NEW YORK — A bad hair day? Not for the Bloomingdale’s crowd.
This story first appeared in the August 22, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On a sticky Monday afternoon, Bloomingdale’s blocked off two lanes of Lexington Avenue to accommodate a crowd of about 400 at the unveiling of windows inspired by “Hairspray,” the hot Broadway musical, its Fifties fashions and beehive ’do.
“Bloomingdale’s and Broadway — we love this kind of energy,” said Tony Spring, the store’s executive vice president of marketing, standing with the spectators.
“We’re blocking the traffic, so we’re going to make this short, sweet and great,” announced Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, sitting regally to the side of a makeshift stage in front of the store. “Now I’ll read what’s been written for me.”
Ruttenstein plugged the show — about a big girl with bigger dreams who turns the whole town of Baltimore around and wins the man she loves — and Bloomingdale’s exclusive collection of Hairspray merchandise. Then he introduced the show’s star, Marissa Jaret Winokur, who sang the opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore,” as her co-star Harvey Fierstein pulled the cord to unveil the windows. They’re filled with sportswear and accessories, as well as large sizes, which Bloomingdale’s has never before displayed in its windows, Ruttenstein noted.
It wasn’t quite as frenzied as when Nicole Kidman unveiled Bloomingdale’s steamy “Moulin Rouge” windows last year, but the “Hairspray” troupe still got a big ovation from the fans, many of whom visited the Hairspray shop on the third floor of the store for some cool drinks and to see the latest looks. Aside from clothing, the shop sells a special line of Hairspray color cosmetics by MAC, which seems to have real youth appeal. Ten-year-old Natalie Greengrass, great-granddaughter of the late restaurateur Barney Greengrass, was getting a MAC makeup consultation. She said she saw the show and was impressed. “I liked the styles and the big hairdos,” she said.
With the Hairspray shop, Bloomingdale’s extends its string of clever merchandise tie-ins with Broadway and Hollywood productions. They generally are big draws — like the “Rent” shop a few years ago and 2001’s “Moulin Rouge” — although a “Saturday Night Fever” shop, inspired by the musical and the Travolta polyester look, flopped.
“We have to be careful [when tying shops to shows],” said Stephanie Solomon, women’s fashion director for Bloomingdale’s. “You have to be pretty sure the show is going to be a hit.”
“Hairspray” is showing strong, however, reportedly sold out through next February, and sources said the Hairspray shop did between $40,000 and $45,000 in sales Monday, more than enough for Bloomingdale’s to consider keeping the shop open beyond the original three-week plan.
Among the best sellers, according to the store, Juicy Couture cotton T-shirts, priced $48, with “Hairspray Rules, Have a Nice Spray” and “Big and Beautiful” logos; Tahari off-the-shoulder tops, $88, and full wool skirts, $130, and ABS evening dresses with rayon taffeta, $158. Also, Necessary Objects’ narrow velvet pants, $70; and dresses with crinoline, $78, are also offered in large sizes, at $3 to $8 more per item. “It’s the first time Necessary Objects is doing large sizes. It’s an experiment, but we’re shocked it’s selling so well,” Ruttenstein said. “Hefty women like to look young. They don’t want to wear sacks.”