When it opens on Thursday, Saks Downtown Men's — tucked into a 16,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Brookfield Place shopping center in lower Manhattan — will offer shoppers all sorts of services and features they may not have previously known they wanted.
Take, for instance, the tailoring suite — called the Fifth Avenue Club — which uses smart mirror technology to project renderings of how custom suits will look IRL, so shoppers don't have to strain to imagine the way a particular button will sit against a fabric swatch. The Club's VIP dressing rooms have actual windows that provide natural light, a nice touch when deciphering how you will look wearing your new designer threads anywhere other than inside the curtained, fluorescent-lit cubicles often found in other department stores. Shoppers can book a "Power Lunch" service that includes a catered meal and express grooming. Saks also offers a dramatically named program called "Saks Save Me," in which a team of experts are on call to rescue you from any fashion emergency that may arise. The "Saks At Your Service Mercedes-Benz Sprinter" can bring the shopping experience to your home or office, and you can get your shoes shined and repaired at an on-site Leather Spa.
Options abound for the more independent shopper, too; the space is jam-packed with merchandise. There are 200 sneakers for sale, for example, along with 500 different belts, and nearly as many sunglasses.
"This is 384 pairs," says Eric Jennings, Saks Fifth Avenue's VP and fashion director of menswear, home and beauty, during a pre-opening walkthrough, gesturing to an expansive wall displaying frames from Ray-Ban, Gucci, Tom Ford and more. "We have another brand coming in in a couple of weeks from Korea called Gentle Monster, which is one of our hottest sunglass brands right now."
If Saks Downtown Men's appears to be taking a "something for everyone who can afford it” approach, that is, at least in part, by design. Lower Manhattan is in the midst of a commercial revival some 15 plus years after 9/11; recent additions to the area's retail scene include The Westfield World Trade Center (aka "The Oculus"), home to Apple and Cos, and Saks' downtown women’s concept shop that opened this past fall. (Condé Nast’s move to nearby 1 World Trade Center also gave the hood some chic cachet.) Even with the healthy buzz, there's still a looming question of who the Lower Manhattan shopper is exactly, an issue reflected in Saks' opening brand assortment.
"You don't know what you don't know," says Jennings, when asked who he anticipates the Saks Downtown Men's clientele will be. "We went strategically after five different zones of business, ranging from the most classic and traditional to the most advanced designer. We just created the best edit of brands in those different zones."
Among those zones are men who work on nearby Wall Street, who can find their weekday wardrobe via suits by Boglioli or Isaia. Designer sneakerheads who wander below Canal Street can shop exclusive styles from Lanvin and Givenchy, highlighted in a World of Sneakers pop-up shop open for the duration of March. "If you're more of a middle-of-the-road guy who likes Officine [Générale], Ami, Paul Smith, Vince, Theory — this is how we laid it out," Jennings adds.
The downtown location also freed Saks from the neighborhood competition it faces at its Fifth Avenue flagship location; thus, it's able to stock seven designer labels at Brookfield Place that aren't sold uptown, including Dries Van Noten and Thom Browne. "We could really handpick all the brands that we wanted, and we got them for this location," Jennings says. "It gives the store credibility."
Credibility and a lot of inventory. And if all of these brands, concepts, premium services and features — a coffee shop and barber are also moving in this spring — aren't what you're looking for, well… Century 21 is still just around the corner.