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Bloomingdale’s Spotted Fever

NEW YORK -- Leopard prints have always been around in stores, though really on a spotty basis. Now Bloomingdale's has caught jungle fever and is opening sultry "Into Africa" shops at the 59th Street flagship, as well as its Century City, Calif., and...

NEW YORK — Leopard prints have always been around in stores, though really on a spotty basis. Now Bloomingdale’s has caught jungle fever and is opening sultry “Into Africa” shops at the 59th Street flagship, as well as its Century City, Calif., and Aventura, Fla., branches today.

The 500-square-foot concepts are trend or “swing” shops, meaning they’re temporary. Bloomingdale’s twice a year puts up shops inspired by a hot fall or spring trend or fashions from major movies or shows.

“By focusing on a major theme of the season, we can bring in a lot of traffic,” said Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction, Kal Ruttenstein. “It’s a matter of running ads, windows, in-store displays, and of course, creating the shop itself to get the point across and differentiate from the competition.”

Into Africa presents jaguar and leopard prints in sheer fabrics, matched with items in khaki, camel, tobacco and gray colors. There’s a mix of twill bottoms, cargo pants, skirts, dresses, narrow pants, narrow skirts, swimwear, intimate apparel and accessories, as well as a MAC cosmetics outpost, with sun-baked colors, deep red lipsticks, smoky eyes and blushes. It’s a head-to-toe safari look, and a lot sexier than anything that ever came out of Banana Republic. Bloomingdale’s describes the look as “fierce femininity.”

“Animal prints go in and out of fashion,” Ruttenstein noted. “For spring, they look new and fresh, especially in lightweight fabrics such as silk chiffon. We never did an Africa shop, or made a major statement with this. In this day and age, when selling merchandise is tough, you have to present it in exciting ways, with a shop concept, with a theme behind it, and the right decor. We’ll have a green rug with animal prints running the entire length of the third floor and mannequins all along it.”

Some of the merchandise is being pulled from departments like Y.E.S. and Bridge, and about 90 percent of the goods are exclusive to Bloomingdale’s from vendors including ABS, Andrea Behar, BCBG, Dana B., Laundry, Necessary Objects, Nick & Nora, Theory, Diane Von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, La Blanca, Malia Mills and August Silk. Private label is also prominent.

Bloomingdale’s display director, Harry Medina, has created life-size cutouts of animals out of Africa for the flagship’s Third Avenue bank of windows, scheduled for unveiling today, and 3-D animals for the Lexington Avenue bank, for March 4.

Some past theme shops that scored well at Bloomingdale’s were based on “Moulin Rouge” and “Rent,” and for fall, Bloomingdale’s will tie into “La Boheme,” an updated Broadway version of the opera.