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The Appeal of Coffee Shop-Clothing Stores

I Finally Get the Appeal of Coffee Shop-Clothing Stores
By Eliza Brooke
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When I went to Berlin on vacation last month, I sent out a Twitter plea for shopping suggestions. A few people who work in fashion got back to me, and between them, there was one common thread: Voo, the sort of cool-kid concept store that carries brands like Acne, Raf Simons, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and also Teva.

One friend, a writer based in Berlin, promised that the coffee there was “next level,” too.

Of course. The ol’ coffee-shop-within-a-shop scheme.

I’m sure you’ve stepped inside more than one clothing store in the last year that tries to provide visitors with an experience that’s bigger and more interesting than simply scoring a new pair of culottes or suede slides. Adding an espresso bar is only one way of doing that, but it’s proven to be a particularly popular tactic, adopted by boutiques like Saturdays Surf and Sincerely, Tommy in Brooklyn, among many, many others. Nothing says “lifestyle brand” like a beverage that literally brings you back to life.

Big brands, too, are throwing wads of cash at developing store formats with an experiential edge. When online sales started eating into brick-and-mortar revenue, executives realized they needed to approach their businesses holistically — to go for an “omnichannel” strategy, if you like buzzwords — and figure out how IRL and digital formats can be used to complement and improve one another.

One solution: give customers a store experience that can’t be replicated online.

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In Manhattan, Lululemon’s Flatiron flagship houses an abnormally wide array of merchandise and, on its clean, bright basement level, has space for exercise classes, couches and chairs for film screenings, and long wooden tables — the perfect setting to jam out on ideas for your work projects, the Lululemon team suggested when I visited at a press preview last fall.

A ten minute walk uptown, you can stop in to Urban Outfitters’s Herald Square store for a snack, a cup of Intelligentsia coffee, or a haircut.

Keep trekking north, and you’ll hit the Polo Ralph Lauren store on Fifth Avenue, which features a coffee shop, Ralph’s, on the second floor. Next door, you’ll find the brand’s Polo Bar restaurant, home of the $28 burger.

It’s not all about food; some brands focus their services on the product itself. Coach and Gucci have started offering monogramming and customization options in some of their locations, for instance.

As a reporter, I enjoy clocking the development of store initiatives like this. As a shopper, however, I have often been a real hater. I love coffee, but resent feeling like a pawn in someone else’s branding exercise — particularly when that someone is a publicly-traded corporation like Urban Outfitters or Restoration Hardware, which has in the last few years made its own push into enticing people to hang out on its premises.

There’s something about listening to executives discuss retail strategies at conferences and on their companies’ quarterly earnings calls that strips a unique in-store experience of its je ne sais quoi. Because I do sais quoi! It’s about driving up your Q3 revenue by whatever percent will make investors happy.

At the risk of sounding incurious and bad at my job, I’ll admit that I’ve largely scooted clear of spending time at these sorts of experiential stores — boutiques included, thanks to the halo of distrust bred by larger brands partaking in it. So I was somewhat resistant when all Twitter acquaintances suggested visiting Voo in Berlin.

But I went with a friend one sunny afternoon. The decidedly good range of brands Voo stocks were worth it, I figured.

Read the full story here >>
The Best Online Sales to Shop This Weekend
Photo: @dannijo

It's a great weekend to shop for jewelry, shoes, and swimsuits. Dannijo is hosting a blowout sale with 50% off all spring styles and up to 70% off select items. Meanwhile, shoes at Nasty Gal are up to 80% off, and Revolve is slashing prices up to 50% for its swimwear sale.

See our full list of sales here >>
Pop Star Allie X on Her ‘Harajuku-Mormon-Salem-Goth’ Style
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From Prince to Bono to John Lennon, many musicians have made sunglasses their signature over the years — but you’d be hard-pressed to find a singer more attached to her trademark shades than synth-pop sensation Allie X, who considers them an integral part of her identity.

"When you adopt X as your identity, you essentially become anonymous," she tells me over the phone from her native Toronto. "Sunglasses are just a representation of that. The eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of the body — if not the most vulnerable — and by covering them up, it offers a means of protection, of defense."

If this sounds like a gimmick, well, it’s kind of supposed to. Because Allie X, as the singer freely admits, is a project, a character of sorts. Born Alexandra Ashley Hughes, the classically trained singer and pianist got her start performing on Canadian reality shows like Triple Sensation, something that — along with much of her past — she prefers not to discuss in interviews.

She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 after landing a publishing deal and, one year later, released her debut single "Catch." Katy Perry then famously tweeted the track out to her then-50-million-plus followers, launching Allie X into the limelight. Her first multimedia album, CollXtion I, followed in April 2015, and judging by the steady stream of new songs and videos she's been sharing via social media this summer, CollXtion II should be dropping any day now.

Read the profile here
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