Taking the Fifth

H&M, A&F, and Fendi

Apparently just one party isn't sufficient to mark the 80th anniversary of the house of Fendi: There are two, one at the former Cunard headquarters in Lower Manhattan, a spectacular venue, on the Saturday before Halloween, with around half the guests tarted up in costumes and the other half just tarted up. The second fete, a few days later, takes place at the new Fendi flagship on Fifth Avenue, which, though spectacular in its own right, has the misfortune of being wedged between a deeply unglamorous Nine West shoe store and Fortunoff's.

We attend both soirees, and come away with a total of three above average gift-bag freebees—a wrap-around leather bracelet (minus the mink pom pom it sports when you buy it at the shop), a key ring, and some stationery featuring black and white photos of Roman attractions—so we aren't feeling all that deprived when we visit the flagship on a recent Saturday to take a closer look. It's a vast, brightly lit space with a marble floor, so fancy a pair of purple rubber wellies perched on a burled wood shelf manages to look elegant. Unlike at the opening party, when PETA protesters wield what look like giant dead rats at the spiffy crowd, all is quiet this afternoon, though the place is jammed with the same melange of European moneybags and hapless lookie-loos that haunts Gucci up the street.

Though we are not particulary suckers for the Fendi spy bag, the "it" satchel of the season (a surprising fact since we are usually seduced by just this sort of thing) we do confess an interest in the gigantic ballet-pink tulle, pearl, and ribbon version featured in Fendi magazine ads. So enormous and ridiculously lavish is this carryall that at first we think it must be a joke, but it turns out the bag really does exist: The shop has yet to receive a pink one, but the black sold out almost immediately at $4900.

Since we're in the neighborhood, we cross the street to see what $4900 can buy from the new Stella collection at H&M [hm.com]. It turns out there was some truth to reports of vicious fights over the McCartney merch on opening day: almost the only things left are a rack of horrible saggy T-shirts in murky colors that say Stella across the chest and seem to have about as much to do with designer clothing as those Cinderella costumes our mom used to buy us at the drug store had to do with being a princess. Virtually the only other Stella item on tap is a long frock coat with satin lapels which may not have sold due to its relative austerity or its un-H&M-like price of $199. Still, though pickings are presently slim, fear not—the Lagerfeld stuff last year sold out instantly too, but then it was restocked and languished to such an extent that at the end of the season we bought two ersatz flapper dresses that had been marked down to 19.99 from $99. (We've yet to wear one, but at least we're only out $40.)

As fate would have it, the former headquarters of Fendi, a few blocks uptown at the corner of Fifth and 56th, has been taken over by Abercrombie & Fitch [abercrombie.com]. We don't attend the opening party for this one (don't care about an A&F gift bag) but decide to stop by after our H&M visit. At first we think there must be some sort of special event going on, so packed is the entrance, but then we realize that right in the doorway customers are lining up to have their pictures taken with a beefy, shirtless male model who, despite his splendid pecs, reminds us of nothing so much as the guy in the SpongeBob outfit who poses for pics with toddlers at Rockefeller Center. We skip the photo session and muscle our way inside, where we are struck by the endless counters of distressed jeans, mile-high stacks of polo shirts, and one giant taxidermied moose head sticking out of the wall. (What, no PETA protesters?) A shrunken parka trimmed with fake fur bears a ticket reading "authentic vintage," which is clearly a lie since this item is brand new and made in China.

Far more authentically vintage is a showcase displaying old skis, lacrosse shoes, and other well-worn sporting equipment. Is this an homage to the old Abercrombie & Fitch [www.scripophily.net], a much loved blue-blood sporting goods store on Madison Avenue in the 40s that went out of business decades ago? That place, with its stock of tweed hacking coats, khaki safari jackets, and an entire floor of guns never felt the need to rely on a half-naked boy toy in a doorway.

But then again, it went out of business.

 
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