By Alex Goetzfried
By Alex Goetzfried
St. Patty’s Day got off to an early start on Wednesday night as the American Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys rocked out to 3,000 rabid fans at Terminal 5 in New York City. Doc Martins, kilts, mohawks, tattoos and hockey sweatshirts imprinted with the Dropkick Murphys logo, are the fashionable items for an evening at a Dropkick Murphys show.
By Yuen Wa Ng
Shopping online on Black Friday might seem like a great way to avoid the huge crowds amid chilly weather, to get pre-Black Friday deals and to give you more time enjoying turkeys. Still, many shoppers found compelling reasons to leave their homes.
By Erin Teresky
Goodbye Mademoiselle, Hello Mimosa.
They are nail-polish color names, not salutations to a French ingénue or a brunch cocktail — the former is a now-outré sheer pink by Essie, the latter a must-have metallic-infused yellow by Chanel.
Unusual shades once relegated to teenage punk rockers or eccentric elderly women have become mainstream, as have weekly professional manicures, once the preserve of wealthy matrons.
As the earning power of women grows — 28.9 percent of wives out-earned their husbands in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 17.8 percent in 1987 — it makes sense that the nail industry, a market whose customers are overwhelmingly women, has been booming.
As more women earn advanced degrees and contribute more to the G.D.P., the “safe” fashion and beauty choices once typical of corporate culture are going the way of the girdle.
Unlike the 1980s, when many women wore “power suits” with football-equipment-like shoulders, today more women achieve economic success without feeling the need to maintain a gender-neutral style. Shannon Tesauro, an analyst at Fidelity Investments on Wall Street, says she often wears bright colors to work. “My office isn’t strict about nail polish,” she says. “Right now I have on a dark, metallic purple.”
Funky nail colors “are fun,” says Caroline Davis, project manager at New Beauty magazine. “It’s a form of expression just like dressing — you base your nails on your mood and personality.”
While there is no shortage of $20-mani-pedi specials in the city, for the truly adventurous many salons now offer a new service: nail art.
Nail art includes glitter and 3D ornaments, or custom designs painted on the nails by a skilled technician. These services usually cost upward of $60. In SoHo, $40 will buy you a work-appropriate cardigan in a cheery color at Ann Taylor or a glitter manicure at Marie Nails in SoHo.
The nail industry has “expanded very rapidly due to more options, lasting-longer gels,” says Jenny Matayoshi, of Marie Nails, one of more than 4,000 nail salons in New York State. Matayoshi says it helps that area businesses seem “more open to nail art now.”
Nail art has been a boon to salons. According to Nails, an industry publication, 89 percent of salons nationwide said they offered nail art services in 2011; that’s up from 78 percent five years earlier. Moreover, the share of profits contributed by nail art nearly tripled, reaching 9.8 percent in 2011.
Indeed, the nail industry seems to track the fortunes of women in the economy. During the last five years, the unemployment rate for women has been lower than that of men every year, sometimes by as much as two percentage points. For example, in the depths of the recession, in 2009, the unemployment rate for women was 8.1 percent, compared with 10.3 percent for men. That year, the nail industry also experienced a slight decline to $6 billion in revenues from $6.2 billion the year before, but sales were still well above the $5.5 billion in revenues in 2006.
Nails projects that the industry will make $7.3 billion in 2012. That’s a lot of manicures. But as more women are breaking the glass ceiling, they’ll need those salon visits. No one likes to be seen clicking broken nails on the boardroom table.
By Similoluwa Ojurongbe
Now you can have bacon for lunch, dinner, dessert and, in some parts of the city, even a midnight snack.
And baconmania isn’t just sweeping the Big Apple. A few weekends ago, tickets to BaconFest Chicago, (yes, a festival dedicated to bacon) sold out in three hours. Three thousand bacon lovers enjoyed creations from 180 different restaurants and chefs. Some of the bacon-binge options were the porkapalooza burger, bacon pancake pops and the “wobble stopper’ bacon bloody Mary. Desserts included bacon Rice Krispie treats and chocolate-and-bacon-covered toffee.
“They cooked an entire pig,” said Jon P. in a post on Yelp. “They were low when we got there, so they gave us the snout to munch on. Ya, I took a bit out of a hairy, pig’s nose. No one said this event was classy.”
Waffle and Wolf, a waffle sandwich restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, specializes in waffles with embedded bacon. As a main course, it also has a “Wolf waffle,” a bacony waffle with tomato, cheddar, arugula and avocado yogurt. The bacony waffle dessert option comes with peanut butter, banana and caramel. And for those who are in the mood for a bacony late night snack, Waffle and Wolf delivers its bacony waffles as late as midnight.
Matt, the salesperson at the restaurant, who is also the chief waffle maker and a self-declared bacon fan, says: “The reason people like bacon so much is probably because it’s comforting.”
And a review on Yelp, Angelita B. says: “They put the chopped bacon in the waffle batter. It was a freaking Bacon Waffle, slathered with tomato jam and chunks of avocado, folded over like a taco.” Bacon treats are available on the go in New York City. A must-try on a hot summer day is Coolhaus, a food truck that serves a candied bacon ice cream, along with other non-traditional flavors like “beer & pretzels” and “Peking duck.” Their trucks can often be found by Union Square and on 23rd Street and Park Avenue.
The love for bacon extends beyond the edible. J&D now produces a bacon-flavored chap stick. And if you enjoy the smell of bacon in your shower, a bar of bacon soap from Archie McPhee might appeal.
The science behind the appeal of bacon is called the Maillard reaction, which occurs when bacon is heated and the amino acids in the meat protein combine with the sugars in bacon fat. During this process, aromas and flavors are released. The taste and the smell of sizzling fat give bacon its appeal, along with its high salt content, which makes almost anything taste better.
By Erica Hanger
Malina Lambach does not relish Black Friday.
“Imagine having to practically inhale your Thanksgiving dinner, say your goodbyes to your family and not be able to spend the rest of your holiday in a food coma like everybody else,” said Lambach, a sales associate whose 12-hour shift at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF Fifth at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, N.Y., began at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours before the store officially opened.
Every year thousands of shoppers from all over the tri-state area flock to Woodbury Common, a 220-store mall, for door buster deals that begin at midnight on Thanksgiving. However, some larger department stores, including Saks, require employees to arrive even earlier on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for the shopping madness. While many people hunt for bargains and prepare wish lists, retail employees must leave the holiday dinner table, whether they want to or not, to organize clothing racks and ensure that merchandise is fully stocked and neatly arranged.
“Leaving my family and cutting my Thanksgiving short every year to go to work is heartbreaking,” says Lambach, 32, an eight-year Saks veteran who works in the women’s designer department.
Saks Fifth Avenue at Woodbury Common employs 40 year-round employees, but for the holiday season it hires an additional 40 to 50 employees. The mall itself employs 3,000 workers during the holiday season, up from the 1,600 to 2,000 who work the rest of the year. Across the U.S retailers hired nearly 43,000 seasonal workers this year, a 16 percent increase from 2010.
More people are also shopping. “Despite the economy, Black Friday at the Commons gets busier and busier every year,” said Deidre Harris, the human resource manager at Saks who has worked at the store for 11 years. “With nearly 100 employees working 12-hour shifts on Black Friday, we can still hardly keep up.” Hiring more employees is not an option, though, says Harris, as company regulations do not allow the store to exceed a total of 120 employees.
“It’s still just as busy as the year before, but I’ve noticed customers bringing in additional coupons and reward cards compared to years ago,” said Ebony Howard, a sales associate who has worked at Saks for the past six years, adding that impulse shopping is down and customers are, “buying only what is on their list.”
“For the past five years, I’ve shopped Black Friday at the Commons,” said Silvia Young, a medical receptionist from Yonkers. A single mother, Young was shopping at Saks for clothing deals for her three teenage daughters. “But in recent years I’ve been on a tight budget, I only buy what I need, like a few things from my three teenage daughters’ Christmas list and small gifts for relatives. I still get great deals on clothes and shoes, but end up cutting out luxury products like expensive jewelry or handbags.”
By Hope Varma
It used to be that when people thought of clothing rentals, they imagined tuxedos, sometimes horrible powder blue, and prom dresses, often tacky. Think again.
A new era in clothing rentals now gives New Yorkers access to cutting-edge designs from every major label. Fashion showrooms such as Albright Fashion Library, at 62 Cooper Square, have made people’s dreams of dressing like a fashionista a reality.
“People can wear looks that were once worn by their favorite celebrity,” says Marina Albright, daughter of the founder, Irene Albright. “We carry every major designer from Alaia to Zac Posen.” The showroom, which houses thousands of dresses, shoes and accessories, draws the fashion-savvy. The library owns pieces worn by celebrities including Madonna (remember that Jean Paul Gaultier cone bustier from her Blond Ambition Tour), Sarah Jessica Parker and Bethenny Frankel.
Fashion rentals started with stylists who needed to pull clothing for photo, television and film shoots. Showrooms such as Albright came about as a sort of middle ground between the stylists and the fashion houses—they now had access to multiple designers all in one place. Originally just serving the entertainment industry, the showroom has been open to the general public since the late 1990s.
In today’s economy, a showroom like this is much in demand. “The recession has really created a public demand for fashion rental showrooms,” says Irene Albright. “People don’t have the means to be spending thousands of dollars on clothing.” Indeed, many companies focusing on clothing rentals have opened not only in New York but in other parts of the country. People who couldn’t afford such high-end designs now have the chance to wear fabulous clothing.
“As a 20-something New Yorker, I have a lot of events to attend,” says Julie Mulligan, an Albright customer. “It’s impossible to afford different looks for everything. At Albright, I can rent an Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy it.”
Consultations at Albright begin at $250 and rentals, including the clothes, shoes, bag and other accessories, as well as dry-cleaning of the garments, run $1,000 a week.
The rental business has an online presence, too, with virtual showrooms such as New York-based renttherunway.com. All those women who at one time or another felt “I have nothing to wear” can now, with the simple click of a button, have access to designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price.
This experience is one of online convenience—a woman can rent a Herve Leger dress that retails for $1,600 for $150 and have it delivered the following day. Joining a virtual showroom such as renttherunway.com is simple—there’s no charge to register. Then enter the date for which you need the outfit, enter your size and ZIP code and a list of available dresses will be constructed.
Additionally, members get a backup size at no charge, and a second dress for $25 more.
Mulligan, a 28-year-old architect who lives in Tribeca, browsed the racks at Albright, which were filled with thousands of shoes, from Christian Louboutin to Manolo Blahnik to Yves Saint Laurent, as well as the dresses, which are arranged alphabetically by designer.
One can’t help but feel like a child entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. “I walked in really excited about getting to try on all these different looks and was not disappointed,” Mulligan recalls. “By the end, I felt like a princess.”
Feeling like a princess does come at a price, but remember—you may be renting a $10,000 Marchesa gown, with $1,500 Jimmy Choo strappy sandals and a $2,000 Balenciaga clutch for a tenth of the price of the gown. “If you saw Mila Kunis or Olivia Wilde in a dress that you absolutely fell in love with and had an occasion to wear it to, we could facilitate that dream for you,” Marina Albright says.
After trying on many outfits, Ms. Mulligan opted for a short, strapless Marchesa lace cocktail dress, Christian Louboutin black patent leather pumps, a Helmut Lang black coat and a Michael Kors clutch. “I am so happy with the look I chose,” she says. “It has a very New York edge to it, while still being elegant. I also can wear some of the different items throughout the week, before I have to return everything. Overall, I had an amazing experience and will definitely be a return client.”
By Miguel Sobernais
Walk into Diane B. Ladies Shoes on Third Avenue on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and you see rows and rows of expensive-looking women’s shoes, much like any other shoe store in the neighborhood. But a closer look reveals that, alongside the usual designer names like Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo, are many shoes labeled Diane B.
Diane B. has been creating and selling its own private-label shoe designs since it opened in 1999.
Craig Blattberg, 47, the owner of Diane B., credits his private-label business with the success of his three Diane B. stores. While many shoe and apparel businesses suffered during the recession, Diane B.’s private-label shoes, which sell for less than designer brands, not only sustained the business but helped it expand, he says.
In 2010, Blattberg opened a Diane B. in Greenwich, Conn., and there’s another on Lexington Avenue. Blattberg says combined sales for his three locations totaled $5 million last year.
A native New Yorker, Blattberg started his career as a stock boy in a Manhattan shoe store when he was 18. Over 13 years, he worked his way up to partner. But a legal dispute led Blattberg to sue his partners and leave the business in 1997; he would not name the store, but said it had recently gone out of business.
Although Blattberg earned a degree in photography while working at the shoe store, he felt his true strengths were in the shoe business. “I was 30 years old with a lot of experience in this business, this was all I knew,” says Blattberg. So twelve years ago, Blattberg opened the first Diane B. Ladies Shoes, on Third Avenue, paying $16,000 a month in rent.
The store focuses on professional, fashion-minded women, ages 35 to 65. Blattberg began creating a shoe line when he realized his customers wanted stylish models that were cheaper than the designer labels sold at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, which can retail for around $500 per pair. In contrast, Blattberg’s private-label shoes sell for $265 to $315 a pair.
“I couldn’t find with other designers what my customers were looking for; so instead of saying ‘no’, I made it,” says Blattberg.
He had no background in design, so Blattberg partnered with his Italian suppliers and began creating original styles to be sold exclusively at his store. Among his private-label suppliers are the Stuart Weitzmann Company and the Pancaldi Company, two major Italian firms that have worked with Blattberg since Diane B. opened. With their help, Blattberg was able to create exclusive designs by taking pre-designed shoe molds and customizing them with unique patterns. The entire process takes about a year.
Producing and selling original products has proven to be a successful formula for Diane B., a fact highlighted during the 2008 recession. “I noticed things were changing around the time Lehman Brothers shut down,” says Blattberg. “Sales were down 20 percent. If a woman came in to buy a blue pair of shoes for an interview that’s exactly what she got and nothing else.” Customers were frightened by the economic downturn and were only making necessary purchases, he says.
Blattberg was in Italy when news broke that General Motors was considering filing for bankruptcy. That was the point when he really felt shaken by the recession, he says, so he reached out to his associates, including Stuart Weitzmann, for business advice. The overall theme of the responses was “sell cheap and sell more.” But the idea of lowering Diane B.’s standards by selling lower-priced items like flip-flops alongside more expensive shoes did not sit well with him. “They all told me the same thing; I did the exact opposite,” says Blattberg. During the recession, Diane B. began increasing its stock of private-label designs, raising prices on those shoes by $10-$20 a pair. “When department stores were marking down, we didn’t succumb to that,” says Blattberg, adding that the markup on his shoes sustained his gross margins. That’s because his private-label business provides better profit margins than do the designer labels.
Indeed, Diane B.’s biggest local competitors, none of which sell private-label shoes, fared far worse during the recession. For example, Shoe Box, another leading Upper-East-Side retailer, has shuttered two stores since the start of the recession.
In 2010, while nationwide consumer spending was still tight, Diane B. had its best year. Sales picked up tremendously, says Blattberg, noting, “Women were tired of not shopping. We provide shoes that fit well and are cheaper than the competition plus we are service-orientated.”
Blattberg who has never advertised and relies on word-of-mouth, estimates that 75 percent of his business comes from repeat customers.
“I’ve been shopping here for a very long time,” says Grace McCabe, 63, a tall and casually dressed woman, as she tried on a pair of spring shoes. “They have a very nice selection, and they always have exactly what I need.”
The same day, Blattberg helped Shirley Appleson, 54, a petite, well-dressed woman. “It’s nice to get a man’s opinion before I purchase some shoes,” she said. “He really understands what I’m looking for.”
Now Blattberg is focusing on the future, planning to open a store every five years. He is also grooming his nephew, who will soon graduate from college, to take over the business, asking, “Wouldn’t you take over your uncle’s million-dollar business” if you had the chance?”
By Gabriela Ramirez
From screening films only in New York City to offering them online, around the United States, the Tribeca Film Festival is expanding its scope.
The Tribeca Film Festival began experimenting with online streaming last year, making available a $45 pass that people could use to watch some films from the festival that were offered online.
This year the fee has been eliminated, replaced by a virtual seat reservation system, in which the public can purchase online the limited number of opportunities to view the film. ? “We are excited about this idea of virtual screenings and reservations,” says Jon Patricof, chief operating officer of Tribeca Enterprises, which operates the festival. “It has the potential to be a model for online viewing of films that hasn’t really been tried, as far as we know.” This year’s Tribeca (Online) Film Festival will show six feature films and 18 shorts. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, festival officials say.
“The opportunity to participate in the online festival was made to all of the films in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival,” Patricof says. “Filmmakers that decided to participate are excited about the idea of audiences from around the country having the opportunity to see their films and, of course, about the prospect of winning the online audience award.”
While online streaming of films raises some issues, such as piracy, for the documentary “New York says Thank You” it was the perfect platform. This documentary that has been filmed for six years and follows four New Yorkers who are helping communities around the United States to rebuild after natural disasters, The film offers an inspiring and positive take on the repercussions of Sept. 11, sending a message of healing through volunteering.
Scott Rettberg, director of “New York Says Thank You,” says his film is for whole country and he’s delighted that it will stream. “It was more about more people getting to see it and be inspired to volunteer,” He says.
Most people who will be streaming the movies online are young, one consideration Rettberg took into account when he made the decision to be part of this festival.
Megan Sleeper, producer of “New York Says Thank You,” says she sees another advantage to showing their documentary online: some people who were part of the film, those that received help in places like Kansas, who won’t be able to make it to the festival, and now will have a chance to see it.
Patricof notes: “Originally when we launched the festival last year, we thought the audience would be entirely people from outside New York. We were excited about offering people who can’t make it to New York during the festival the chance to see films, engage in the discussions and watch footage. We found out that it’s not just people outside New York who participate but also those who already attend the festival who want a richer, deeper experience.”
There is, of course, a big difference between the experience and reactions directors will get from audiences that attend the festival and those that will be commenting about the film via Twitter or Facebook. As a filmmaker, Rettberg says the reactions he gets from an online audience, as opposed from a live one, will definitely be different, explaining that there is a more freedom to be honest on the Internet and it’s a great place to inspire conversations. On the film’s official Tribeca page, it has more than 60 comments were posted about the film, its Web Site shows.
Jerry Rothwell, director of “Donor Unknown,” another documentary that will be streaming online, adds, “The online festival is experimenting with a new kind of festival, and it’s exciting to be part of that.”
His documentary is a story of a sperm donor and the children who want to find him. It raises several questions regarding family and biological connections and is likely to lead to many discussions.
Rothwell says his films are best viewed communally, and that the traditional way demands an audience’s attention. Regardless, Rothwell says, “people can still make an event out of watching a film they’ve found on the internet at home. And the exciting potential of an online festival is that you can have a very direct relationship with the audience – getting immediate responses, linking to other relevant content and offering a kind of individual Q&A to each audience member.”
And that is exactly the experience that Tribeca is creating. In addition to streaming films online, it is offering a number of interactive features, including: Live From…, Tribeca Q&A, Filmmaker Feed, the Future of Film blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. All of this content has created a new way to be part of the festival, linking people in the online community with others just as passionate about films.
The Tribeca (Online) Film Festival may very well be providing a look into the future not only of film festivals but also how films are distributed.
The Tribeca Film Festival starts April 20 and runs through May 1. The festival site is now live, and tickets as well as virtual reservations are available at www.tribecafilm.com/tribecaonline
By Aleksandr Smechov
A dancing Batman and Robin; a passionate supporter of Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and now a Libertarian activist; a cacophony of anti-liberal debauchery – all were part of the Thomas Paine Park Tea Party rally on Friday, April 15.
You can’t have as much fun with liberals, I thought. I had gone wanting a good show, something to amuse me. What I got was something else, a well-organized movement that is increasing in momentum, a grassroots campaign growing into something serious.
And this is frightening; it left me dazed by its momentum and clinging to my apolitical agenda.
Hosted by TeaParty365’s David Webb, the rally – broadcast live on Sirius XM – offered, among others, Mike Church, who hosts a talk show on Sirius XM, and Charles Payne, a frequent contributor to Fox News.
In some ways more fascinating than any of the speakers was a 365 volunteer in the crowd, Wave Chan, who hissed and glared at people who kept their hats on during the Pledge of Allegiance, screamed his conservative sentiment in the middle of speeches and afterward stood for two hours in the bitter cold, holding a five-foot-high American flag.
Maneuvering through the unruly crowd of about 200 people, snaking around yellow-shirted petitioners and old timers, I came upon two dancing Brooklyn Tech students, dressed as Batman and Robin.
I asked if they knew any of the speakers. They were anticipating Mr. Freeze, a foe of Batman. Well, I thought, these two will get more than they expect.
Positioning myself at the front of the crowd, I watched Webb, co-founder of TeaParty365, whose website says it was “founded to advocate for fiscal responsibility, free enterprise and liberty; and that limited, effective, efficient and constitutional government must be our collective goal in order for this nation to maintain its place as the world’s leader.”
Webb introduced the first speaker, Andy Sullivan, a construction field supervisor who was apparently emotionally ravaged by the city government’s aversion to having a Wal-Mart in the city.
Sullivan recalled a meeting of the City Council where he was supporting the retailer. “For four hours I had to sit and listen to how evil Wal-Mart is,” he said, referring to it as “the greatest body of capitalism the country has ever produced.”
Afterward he shifted his focus to the more humdrum subject of mom-and-pop stores, blaming “taxes and regulation” for killing Americana charm. “This is a crisis of identity.”
I stepped back and looked around the crowd for a viable fanatic to interview – and found Rena Corey, a staunchly conservative grandmother who was holding up a yellow cardboard sign proclaiming Richard Mack as a hero.
Why is Mack a hero, I asked.
Corey glared at me. She said Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., was doing his job, and doing it for the good of the country.
Doing what for the country? I asked.
She gave me another sharp look. Again, she explained; Mack was arresting illegal immigrants, and the Obama administration sued him for doing the right thing.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, and turned to the next speaker, William Shea Jr., a financier, who began speaking about how rash and irresponsible the liberals were. “If a Democrat breaks it, you pay for it… if a socialist breaks it, Jesus, everybody pays for it,” and “the Democrats ought to be the red states.”
Shea ended: “You look at a little baby… it goes oops in its little panties, and that’s what the Democrats do.” Democrats keep spending money until they go oops, I’m out of money, explained Shea.
Webb then welcomed Church, the talk-show host. His topic was “Mordor on the Potomac,” and he told the crowd of 200 that nowhere in the Constitution did it specify that the “Republicans and Democrats get to make your laws in Washington.”
With a Back to the Future analogy, Church said, “I want to put you in my little DeLorean here, and we are going to go to 2031. We are going to knock on your 3-year-old’s door, and we are going to hold a gun to his head, and demand $544,000, because that’s what he owes.”
Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham Law graduate who worked for Citigroup and other high-profile financial institutions, was up next and offered several suggestions: spend less so your kids won’t have to pay for it, and go out and vote.
I was shocked. Amid all the complaints, I had forgotten about such things as rational solutions.
At this point, I was dazed, catatonic from the cold and excessive partisanship.
I did not hear much of Andrew Wilkow, another Serius XM host, nor the journalist Janks Morton’s Washington rant.
Though I did hear Janks say something about “the Department of Agriculture, who has never grown one stick of corn … the Department of Transportation, that has never driven anyone anywhere … the Department of Energy, that has never produced one kilowatt.”
My senses shot, I walked away, as people in the crowd raved and yelled.
I was expecting a small gathering of extremists. What I got was far more frightening. The Tea Party movement is gaining momentum – it is organized, stylish and increasing in popularity. This is no ordinary grassroots campaign.