A Distinguished Shopper's Guide to Brookfield Place
As a general rule, the soul of a shopping mall consists of the high schoolers who loiter therein. But very few teenagers are to be seen at Brookfield Place, the new-ish luxury mall located in the downtown office complex formerly known as the World Financial Center. A few brainiacs from nearby Stuyvesant High School hit up Sprinkles for cupcakes, and handfuls of tourists drop into Gucci to upgrade their handbags, and that’s about it. Rather, the roles of teenagers are played, one lunch hour at a time, by the young Wall Street power players who work 12-hour days in the offices above the stores.
Here, the fantasy world of self-indulgence overlaps with the actual world of material splendor. The names on shopping bags and security badges blur into an upmarket downtown hum: American Express, Hermès, DVF, Merrill Lynch, Michael Kors, Condé Nast, Bank of America, Bottega Veneta, Time Inc., Lululemon. There’s a BlackBerry kiosk where the Sunglass Hut ought to be.
The Saks Fifth Avenue women’s store recently opened, with the men’s half not scheduled to open until the spring. As such, the men’s retail opportunities at Brookfield Place have a definite youthful cast. The J. Crew has a grab-and-go vibe, as if built to serve people who just spilled coffee on their chinos. The Club Monaco offers fairly flirty service and a varied collection of sweaters that are half a notch more interesting than they need to be—rugged cuts and colors juxtaposed with fine or fluffy fabrics. The Bonobos is prominently displaying a belted shawl-collar camel blazer ($600) that is at once seductive and ridiculous.
So, yes, the mall is presently catering to men in their twenties and thirties. An unseasonably warm October Friday found the boys looking just a bit sweaty. They’d gone to sleep on Thursday night with visions of their new autumn office-casual outfits strutting in their heads, and they woke up unwilling to ditch these plans. Now here they were, wearing box-fresh quilted gilets and looking dewy on the forehead as they stood on line at Chopt.
I’d advise the lads to look to Kamakura, the Japanese shirtmaker they will have spotted on their way out of Equinox. The service was as meticulous as the craftsmanship when I went in for an Oxford-cloth button-down popover ($79) that is, to me, the epitome of not totally casual shirting. Kamakura tricks theirs out with all the old-school Ivy League trimmings that make the spine tingle—the back-collar button, the box pleat, the locker loop. The preps of Brookfield may well appreciate such subtle details, but evidence suggests they prefer bolder statements, such as M.I.T. ribbon belts and Goldman Sachs-branded Patagonia vests.
Hunting for winter wear at Theory, I tried on an unlined overcoat ($1,395) that instantly enticed me with its cashmere caress. In size small, it was a perfect snug fit. But it was plainly impractical; I was in the market for a coat to wear over a suit jacket. The sales associate—warm but not too chummy—suggested I instead consider a size medium. But Brookfield, seductively swanky, was on the cusp of bewitching me into moderate avarice and mild insanity. There was a moment when it seemed that the only possible solution was to buy one of each.
The most notable exception to Brookfield’s youthful menswear gist is Ermenegildo Zegna. Everything about the tone of the Zegna shopping experience is written on the salesman’s business card. The fellow helping you is not a “sales associate” but (more maturely) a “customer advisor.” The phrase assures a boss that his interest in a justifiably popular herringbone bomber ($2,495) is not at all frivolous.
In its dense opulence, Brookfield Place is attempting to transcend the suburban mall. In essence, it is just like all the rest of them.
This is nowhere more true than at the southwest corner, which is given over to eating and drinking, emotional activities that may encourage a reversion to teen-hood. Le District, a marketplace that is Brookfield’s Gallic answer to Eataly, plays host to so much flirting and scoping that it has the aspect of a meat market specializing in first-rate charcuterie. Upstairs, there’s Hudson Eats, a food court offering banh mi and Blue Ribbon Sushi, rather than Panda Express fried rice. To judge by the lines, the most popular place there is Dos Toros, very possibly because it is closest to the main entrance, offering a superlative place to see and be seen. Or maybe there’s a subliminal attraction in the name, with its Spanish echo of economic optimism. The mood of every market here is bullish.