Monday, June 29, 2009

Boston Plays (Fashion) Hardball in New York

Shoppers scan racks and mingle at Second Time Around boutique.

THE pièce de résistance is a single-breasted black wool Chanel maxi coat with a wing collar and an abbreviated, wool-paneled belt that buckles on the diagonal. The famous name is engraved in small, tasteful letters on the buckle. Darth Vader’s significant other might like it. The costumer for “The Matrix” would simply adore it. It’s a showstopper. And the show ain’t cheap at $5,000.00 or $4,998.00, if you want to mince pennies.

It is hanging on the new arrivals rack at Second Time Around, the chain that is bringing its brand – contemporary, designer, consignment clothing – to Nolita (262 Mott St.). This evening is its opening party, billed as “Second Time Around: From Boston to New York.”

STA, which has a heavy presence in The Hub, has a lot of chutzpah to take it to NYC, throwing open its doors in a quartier where shops – consignment and otherwise – proliferate and only the strong or well capitalized survive. Owner Jeff Casler believes he has a winning formula, though. “We truly offer value and a selection that is updated hourly and we are on target with what’s in fashion, what people want.” For insurance he has on the payroll young fashionistas who “know fashion and know labels.” Fifty percent off retail has to help, too.

So, what’s here besides the Chanel coat, which I’ll take off your hands, JC, if you move that decimal point one place to the left? Name what’s in fashion now, and it’s in here. On the rack at the window, there’s a Diane Von Furstenberg halter dress ($118) in frosty pink with black trim.

Walking around the shop and outside on the sidewalk in a Carlos Miele sleeveless asymmetrical dress ($ unknown) in salmon with ruching on the bodice, is one of several hostesses for the evening, Alex McCord. Name familiar? I don’t know it either, but AM is one of the stars of “The Real Housewives of New York City." Familiar? Don’t know it either, but it is no relation to “Desperate Housewives.” In any case, AM is a gracious hostess and looks smashing.

Speaking of smashing: Derek Warburton (DW). The stylist to the stars and benevolent ruler of a growing fashion empire ( is the force behind a line of T-shirts hanging near the back of the store. “They’re for people in the Midwest” (and apparently in Southeast Manhattan), explains one of the aforementioned fashionistas, who offers to introduce me to DW when he arrives so I can get the real skinny on the Ts ...

On a rack against one wall is a T-Bags multi-colored tunic dress in jewel tones with three-quarter-inch dolman sleeves ($86, plus 20 percent off). Eve, the shopper and I are admiring a number of colorful and irresistible tunics hanging here. “I like the selection,” she says ...

But do I have the opportunity to jaw with DW about the Ts and Tanks going for $32 to $42 in hues like pink, mint green, lilac and gray? And what of those slogans – “Cute Fab & Easy,” and “Save Energy War Fur” – that I suspect will play well in Peoria? By the way is that Anna Wintour on one T-shirt with a black band covering her eyes?

The Ts/Tanks do “fit the character of the neighborhood,” as CFO Howie Green pointed out earlier about every hip, happening stitch in STA. And with inventory turning over every hour or so, they may have a short rack life. But what of the Chanel coat on the rack next door.

After an hour of leering, I finally give it a test drive. It’s my size: 36 (4). The wool is ultra soft or is it cashmere? Whatever it is feels good. And it looks good, according to the fashionista. I prance and turn and pose. I draw a few stares. But I am too fabulous to care. Suddenly, I am transported to the runway at the tents of Bryant Park ...

Speaking of Bryant Park, DW takes one penetrating look at Yours Truly and informs her that he knows her. Soon enough, he pulls me up from his mental rolodex. He appears to have fond memories of me from Boston. While I am unable to pull up DW from my Boston mental rolodex, I do have a fond memory of Himself from the front row of the Barbie show during Fashion Week in February. He was turned out in a blood red suit with accessories that I believe included a scarf, chains and perhaps a cane or umbrella. On his feet, bodacious leopard-print boots. Not a hair, thread, fold or crease was out of place. He. Was. A. Vision. Or as we say down South, “Sharp as a tack.”

Second Time Around opening was 23 June.

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