NEW YORK — As Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Tony Spring enters the new Carousel shop at the retailer’s 59th Street flagship here on Wednesday, two leopard print and glittery bike helmets from Sawako catch his eye.
“These are fun and not ridiculously priced and it’s one size fits all,” said Spring, as Bloomingdale’s workers prepared the shop’s opening for the next day.
The fashion-forward helmets are among the many off-beat and unexpected products at the new Carousel at Bloomingdale’s format. It’s a rotating pop-up shop introducing every two months a different theme with what Spring characterized as “culturally relevant, endemic and non-endemic content and events driven by different guest curators.”
Carousel’s first installment — “Urban Explorer” — has an assortment of tactical gear, street-inspired and functional fashion, tech and wellness products, among other products that are chosen by style expert and New Yorker Eugene Tong. Many of the Carousel items are exclusively at Bloomingdale’s for the first time or have a limited distribution, including technologically savvy, self-cleaning water bottles from Larq; temperature-controlled mugs from Ember; emergency rain ponchos from Kikkerland; compact beer kegs from Krups, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop wellness products.
There are also Polaroid mobile phone printers, colorful backpacks from Topo, Manastash pullovers and sherpa jackets from Japan and vitamin-enriched Gummy Bears pressed juice. The fleece sweatshirts from Portland, Ore.-based Poler are only sold online, at the Poler store, and now at Bloomingdale’s. Through videos seen in the online Carousel, Tong and other guest curators will tell the “stories” behind many of the products.
“The team and I curated this shop with the needs of an urban lifestyle in mind,” Tong said. “I love the idea of borrowing from different genres, readapting and repurposing the product’s intended use to meet an individual’s needs for living in a city. Therefore, each item in this shop was chosen with the purpose of making everyday city life easier and a little more stylish.”
At the Bloomingdale’s flagship, Carousel is a 1,600-square-foot setting in prime real estate. It’s on the 60th Street side of the store, on the main floor just off cosmetics, and with entrances from inside and outside the store. Considering the setting and its unorthodox assortment, as well as the packed schedule of 50 events planned, including fitness and meditation classes, beauty discussions, shoe shines and beer tastings, Carousel is clearly a concept being spotlighted. Carousel shops are also debuting Thursday inside Bloomingdale’s stores in New York’s SoHo, San Francisco, Century City, Calif., and online. Each store has a dedicated and differentiated space for Carousel, with 59th Street the largest; the others range from 800 to 1,000 square feet.
“We’ve created a most immersive experience for customers.…You’ll see things, try things and taste things you haven’t seen or heard about before,” Spring said. “Once we understand the elements that work, we’ll figure out other appropriate locations for Carousel. We see it for most major markets.” Spring also suggested that certain products displayed in Carousel could find more permanent selling space elsewhere in the store.
On the more theatrical side, the Carousel shop at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street has an imposing, floor-to-ceiling wall of LG TV screens showing a 10-minute video of New York scenes intended to capture the mindset of the “urban explorer.” There’s also a TRX MAPS body scanner, powered by Physmodo, that provides an interactive body movement assessment in about 30 seconds, rating your mobility, activation, posture and symmetry. Results are delivered on-screen and via email with customized exercise plans. Next to the machine, TRX’s black and yellow suspension straps and training gear are for sale.
“Carousel is part of our heritage of bringing unexpected product together in a dramatic way,” Spring said, citing Bloomingdale’s past import promotions filled with rarefied products from the around the world, and model rooms for furniture. Like Carousel does, they help build up the store’s hip, of-the-moment aura.