shopping 03.3.08


New York mag is out with their Best of New York issue, which is always a fun read. MUG tends to stay away from those absolutes (too many variables), but every time we go to Armani/Casa, we leave thinking the same thing: it's the worst store in New York.

The space is a series of stagy little vignettes depicting a minimalist's putative home life, vaguely Japanese in style, redefining minimalism to mean dour, pointless, verging on posthumous.

The attitude, too, seems caught in some circa-1985 time warp: tiny punch cups of snotty toxins are ladled out to anyone annoying the staff and by 'anyone' we mean everyone who walks in the door. We ask about an ice bucket that appears to be covered in shagreen and wonder if there is another example beside the one on display since the workmanship on it is dire, with piecing nobody's bothered to match up properly. That wouldn't be such an issue for, say, a $50 ice bucket. This one's a few pennies shy of $2,000. We ask, "Do you have another sample?"

Salesperson: (Eyes briefly look up, look back down) "No."
Us: "The workmanship isn't very good on the display model, I wondered if you have a better sample?"
Salesperson: (Shakes head, continues other business.)

On another visit we ask about the embossed leather used on a limited-edition writing desk ($15,000). The salesperson says, "It's eco-friendly embossed leather and I think they did an exquisite job with that."

Something strikes us as disingenuous about this. The 'golden lizard printed eco-leather' Armani/Casa has used is both far less expensive a material than a more eco-hostile leather and they've been able to use only one hide. If it were lizard, it would have had to be pieced together. The fact that the corners were peeling off didn't help. If you're going to create $15,000 'limited editions,' customers have a right to expect great design, top-flight materials, and unassailable craftsmanship. (Don't write to us, please. We're 100% eco-supportive; it's the context here that rings our b.s. meter). We ask about a scratch on the metal frame; the salesperson says this adds "patina."

Mr. Armani has a well-deserved reputation for having made exquisite clothes over many years. This store is a brisk acid wash tossed onto his reputation's patina.

Correction: In Friday's MUG (The Sweetest Sounds), we spelled the "American Idol" singer incorrectly. He is David Archuleta, not David Archulino.

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