The New Year brought more stores to Madison. Many of the brands that are opening have gone through significant transformations and are in the midst of reinventing themselves. They prove that, even with the pandemic, life goes on and does get better. Omicron is (hopefully) in the rear view mirror. Restaurants are filling up and buzzing again, new shows are opening on Broadway, and getting “back to normal” is the new mantra. We have all endured a lot of change in the last couple of years. And so have the places we love to visit. As consumers we have tired of staring at screens; and the appeal of brick and mortar shopping is slowly returning. What better way to celebrate our new freedom than taking a walk on the Avenue, and seeing what’s new.
And if you love to shop and dine on Madison Avenue, take a look below at the Madison Avenue Now app that will connect you to stores and restaurants on the Avenue. It comes with nice incentives and discounts, think invites, services, gifts, and more. Why not give it a whirl?
Alexis Bittar is back in business for himself. He sold 50% of his company in 2012, and then that was sold to what was Brooks Brothers. The retailer went bankrupt in 2020, and Mr. Bittar bought his name and business back. Although his headquarters are in Industry City in Brooklyn, he has now opened several stores in New York and in other major cities. The modern pieces are showcased in a store created by set designer.
Along with his modern jewelry, there are many beautiful vintage pieces from Bittar’s private collection. It must be a pretty big one. The Edwardian paste necklace on the display stand in the case is magnificent.
“Soft” merchandise — bags, scarves, hair and other accessories — have been added to the collection. They are a smart addition to the mix.
The signature lucite is back, along with the mixed stones. The store is beautifully merchandised with many pieces, new and vintage, to choose from. Bittar’s reincarnation is proof that second acts succeed.
Vases and other ceramics also fill the cases. Some of them are vintage, and some are newly produced for the brand. A nice mix. The focus is on accessories. All sorts of accessories.
Alexis Bittar, 1001 Madison Avenue
AG Jeans has moved into the space that had been occupied by Missoni. The company was founded in 2000 by Adriano Goldschmied, who invented the concept of premium denim years ago. Naturally, the boutique is full of denim; and some sportswear for both men and women. The standing mini-jeans are a fun touch.
The founder is a serial “leaver.” He co-founded Deisel, and was involved with Replay, Agolde, Goldsign and other brands. He even left AG Jeans in 2004. He states that he gets “itchy” when a company gets too big.
The ground floor of the store is primarily women’s wear, with a bit of the men’s wear on the right side. Tee shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats and pants that are not denim are a growing part of the mix.
The big display of the men’s jeans is upstairs. The brand’s initials are carved into the shelves bursting with different styles and colors. The company is working on making the creation of denim sustainable.
You never know what you will find in-store. Aside from well cut jeans, and contemporary fashion, there will also be displays and additions that are a lot of fun.
AG Jeans, 1009 Madison Avenue
Frances Valentine also has a new home. The brand was conceived as a showcase for shoes by Kate and Andy Spade, and partner Elyce Arons. The trio had started and sold Kate Spade, and were looking for something to do. Kate Spade’s untimely death in 2018 caused a momentary slow-down. But the brand has been relaunched with many colorful new additions and categories.
Ready-to-wear is now a focus of the brand. The design staff that the partners worked with at Kate Spade is now responsible for the product. Along with clothing, you will find some bags, shoes and jewelry.
Color is an important part of the collection, as are patterns and stripes. These are happy clothes.
The small boutique is set up as a living room meant for shopping. Pop in and take a look!
Frances Valentine, 922 Madison Avenue
Rubin & Chapelle, owned and designed by Sonya Rubin and Kip Chapelle, opened a small jewel box of a store. Annabelle Selldorf did the interiors. The duo have been designing in New York for many years, and to much acclaim. Their first shop was in MePa, but they closed it several years ago as the area changed.
The store is on two levels, with the upstairs resembling a loft. Their work features a lot of bias cuts, drapey cowls, and sophisticated organic shapes. The clothing works on a wide assortment of body types.
The shapes are very flattering. They are known for their made-to-order work as well. Their silks come in 60 different shades — pick yours and your special garment will take about a month to produce. The garments are made from sustainable products, and by local artisans. Everything is manufactured in the city.
Styles that are not in the stores are shown on the screen. The store is tiny, but full of many surprises.
Along with the artful clothing, a new line of nicely designed, sustainable leather bags fills the walls. The brand is a nice addition to Madison Avenue.
Rubin & Chapelle, 964 Madison Avenue
Eleventy Milan had a store in Soho that closed in 2020. I was sorry to see the purveyor of classic-with-a-twist Italian clothing go. So it was nice to see that the Milanese brand had migrated to Madison.
The clothing leans toward neutral colors for both men and women. Shoes, sneakers, boots and bags have been added since the move uptown. Eleventy is a cool lifestyle brand.
The spring collection — being delivered daily — features many casual but elegant jackets, and coats and vests done in interesting fabrics. There are shirts, jeans, and trousers to complete the look.
The clothing is casual but chic. Jackets are key, but they are easily tailored in the Italian style.
A collection for women is here, too. Dresses and skirts are mix with untailored trousers and many jackets. Women should also look to some of the key men’s pieces, as they do work for a boy-meets-girl vibe.
Eleventy, 769 Madison Avenue
Alex Mill has landed on Madison. The brand is another sort of comeback, too. It is the brainchild of Mickey Drexler — think Gap, J.Crew, Madewell and more — his son Alex Drexler and Somsack, the ex-creative director of J. Crew and Madewell. They focus on looks that embody easy, timeless casual.
The look is very laid back. Jackets for men come in twills and denims. Alex and Somsack love the perfect but uncomplicated look. American style is the starting point of the collections.
The looks for women are similar. The outfits are scaled for women, and dresses and skirts are available.
Sweaters are big for women this season, as are the striped shirts in the same fabric as the men’s shirts.
Alex Mill loves jumpsuits. Find many styles for women, and a one-style for the guys. Utility and usefulness are keywords for the brand. Alex Mill takes sustainability seriously too. They think you should buy carefully, considerably, and that you should relax into what you buy.
Alex Mill, 1182 Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue Now is the name of a new client loyalty app that connects shoppers and diners with over 38 retail partners on the Avenue. Points can be earned in boutiques, salons and restaurants, and redeemed in them, too. Expect VIP treatment and the ability to book appointments with stylists, and receive invites to trunk shows and other events, free services and gifts. Download the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.