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We didn't exactly start out 2014 with the highest hopes for New York's retail scene—but thankfully, we were proven wrong. As usual, fashion both high and low turned out impressive new stores throughout the city, from ginormous flagships on Fifth Avenue to indie havens in Soho—and the long-awaited arrival of a certain brand in Williamsburg.
Ahead, we've picked out the most notable store openings in 2014, broken down into categories like which chain stores made the biggest splashes and how online retailers are still further enhancing their brands with brick-and-mortar stores. Read on for the rundown, and sound off in the comments section about which new store was your favorite this year—whether or not it was included in our list.
The Big Brand Invasion
↑ The H&M Trifecta: H&M Fifth Ave, Cos, & Other Stories
2014 was no doubt the year that the Swedish fast-fashion retailer firmly cemented itself in Manhattan. First came the five-floor Fifth Avenue flagship in July, with an opening feted by a Jeff Koons collaboration and the stateside debut of home goods in store. Then & Other Stories hit Broadway in October, knocking us over with its Parisian store atmosphere, European apparel aesthetic, and surprisingly wallet-friendly price tags. And then finally—finally—the high(er)-end COS opened earlier this month more than a year after it was announced. They get bonus points for leaving the (and haunted) well in tact.
The Williamsburg One-Two Punch: J. Crew & Madewell
Mickey Drexler & Co. made its much-maligned appearance appearance in Brooklyn this year with back-to-back store openings. J. Crew came first in September, emerging from behind grafittied plywood at 234 Wythe Avenue, while little sister Madewell followed up just before Halloween on North Sixth Street, featuring a Brooklyn-leaning edit of merchandise to target customers in its new favorite neighborhood.
Photo: Driely S. for Racked
↑ Space Ninety 8
No one made a stronger case for the "lifestyle store" this year than Urban Outfitters, whose warehouse-converted concept shop has a dedicated marketplace for local artisans, a rotating pop-up shop, a restaurant, and an indoor and rooftop bar. And though it still does feel very much like an Urban Outfitters through and through, the store itself is a pretty impressive feat. Honorable mention goes to the Herald Square store that followed in June, colonizing retail at the brink of the Garment District with a breakout makeup and salon section and an Intelligentsia coffee bar.
Topshop Fifth Avenue
The British fast fashion kicked off the holiday season early when its Fifth Avenue flagship doors were opened by brand ambassador Cara Delevingne in early November, revealing a ground floor filled with sparkly dresses—and decorations—for the holiday season. The other three floors with casual wear, shoes, and Topman aren't too shabby, either.
Photo: Driely S. for Racked
E-commerce's infatuation with brick and mortar stayed strong in 2014, most notably with Birchbox's debut on West Broadway this summer. Here, you can play around with thousands of samples before you BYOB (build your own Birchbox), grab a full-size bottle of something you fell in love with from a previous box, get a polish change or hairstyling, or take a makeup lesson. All of these things are much easier—and fun—to do AFK.
Rent the Runway
Finding your fancy occasion dress became a lot more interactive with the rental site's first-ever store in Flatiron, where customers can book an appointment and have dresses they've mused about online magically appear in a dressing room a couple days later, along with on-point suggestions from a stylist who will pull other pieces based on those selections. That second-size-just-in-case is now rendered unnecessary.
The cool girl's borrowed-from-the-boys online closet opened its Tribeca doors in May, marking the decade-old site's first foray into physical retail. "After 10 years, we just craved it," founder Kris Kim explained to Racked, who hemmed and hawed over the tiny details that would bring the site's very specific point of view into real life.
Fancy Fifth Avenue Newbies
The brand perhaps best known for its Rockstuds at the moment has ushered in another fashion movement to its high-ceilinged Fith Avenue abode: all-white everything. That was the focus of its couture collection that was moved to New York this year specifically to celebrate the new flagship. Its address, 693 Fifth Avenue, could also win an award for biggest transformation, as it used to be a Forever 21.
Photo: Rebecca Jennings
↑ Polo Ralph Lauren
Coinciding with a splashy Central Park fashion show came the first store dedicated to this branch of the Americana preppy brand—and the debut of its women's line. Touches like a shoe atrium and an in-house coffee bar brewing eponymous beans make the flagship a worthy spot for tourists and locals alike.
Soho, Still Going Strong
This store was a long, long time coming. After the New York-based designer claimed the former Kirna Zabête address in 2012, it lived briefly as a denim pop-up and also housed a sample sale. But if had come any sooner than November, perhaps it wouldn't have come with fun high-tech shopping features—like its futuristic dressing room mirrors.
Photo: Rachel Comey
↑ Rachel Comey
Cool-girl clothing deserves an equally cool space, and Comey delivered nothing short of that when her Crosby Street shop debuted in July in a former rug shop. Vaulted wood ceilings, a skylight, pebbled floors, and maroon leather seating successfully compliment her matching crop-top/high waisted shorts sets and Mars booties, displayed along other styles on a dedicated shoe pedestal.
Band of Outsiders
You know you have a genius retail concept when you combine of-the-moment relaxed Americana styles with Milk Bar cookies, as this Wooster Street shop so flawlessly exemplifies. "It will be a little Band of Outsiders playground," designer Scott Sternberg had said of the store, while it was serving as a presentation space for the fall 2014 collection during construction.
Photo: Driely S. for Racked
↑ Broken English
The West Coast's shiniest jewelry box came to Crosby Street over the summer, bringing with it plenty of sparklers from the likes of Pamela Love, Jacquie Aiche, and Anita Ko, along with vintage pieces, that straddle the line between super-trend and "too nice to wear every day."
Pookie and Louisa Burch followed along in the footsteps of Dad and Stepmom with a Grand Street store—a skinny bi-level space isn't short on wooden details and concrete blue floors—dedicated to their just-launched line that features preppy dresses and no-fuss leather slides.
Fitness fans flocked to the Broadway store, filled with enough neon to blind a small child, when it opened in April. Activewear is divided by sport type and modeled by buff mannequins, so you'll know what you'll look like with the right amount of exercise and sweat-wicking gear in just a few months.
· Year in Racked 2014 [Racked NY]