Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Jersey: State of Mall

images courtesy of

If New Jersey had a secondary nickname it would be the Mall State. You cannot drive very long in New Jersey without bumping into a mall. But as far as mall experiences go, the top mall in Jersey offers valet parking, concierge service, luxury sitting areas and even strollers for your dog (oui, votre petit chien!). It also houses a fine art gallery of works by distinguished American and European artists (the Wentworth Gallery).

For those unfamiliar with the
Mall at Short Hills, it is an elite shopping center located in North Jersey. The Mall is composed by five anchors - Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s – and approximately 135 retailers. Every day the wealthy inhabitants of Chatham, Florham, Livingston and other surrounding communities (where median family income is over $150,000) congregate at the mall to shop for the finer things in life from Chanel to Louis. Many New York City dwellers migrate to this shopping paradise as well to stock up on luxury good sans sales tax. Back in August of 1969, the New York Times featured an article titled, "You Might Think You're on Fifth Ave., but You're Really in Millburn, N. J."[1]

I have the pleasure of hanging out in Short Hills every weekend, where I work as a stylist for Club Monaco. Some of my clients hand over their Black AmEx card, the
mystical piece of titanium, like its nothing. I can recall during the Holiday season, a man who stopped in to purchase a $1,000 gift card for his girlfriend. Others, however, are a little more reserved with their expenditures during these tough economic times.

The Mall at Short Hills is the child of architect Alfred Taubman. One can say that Victor Gruen invented the mall, but Alfred Taubman clearly perfected it. The average American mall has annual sales of approximately $340 per square foot. As of 2004, Short Hills had average sales of nearly $800 per square foot! Under the genius of Alfred and after four renovations, today, The Mall at Short Hills offers one of the most productive concentrations of luxury and upscale retailers in the world in – all in 1.34 million square feet.[2]

Below is an excerpt from “The Terrazzo Jungle” (The New Yorker)[3]
an article that highlighted Alfred Taubman’s philosophy on retail spaces and mall planning. It provides insight on Short Hills key to success:

The idea is to overcome what Taubman likes to call “threshold resistance,” which is the physical and psychological barrier that stands between a shopper and the inside of a store. “You buy something because it is available and attractive,” Taubman said. “You can’t have any obstacles. The goods have to be all there.”

He likes the main corridors of his shopping malls to be no more than a thousand feet long—the equivalent of about three city blocks—because he believes that three blocks is about as far as peak shopping interest can be sustained, and as he walked he explained the logic behind what retailers like to call “adjacencies.” There was Brooks Brothers, where a man might buy a six-hundred-dollar suit, right across from Johnston & Murphy, where the same man might buy a two-hundred-dollar pair of shoes. The Bose electronics store was next to Brookstone and across from the Sharper Image, so if you got excited about some electronic gizmo in one store you were steps away from getting even more excited by similar gizmos in two other stores. Gucci, Versace, and Chanel were placed near the highest-end department stores, Neiman Marcus and Saks. “Lots of developers just rent out their space like you’d cut a salami,” Taubman explained. “They rent the space based on whether it fits, not necessarily on whether it makes any sense.”

[1] Archives;
[2] The Mall at Short Hills;
[3] March 14,2004;

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Visitaté il Mondo

 my entry collage for Parsons.

For a long time I had been set on joining the fashion and art world. I learned to sew in high school. I played around with different art media. I started keeping inspiration files - in other words, a filing cabinet full of chic postcards, magazine tear-sheets, photos, artwork, sketches and newspaper articles.

In January 2008, I started sorting through my files and pulled out 
an old sunglasses ad with the slogan "Visitaté il Mondo" across the glossy page. It became the inspiration for the entry collage I submitted to Parsons the New School for Design, along with my application and essay.

When I found out I had been accepted into the A.A.S. Fashion Design program, I was ecstatic! I decided I would quit my job at Merrill Lynch and give up my apartment on the Upper East Side to save money on rent. I moved back to NJ. I took 5 days off in between my last day of work and the first day of classes. 

I had gone from Wall Street to Fashion Ave. First semester at Parsons was a total whirlwind. I interned at a fashion public relations firm and worked as a sales model at Abercrombie & Fitch. I was commuting back and forth everyday, with my two Marc Jacobs Little Tate tote bags and my toolbox full of art supplies, jumping between NJ Transit and the Path train (which I still do)

Although my life has changed drastically, everyday now, I live by these same words that inspired my initial project - to visit the world. I've embarked on a journey to explore the past and experience the new. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm ready to take it on...