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What to Know About Manhattan's First Saks Off Fifth

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Photos courtesy of Saks Off Fifth and Gilt
Photos courtesy of Saks Off Fifth and Gilt

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If last night's customers were any indication, Saks Off Fifth will have no trouble keeping up with midtown Manhattan. Today marks the discount department store's debut in the borough at 125 East 57th Street, but the Gilt City users who wrapped around the block before the doors opened got special preview access to shop yesterday, and they were quick to scoop up the high-end labels on offer — well, what there was of it, anyway.

Gilt City got the hookup, of course, because this store features the first-ever Gilt shop-in-shop — remember, Saks' parent company bought the luxury flash sale sight last year. That partnership gets the shop-in-shop prominent placement directly in front of the escalators bringing customers down from the street level, where it's got a minimalist entranceway. And in case you don't realize it, there's a huge video screen playing an editorial shot in New York City that flashes the Gilt logo at the end.

Anyone who's gone to the Gilt By Appointment showroom will recognize the gold-plated racks and shelving units that are here, and these will likely be the same fixtures the brand uses when its by-appointment salon opens here in May. Merchandise-wise on the main floor right now right now, you'll find a carefully-selected color palette of black, white, blush, and tan. It's mostly clothing on offer, with a couple of pairs of shoes and purses artfully displayed.

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The shop will host weekly flash sales that start at noon each Wednesday; right now, Zadig & Voltaire is up to 70% off retail prices. If you're not seeing anything you like, head to the concierge desk to play around on an iPad that's cued up to Gilt's site.

Once you're done in this section, turn your attention toward handbags, which are to the right when you get off the escalator. A small section contains fancy labels like Valentino, Miu Miu, Chloé, and Burberry, which have price tags that are close to or exceed four digits. There's also some vintage and previously-owned Hermès bags and accessories in glass cases.

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The other side has brands you're used to seeing in stores like this: Michael Kors, Dooney & Bourke, Vince Camuto, Kate Spade. It was a little surprising to see styles from the likes of Furla and Karl Lagerfeld in the mix here as well. Moschino has its own display table, and some of Jeremy Scott's most Instagram-ready bags — one shaped like a jean jacket, another like a spray can — are ready for purchase.

The most real estate on this floor is dedicated to women's shoes. Some of the fanciest stuff, like Giuseppe Zanotti Design, get their own little display area, but otherwise everything is organized by size, with shoes sitting in open boxes. You can play a game with yourself to try and spot the best stuff — like 3.1 Phillip Lim, Jimmy Choo, and Versace — among the more common players in stores like these, which overlaps with the labels you saw in the handbag section.

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The rest of this floor is dedicated to accessories, including scarves, hats, a lot of space for sunglasses (Armani, Ray Ban, Balmain, Michael Kors, and Prada are all well-represented), and jewelry. It seems like there's an equal amount of fine and contemporary (Alexis Bittar, Alex Woo) pieces under glass cases as there are costume pieces. There are also a considerable number of watches available, made by everyone from Anne Klein to Rolex.

Finally, beauty items like Bliss lotion and Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume, plus a few tech accessories and some snacks, are strategically positioned next to the registers.

While this floor felt at times too cramped with merchandise, the lower level was a little more spacious. This is where you'll find women's clothing and the entire men's department, which takes up as much space for suiting, activewear, casual clothes, footwear, and accessories as the women's shoe department does right above it. The lack of nice options here were a little disappointing, especially when it came to contemporary.

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The same can't be said of the women's designer section that borders it, which held a surprising selection of great pieces from Alexander Wang, The Row, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. Granted, these pieces are almost as expensive (and sometimes more expensive) than the handbags upstairs, but this section would be a nice one for those in the area to check on every so often to look for great deals.

The high-end area is surrounded by contemporary labels: Rebecca Minkoff, Milly, DVF, James Perse, Free People, Helmut Lang, Theory, Vince, Joie, Rag & Bone, Elizabeth & James...doesn't that read a bit like our sample sale calendar in a really, really good month? The rest of the women's offerings outside of this area weren't much to write home about.

With an abundance of neon signage across both floors displaying cheeky phrases like "The Right Fit" and "#yesplease," it's clear that Saks Off Fifth is looking to pull customers from the H&M, Zara, and Sephora stores just up the street. And since this is the department store's first of a few discount stores coming to New York City — the Financial District and Sunset Park are on deck — expect this store to serve as a lab for the company to figure out what works (and what doesn't) when it comes to off-price in the five boroughs.

Saks Off Fifth

125 E 57th St, New York, NY 10022, USA