Thursday, October 23, 2008

Observations from the New York Observer

Celerie Kemble New York Socialite Vintage Vixen
A little Thursday reading from the New York Observer

Crashion, What to Wear to the Recession.

As the Dow jigs and jags into alarming mountain peaks and valleys, fashionable New Yorkers of all stripes are considering what, exactly, those things are. Shopping as sport—collecting one $1,500, gilt-strapped It bag in three colors, for example—is suddenly seeming very 2007 (the year Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs made $67.9 million). Nowadays, shopping is an activity to be undertaken cautiously, solemnly, with an eye toward the future.

Also the past: Socialite and designer Celerie Kemble, arriving at the Food Bank event with baby girl Zinnia in tow, is one of many turning back to vintage.

(so socialite Celerie Kemble is a vintage vixen...who knew!)

“Excessive shopping is out,” said Julie Gilhart, fashion director at Barneys. “There is way too much going on in the world right now to have to take the time to think about clothes.”

Ms. Beracasa suggested repurposing a summer dress, wearing a sweater under it, “with tights, belting it, making it appropriate for fall,” rather than rushing out to buy a new frock.
“Friends that I see on a daily or weekly basis, they’ll see me in the same thing over and over again, and maybe I’ll change the shirt or the scarf or the shoe,” said stylist and gal-about-town Kate Schelter.

And Greenwich Lean Time

“The face of Greenwich has had a bit of a lift,” said James Ritman of Newmark Knight Frank, another local broker. “The height of it was probably 2006, when most of the hedge funds were here, early 2007—that summer of 2007, Greenwich Avenue was as jammed as I think anyone’s ever seen it, and stores were packed. The hedge fund guys weren’t feeling it then.”
It being the credit crisis, of course, which is still yet to affect most employees of Greenwich’s most high-profile industry on the scale of fallen investment bankers such as Lehman chief Dick Fuld, who has a house here. But hedge funds took their biggest hit in 10 years last month; the asking price for Leona Helmsley’s 80-acre estate in Greenwich’s “back country” was recently cut from $125 million to a mere $95 million; and disgraced hedge funder Michael Lauer’s 7,300-square-foot mansion was just unceremoniously auctioned off by the I.R.S. for $2.5 million, the minimum bid.
Retailers admitted that things have been quiet against this backdrop—kind of.

The big money—or rather, the big new money—started arriving about 15 years ago, strapped to the backs of the hedge funds that started staking out Greenwich. Even if the hedge fund guys couldn’t quite crack the Round Hill Club, and were often kept dangling on the brink of Greenwich Country Club, they knew how to do one thing perfectly: build massive houses. And to accommodate last-minute baubles for the wife, Greenwich rung in the new millennium with a spanking new 6600 square foot Tiffany & Co., installed in an imposing historical building. Before long, advertisements for $20,000 Patek Philipe watches appeared on the train platform. “The diamonds got bigger; that would be the number-one change,” said Mr. Betteridge. “Watches became more exotic and expensive.” (He noted that his store has, on and off, been the biggest Patek Philipe retailer in the country.)

It’s a more diverse, international crowd than you’d think, according to nearly everyone interviewed for this article; a group united only by sizable (if shrinking) bank accounts and their desire to live where rich people in America have always lived, on prime waterfront real estate a quick train ride away from our greatest city; and to do the things that rich Americans had always done, like golf and sailing and tennis, only with better handbags. They came to bathe in the WASP-y glow of the Greenwich brand—a brand so aspirational and compelling that Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors and Coach and Lacoste and all those retailers that could afford to eventually followed.

Before the hedge funds, there were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and before that, Rockefellers, he said. The wealth stays the same (or increases, or decreases, but stays greater than that of almost any other town in America). But what if the wealthy of Greenwich shed their showy luxuries—in order to hang on to the house—and the marquee New York stores remain empty? “Will I dance on their graves?” said Mr. Betteridge. “A jig.”

Even with all the wealth in Greenwich...I think it would be a good time to open a vintage clothing consignment store. Even a hedgefunder's wife might shop there....
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