Retail Apocalypse: The Future Uncertain (or not).

It all seemed to start in 2010. Brick and mortar retail storefronts began to close down en masse, due to bankruptcies, increasing rents, poor same day sales, etc. Some thought (or hoped) that things would get better, but here we are nine going on ten years of a steady decline and disappearing storefronts of major retail brands.

retail-apocalypse-1(Major retailers started closing stores since 2017) 

The Elegant Classy Gentleman has recently reported on Barney’s New York Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing back in August, as well as Forever 21 filing for the same during the same month, and the future for retail is looking bleak. All this is evident by simply walking down East Midtown Manhattan. According to the Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report, citywide commercial vacancy space rate increased to 45% from 2007 to 2017, from 4% to 5.8% which amounts to 5.2 million square-feet of vacant retail space.

untitledCiting business experts and industry leaders, this will get worse if nothing is done to stem sky high rents and the growing online retail competition. Chain stores and the shrinking mom-and-pop shops are taking such a big hit in profits from the rapidly growing e-commerce sites, to such a degree that they are amassing massive debt, in addition to taxes and overhead costs.

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Citywide retail rents climbed from $42 per square foot to $51 within a decade, with Manhattan in areas like East midtown and the Upper East Side now asking over $100 per square footage, as per the report.

6852036067_78a0fd10ed_bMajor retail chains like Kmart & Macy’s have closed store location in a huge scale back to combat rising costs and slower traffic by shoppers. While some experts try to sound optimistic for a turnaround, the declining footprint of major chains tell a different narrative. Is the future of retail uncertain, or are we fooling ourselves refusing to accept the writing on the wall?

 

 

 

Femme Progressive Fashion House: Designer for the Modern Women.

I was on a brunch date with a young lady (actually our 2nd date) around the end of August in Harlem, and after a lovely meal, conversation and playful antics we found ourselves wandering around the village of Harlem on Fredrick Douglas Blvd enjoying the summer weather as well as the shops and restaurants.

As we walked further downtown on FDB we came upon a women’s fashion boutique FEMME PROGRESSIVE. My female companion stopped to peer at the designs displayed on the mannequins, (while I realized that I’ve been there before) and called to me for my opinion on one of the dresses. I spotted one of the dresses that I thought would look absolutely smashing on her, and headed strait for it inside the (not realizing that I walked in the shop and left her standing outside) boutique to inspect it further (the stylist persona took over) and check the size.

20190820_184320As I walked in I was greeted by the owner/designer of Femme Progressive, Marima Conde while I searched through the racks to find at least two more designs to style my female companion (I just can’t help myself) in out of habit.

In addition to being there at the boutique beforehand in the past, I remembered that very recently Jean Germain (My Logistical Executive) had been to the shop and posted pics on social media wearing one of  Ms. Conde’s T-shirts that he liked so much he purchased one.

20190829_180730(Jean Germain)

After presenting three outfits (that I hand picked) to my companion, she flatly refused saying that they were “not her style”. I insisted that she try all three on, and lo and behold she loved each of them and had to agree that I was right all along.

After this styling episode, I spoke to Ms. Conde about interviewing her for an article to which she agreed. So I gave her one of my business cards and told her that I would contact her soon to arrange a time and date to meet and sit down and talk about her designs. So after a weeks worth of texting, calling, and rescheduling we finally caught up to sit and talk.

We sat down on a comfortable red couch in her boutique, and began to chat about her vision, background and designs. She told me that she originally studied business in school, but her passion for fashion and design was what she knew in her heart was the path that she needed to pursue. I inquired how long she been in business, (with her designs) She said: “The brand is about ten years of building. I started selling online for eight years, and opened the boutique about two years ago, actually it will be two years this coming November.”

20190820_185321When I asked her “what exactly is Femme Progressive” She said that “she is a archetype of the modern woman”. “All women can see themselves in each other, and can relate and honor that through fashion. Rock Star by day and a Lady at night. I’m a fashion designer that makes women’s wear custom to their choices of fabric, colors, prints, to their measurements. I like to make women’s fashion vision come true, and bring it to life. I went to business school for a year, then left for F.I.T. which was a good fit for me.”

20190820_184756(“My Original Line was a T-Shirt Line”)

When I asked further about her background, she informed me that: “After F.I.T. I interned for Oscar del la Renta, which was my very first entry into the industry. It was a great first job and I learned a lot from everyone there. I also did some technical designing to branch out a bit, but I had to return to pattern making because that’s my first joy, and I also did some work for Ann Klein. I also love to bring other designers ideas to life.”

 

 

 

 

20190820_184804Femme Progressive also sells costume jewelry & accessories to pair with her custom designs.

 

 

 

 

Ms. Conde’s Passion and vision, along with her training from F.I.T. and her work with a host of big fashion designer brands shows in her designs.

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20190817_180408I could not help but fall in love with the designs of Femme Progressive, simply because, she is that good, and if you don’t find anything you like on the racks, (which is next to impossible) she will sit down with you and create a one of a kind dress that will be the envy of your friends.

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I just can’t wait to style my next female muse in one of her designs (or have one custom made to match my vision).

20190820_184729Femme Progressive is located at 2166 Fredrick Douglas Blvd in Harlem NYC. So stop in and be prepared be amazed. Also check her out on social media: Instagram: @femme_progressive.

 

 

Small Boutique Fashion Week: Fashion Show Highlights.

On September 8th 2019 the Elegant Classy Gentleman Magazine was once again invited to The Small Boutique Fashion Week show as the press for the event. However after being spoiled from the previous Small Boutique Fashion Week in February, at the Harold Pratt House on East 68th Street and Madison Ave. We were (and a lot of other people) very disappointed with the venue for this show, which was at some bar in Hell’s Kitchen on the way end of 10th Ave.

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The production for the show this September seemed very unorganized and rushed. We could have covered a host of other Fashion Week shows on that day, but we were already there. Elegant Classy Gentleman Magazine photographer Natasha Swartz took over the reins and jumped into the press pit to get some shots anyway. The ones she captured was worth it!

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09D53CEC-A602-4D9C-BDE0-D31A37654184After the amazing success of SBFW’s show in February we found this one lacking in scope and depth and a bit less entertaining. We hope they return to the Fashion Mansion in February 2020 and regain the prestige and glamour they had at their former fashion week show.

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Thank you Natasha for carrying on with the coverage!

 

CREDITS:

Photos: Natasha Swartz. @Natasha_photostudio

Photo of Natasha: Cynthia Vargas

Mike Strange: Editor in Chief

Jean Germain: Logistical Executive

Jessica Phillip: Business/Marketing Executive

 

 

 

Style X Fashion Week: Sony Hall Day 2.

On Sept 7th Day 2 of Style X Fashion Week, The Elegant Classy Gentleman team was back to cover the events exciting designers and performers. Style X and Kimac teamed up with Make A Wish Foundation for Sarah, a 15 year old with Leukemia from Dublin Ireland, who’s wish was to walk down the catwalk for Fashion Week. The Elegant Classy Gentleman team and performer and recording artist Amanda Holley was backstage to support Sarah, and watch as her wish became reality!

70536810_444254709510321_2534633069508296704_nAmanda then joined us in VIP 2 to watch the amazing designers show off there 2020 collections in STYLE of course, and watch the performances of other artist’s from the other side of the catwalk.

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20190907_174728Designer: KAWAII collection was the most enjoyable! With their fusion of Street/Punk Rock/BDSM inspired collection was a sight to behold as the energetic models took to the catwalk and did justice to the concept of modern street wear!

 

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At the end of KAWAII’s set, all the models returned to the catwalk and danced to my (and everyone’s) delight! So moved by this collection and the lively model’s, I myself got out of my seat to dance along with them!

20190909_143830Another notable designer: Sweet Talk also presented a Sexy collection which was quite enjoyable.

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Designer: Emma Altman also wowed everyone with her collection.

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Style Fashion Week just seems to get better and bigger every year.

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We will definitely be back next year to cover this fashion event. This year was bloody hot!

CREDITS:

Mike Strange: Editor in Chief

Jean Germain: Logistical Executive

Jessica Phillip: Business/Marketing Executive

Photos: Mike Strange/Jean Germain

Videos: Jean Germain

Sony Hall

Kimac

Amanda Holley

Make a Wish Foundation

NYFW: Style X Fashion Week: Sony Hall Times Square. Day 1

On September 5th 2019 the Elegant classy gentleman team received a warm welcome to fashion week from Style X fashion week at Sony Hall in Times Square!

20190906_225735 Once again Amanda Holley kicked off fashion week day 1 with her spectacular opening  performance with songs from her new album.

 

 

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20190909_142336Amanda is in fact a tough act to follow, but you know what they say……the show must go on!

20190906_223600The first designer collection following Amanda’s amazing set was Chicago Playground! The Varsity Collection.

 

 

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20190906_224031(Jean Germain, Mike Strange)

While Jean and I watched Amanda perform in VIP Area 1 the crowd gathered round and began to mingle and network with us as we planned our press and media coverage of this very hot event.

20190909_142008After Amanda finished her wonderful performance, we were summoned backstage by Amanda’s manager Ralph Cooper II for some private time with Amanda before the other Media and Press.

20190905_204404(Mike Strange, Ralph Cooper II)

20190906_222944(Amanda Holley)

20190906_222335(Mike Strange, Amanda Holley, Jean Germain)

20190906_221311(Mike Strange and Filmmaker/Videographer Roderick Giles)

 

 

While I talked with my industry friends and Amanda, Jean worked the room backstage and having fun with Amanda’s staff and others making sure everyone was having a great time!

20190906_221721We also worked the crowd outside full of models, fashionista’s, and guests to round off a brilliant day 1 of NYFW Style X fashion week.

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(Designer: Phil Harris)

20190905_194022Stay tuned for Day 2 of NYFW: STYLE X Fashion Week coverage.

 

CREDITS:

Editor in Chief: Mike Strange

Logistical Executive: Jean Germain

Business/Marketing Executive: Jessica Phillip

Photos/Video: Jean Germain/Mike Strange

Venue: Sony Hall

Amanda Holley

Amanda’s Management: Ralph Cooper II

Roderick Giles

Sony Entertainment

Restaurant Review: Sofrito Harlem, Sunday Brunch Party.

Now for many brunch is the name given to the meal you eat between 11:00-4:00pm Saturday & Sunday, and a excellent excuse to drink (as much as you want) before 5pm. Myself and Jean Germain, had the pleasure of having a drink at Sofrito after covering a summer fashion show at Riverbank Park in Harlem.

While we were sitting refreshing ourselves on the couch next to the window overlooking the Hudson River, one of the managers Luis Reyes walked up to me and asked me if I was an actor, or something of the sort swearing that he has seen me before in some publication. I gave him my card and suggested that he may have seen me in a video ad or one of the video restaurant reviews I’ve done. Jean and myself found ourselves in a pleasant conversation with this gentleman, and he mentioned the extraordinary brunch party that takes place there every Sunday.

Jean and I told him that we will return on the following weekend (or the next) and will do a restaurant review of the place.

20190822_183719Jean made the reservations for us two weeks later, and told me that our table was set for 4:00 pm. A little late for brunch I thought to myself but there was no turning back now. Jean was stuck in midtown on the train and decided to take an Uber the rest of the way.  I walked in and the place was crowded, filled with weekend revelers and a DJ spinning tunes that make you want to dance. Jean arrives and we head to our table, we decided to take a table outside on the enormous patio overlooking the Hudson River.

20190822_182849It seemed like almost every table was celebrating something, engagements, birthday’s, new addition to the family or just life in general. The party vibe was infectious as Latin music blared from the DJ booth inside.

20190822_183844Jean and I sat back and took it all in as we waited for our food. The brunch menu is a pre fixe of Latin brunch dishes (after all the name of the restaurant is Sofrito) and Luis extended us the bottomless mimosa’s. With all of this pleasant sensory stimulus, I forgot that it’s was after 5pm.

20190822_182937The décor inside the restaurant is bright and colorful which puts one at ease. Despite the fact that it was so busy, Luis told me that this is a light crowd for Sunday, while I was worried that the Fire Department would bust in at any moment to shut down this mega brunch party.

20190822_183031For appetizers I ordered the Ham and Cheese Croquettes which is made with black forest ham, aged cheddar with mango aioli sauce. Jean had the Carne Frita (crispy marinated pork chunks).

 

My appetizer was very delicious and I was sort of sad that there was only four of these morsels of tasty delight. Jean’s pork chunks seemed like a meal all by itself.

20190822_185213Our waitress was very attentive and friendly, in (fact she treated us like Jean and I were her own boys the way she dotted on us), and made sure that we had everything we needed when we needed it.

 

While I was trying to take notes and Jean was taking care of social media, we seemed to attract some attention from a near by table of women who seemed to be enjoying the food and view as much as we were.

 

 

They were trilled with Jean and I, and Jean finally put his phone down to appreciate the scene that was unfolding around us. Our Entree’s arrived so we had to divert attention back to the food. I had the Cheddar Scramble (hard to mess that up) eggs, aged cheddar, home fries and toast with avocado.  Jean had the Pernil: Roasted Pork with pigeon pea rice and sweet plantains.

 

The food while good and of decent portions was not overly remarkable, but the Ham and Cheese Croquettes is something special and worthy of praise. The atmosphere and festive vibe makes it difficult not to have a good time. Table’s seem to merge with each other causing a chain reaction into one big brunch party, as people mingled and interacted with each other.

 

We came to the conclusion that everything that Luis told us about this Sunday Brunch Party was exactly that and more!

20190822_185318While the crowd was mostly Latino, it was fairly mixed and everyone was friendly and very festive towards one another (including us) and you got the sense of being at a huge family party where everyone is dancing and laughing.

 

It wasn’t long before Jean and I realized that we did not want to leave, and extended our stay just a bit longer as others approached us to engage in conversation and good cheer.

20190804_221154(Shasha dropped by to hang for a bit)

 

I must say that I was caught off guard by the effects of this magical brunch party, and must give it four and a half stars just for the vibe and ambience with it’s communal celebratory festive feel. I really enjoyed my time here (and so will you).

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Sofrito is located at: 679 Riverside Drive in Riverbank Park on 145th Street in Harlem and 175 Main Street White Plains NY. SofritoNY.com/SofritoWhitePlains.com

Adios Amigo’s……………