European 'cheap chic' stores like H & M in fashion
March 01, 2004 12:00AM
Take a look at Fifth Avenue in the low 50s, and it's easy to see the growth and importance of European "cheap chic" or "fast fashion" in New York.
In 2000, H & M - the Ikea of fashion - opened a massive, 35,000 square foot flagship store on Fifth Avenue at 51st Street, announcing its presence in Manhattan in a big way.
Only recently did fellow European competitors follow the Swedish retailer to Fifth Avenue.
In the fall, Mexx, the Dutch company bought by Liz Clairborne two years ago, made its U.S. debut by opening in a glassy flagship store on 52nd Street. Zara, the Spanish fashion store, is scheduled to open at 54th Street.
H & M has become the hot destination for the Gen X, Y and Z set by providing up-to-the-minute trends at K-Mart prices. It's been facing off against its competitors in the Flatiron District to Union Square to Soho to Herald Square and the area around Bloomingdale's.
"It's promotional disposable fashion," said Stephen J. Stephanou, executive vice president at Madison HGCD. "You might see a customer standing in line with 10 of the latest trendy tube tops for $150, and if it doesn't dissolve on the disco floor, that's great."
"It's a niche that hadn't existed before," he said. "It's going to be a phenomenon that will continue to expand in the city."
H & M, which has six stores in Manhattan, has been the most aggressive in its expansion efforts, while Zara, which is higher-quality merchandise, has take a more cautious approach even though it has been here since 1987, and now has five stores.
Mexx, the Liz Claiborne unit, is "the new kid on the block," said Stephanou. It started with the flagship on Fifth and another store in Union Square this past year. "The jury is still out on how they'll do," said Stephanou.