall...

Day One….Denim & Dots.

*Sonya Rykiels S/S’12 Collection has inspired this season’s mix of bold black and white polka dots and color blocking. What’s fresh to reinvent this spring’s statement? It's worn head-to-toe in your outfit. Denim has also made a strong statement in the stores for summer. Denim wash shoelaces? They're just the tip of the denim trend. Denim is also hot for the interior…teapot cozies, patchwork denim cushion covers and framed vintage denim patches.

Must HavePatchwork Knits at Ralph Lauren. Classic utilitarian gets an update with denim washes and deconstructed knits.

Friday, August 5, 2011

34th Street Weekend Sales Picks: Back To School Part 1

#1. Borders
Because this bankruptcy sale has been further reduced. The entire store is now 25% - 50% off. Go soon, as the merchandise is starting to look thin, although the signs at the doors say new merchandise is coming in every day.  2 Penn Plaza, 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue

#2. Payless
Because the BOGO 50% off the entire store is back on as of today, and you may be able to find some Isabel Toledos on sale in your size. Also look for the Tscherassi's and the new Trash line.  110 W. 34th Street

#3. Old Navy
Because from now until the 18th, when you spend $20 you get $10 in Super Cash, to be redeemed August 25th to the 29th (see store for details). And their new flares are on sale for $29.50, below.  150 W. 34th Street

Also don't forget Gap's 30% off Friends and Family this weekend, and look to Foot Locker and Lady Foot Locker for backpacks on sale ($19.99-$34.99).