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Ali Shops Blog

BlackBlue Dresses Bon Iver for Grammys

February 7th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Justin Vernon, lead singer of hot indie band Bon Iver, told New York Magazine he plans to wear “a suit from some really cool guys in St. Paul at a store called BlackBlue” to the Grammys on Sunday. (Yep, he’s going–even after making headlines by declining an invitation to perform at the show. Bon Iver is nominated for four Grammy Awards.)

For the record, the suit is a brown tweed from Dunderdon–one of BlackBlue’s more moderately priced labels. And he didn’t originally buy it for the Grammys. Vernon, who lives in Eau Claire, dropped by BlackBlue one day, straight from hunting deer in Northern Wisconsin. His clothes were blood splattered, and he needed something clean to meet his girlfriend. He picked the brown suit, pictured above. The jacket sells for $255; pants $105. A couple people who work with the band bought the same pants. “They just fit really well,” says BlackBlue owner Steve Kang. The store has one pair left. Grab ‘em before the Grammys.

Shopping, From the Heart

February 7th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Just a few Valentine’s Gift ideas that have caught my eye at local boutiques:

Twin Cities designer Lisa Nelson brings her handmade stamped charm jewelry to The Bee Cottage on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Choose from ready made designs created specially for this event, or place a custom order to be shipped for Valentine’s Day.  441 Second St., Excelsior, 612-787-2233

The Hanky Heart: A heart shaped box filled with three pair of the essential Hanky Panky lace panties. $50, at Stella, 308 Chestnut St. E., Stillwater, 651-439-7935

If you do make it to Stillwater, be sure to stop by Mara Mi‘s flagship store+studio+cafe. This locally-based stationery company has some of the freshest card designs–plus the notepads, totes and red velvet cupcakes to complete the thought. 201 Main St. S., Stillwater, 651-689-1730

Ruby and silver necklace: Gemstone jewelry doesn’t have to break the bank. Max’s has a nice selection of pieces for $150 or less, like this one from Adel Chefridi. Shops at Excelsior & Grand, 3826 Grand Way, St. Louis Park, 952-922-8364

Of course, Max’s is also known for its gourmet chocolates that taste as good as they look. I’m partial to the salted caramels (available in a heart-shaped box). Max’s owner Ellen Hertz has fallen for this hearts and arrows box from Recchiti Chocolates ($25). Try them both–and others–this Saturday Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’ll be there, too, for a live broadcast of Shop Girls on myTalk107.1.

For gifts high on creativity and sentimentality, step out of the card aisle at the big box store, and try some place unique like The Guild, a collective of stylists, designers and dealers. Sandy Stewart, one of the original founders of the Guild, is a vintage jewelry collector. From vintage silver to Victorian frames, her unique pieces make romantic gifts. And that’s just for starters. 4414 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-378-1815

doo-ri for Macy’s

February 6th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Here’s a sneak peek at doo.ri for Macy’s Impulse Collection, the next in a series of fashion forward designer partnerships for the department store. It launches Feb. 15 at select Macy’s stores nationwide, including downtown Minneapolis, Ridgedale, Southdale, Rosedale and Mall of America.

Doo-Ri Chung worked with Geoffrey Beene for five years before launching her own label in 2003. Her Macy’s collection includes bold prints, detailed knitwear, jersey mixed with leather and doo-ri’s signature draping. Prices range from $39 to $159.

Meanwhile, Macy’s is already looking ahead to its next partnership: Alberta Ferretti will launch April 17 with a bohemian influenced collection of affordably priced feminine  dresses, lightweight pants, peasant style blouses and knits in the season’s essential oranges, pinks and teals…

Cheers to Askov

February 6th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Bachelor Farmer‘s signature red heart wine glasses are now available at the Dayton brothers’ store connected to the restaurant, Askov Finlayson. $10 each. 200 N. First St., Mpls., 612-206-3925

Click here for more Valentine’s Day gift ideas from local boutiques

Diana Exhibit @ MOA

February 3rd, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Tonight, I got to preview Diana, A Celebration, the exhibit opening Saturday, Feb. 4 at Mall of America. I was totally impressed. So much of the advance talk has been about Princess Diana’s 1981 royal wedding dress, with its 25-foot train–that I had no idea how much more the exhibit had to offer: a look at Princess Diana’s childhood, her charity work around the world and a collection of 28 dresses she wore through her years in the public eye. Fascinating to see how the fashions changed and her sophistication evolved. Sad to recall how abruptly it all ended.

Mall of America campaigned hard to get the exhibit, which travels to just a couple of cities each year, and always returns to Diana’s family estate, Althorp, in England for a summer display. (William walked Kate through these very artifacts before their own wedding.) Tune in to myTalk107.1 at 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, when exhibit handler Nick Grossmark will talk about Diana’s impact on fashion and share more behind-the-scenes tidbits with me on Shop Girls.

The exhibit is on the fourth floor (across from Hooters). Once inside, you’ll forget where you are, and remember where you were for a couple of the most-watched events in modern history. Tickets start at $23.50 for adults and $13.50 for children. Purchase them at guest service desks throughout the mall and the exhibition box office. Diana: A Celebration will be at MOA through June 10.

Wooed by Wu

January 31st, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Trench coat, $54.99, by Jason Wu for Target

Step aside–the black trench is mine. Jason Wu’s capsule women’s collection is scheduled to debut at Target stores and on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5. It’s the perfect follow-up to Target’s web-crashing Missoni frenzy: Tons of positive buzz, but more manageable scope. (Pleated skirts and tie-waist shirts alone, no matter how pretty and affordable, are probably not enough to bring down At 53 pieces of women’s apparel and accessories, Wu’s Target collection is considerably smaller than Missoni for Target, which included everything from tumblers to journals.

And yet, on the heels of Target’s smash success with Missoni, which blew out of stores in hours, there is heightened anticipation for Wu. Now we know: snooze, and lose out on designer fashion–this time, for $60 or less. Wu is a hot, young designer who skyrocketed to fame when First Lady Michelle Obama wore his dress to an inaugural ball in 2009.  Last week’s New York launch party for Wu drew plenty of star power, including actresses Blake Lively, Emmy Rossum and Jaime King (all dressed in Wu for Target, of course).

It’s worth noting that Missoni hit Target on a Tuesday, as opposed to the more typical Sunday launch cycle, like for Wu. I pressed Target’s publicists to find out if pieces might trickle in early…particularly at a store like downtown Minneapolis to capitalize on weekday traffic…but the answer was a firm “it doesn’t arrive in stores until Sunday.”

Fine by me–I’ll take chips and dip for the big game to go with my new coat.

Galleria Nabs a New Salon

January 27th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

The Galleria has signed a deal with a local salon to replace Rocco Altobelli. Lili Salon Spa will offer cuts, color, nail and waxing services and skin care. It’s a niche the Edina center could not go without, especially for guests at the adjacent Westin Hotel.

Lili will open in late spring in a 5,000 square foot space. That’s smaller than the Rocco salon, which Galleria vice president and general manager Jill Noack says has not yet been leased. The Rocco nail salon on the lower level is also up for grabs. (Meanwhile, Rocco is opening a new salon/spa a block away.)

Galleria will be the third location for William & Friends, whose salons include Lili Salon Spa/Minnetonka and Tonic Barbers, opening soon in Minnetonka.

The announcement comes amid a flurry of changes at the usually stable center. Schmitt Music, Que Sera and Pea in the Pod are leaving, while Ohio-based furniture chain Arhaus and national shoe retailer Marmi are coming in. Several current retailers are moving within the mall.

“This is unusual,” Noack says. “We just had several things come to a head. So much planning always goes into this. I first talked to Marmi 10 years ago.”

Noack is known to be extremely choosy about Galleria’s tenants and has a long track record of making decisions that add to the center’s appeal.

Marmi, she says, hits a lower price point than designer shoe store Pumpz & Co., and complements the dugo and Chico’s customer. “You can never have enough women’s footwear, and we were light there.”

The Galleria was not light on furniture, with Gabberts, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, but Noack believes the popular Arhaus rounds out the mix. No doubt, there’s also a defensive element to the move. “There’s the old adage, you either fight ‘em or join ‘em,” Noack says. “If they’re going to be in Edina on France Avenue, I’d rather have them all under my roof so the customer doesn’t need to go anywhere else.”

All the shuffling still leaves Galleria with a few holes to fill—notably, the large Smith & Hawken space in the center of the mall. Rest assured, Noack has candidates in mind, and in talks. More options for the 25 to 34-year-old customer who shops at BCBG is a priority for Noack.  “We don’t want her waiting until she’s her mother’s age to shop at Galleria.”

That’s JCP, Thank You

January 25th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Just when it seemed there wasn’t a new idea in retail, J.C. Penney laid out an ambitious plan to overhaul its stores and brand. Some highlights:

- Fewer sales, lower prices. J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson confirmed what we already know: Very little department store merchandise, like 2 percent, sells at full price. So rather than go through the motions of pricing it high only to put it on clearance, J.C. Penney will price most merchandise 30 percent lower to start, with month promotions on select goods.

- Shops within the store. You know it: J.C. Penney is blah. Following its success with Sephora shops within JC Penney, the entire floor will be gradually reconfigured into mini shops.

- Monthly themes more in line with our lives rather than the retail calendar. So January might be about “renewal,” as WWD reported, with special merchandise to support the theme. (Can’t wait to see if they can really resist breaking out the Christmas decor the day after Halloween).

- Ellen DeGeneres as the new spokeswoman in ads.

- New brands, like Nanette Lepore creating a juniors dress and sportswear line called  l’amour nanette lepore.

- Every brand makeover requires a P. Diddy move: J.C. Penney wants be known as JCP. The initials were revealed today on new red, white and blue logos.

It would be nice to think the stores can really evolve as dramatically as Johnson, a retail visionary credited with major change at Target and Apple,  as dramatically as described. At the very least, J.C. Penney-er, JCP-has retailers talking about (and no doubt defending) promotional pricing and in a meaningful way.

This is going to be fun to watch.

MN p.s.: J.C. Penney was my first guess at a replacement for Bloomingdale’s at MOA. Industry response to that theory was tepid…but with today’s news, I can’t help but think what a perfect place MOA would be to unveil a completely reinvented JCP. Say 90,000 square feet or so?

Maplewood Mall Departures

January 25th, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Gap closed its Maplewood Mall store yesterday, and there will be more exits before the end of January: Old Navy, New York & Company and Suncoast Motion Pictures are all checking out of the east metro shopping center within the week. This comes on the heels of recent renovations to the east metro mall by Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall owner, which also owns Southdale Center in the Twin Cities.

RIP, Charla Krupp

January 23rd, 2012
by Allison Kaplan

Charla Krupp–magazine editor, best selling author and champion of women making the most of their assets (and least of their flaws)–was the very first subject of the “Shopping with…” column I wrote for seven years in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. At the time, she was editing the smart, but short-lived ShopETC. magazine and was in Minneapolis for an appearance at Marshall Field’s. I picked her up at the downtown store and set out to show her that Minneapolis had some decent shopping. She was a terrific sport: poking around Bibelot in Northeast, sipping tea at Intelligent Nutrients, suffering through rush hour traffic for a look at the Galleria, where she bought herself a sexy pair of Michael Kors heels at Pumpz & Co. and a tie for her husband at then-hot Kuhlman.

It didn’t matter that she was a big time New York fashion editor and I was a Midwestern newspaper reporter barely fitting into my lame outfit, having given birth just a few months before. We were just a couple of girls who delighted in shopping.

We stayed in touch, and based on the articles and comments surfacing in the hours since her untimely death today at age 58 from breast cancer, so did many people lucky enough to cross paths with Charla. She may have moved in a rarified world, but her advice was always down to earth, timeless and a confidence boost to everyone–no matter age, or size. You’ve got to love someone with the common sense to tell women not to wear ruffled skirts. Ever. Even when they are on-trend. “Ruffles on the behind don’t flatter anyone!” she said. I hear that every time I step into a fitting room.

The last time I saw Charla was after a Mall of America appearance to promote her second best seller, “How Never to Look Fat Again.” We enjoyed a spirited dinner with friends. She excitedly jumped topics, from the latest diet to her encounters with Oprah to magazines and hair color. We parted with her encouraging me to write a book, and the moment she returned to New York, she actually sent me her agent’s name and number.

Charla was a good one. She will be missed. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved