Shopping. Is Atlanta Brave Enough to Become Fashion Destination? Second City Style Fashion Blog

April 4, 2007 • Shopping

Phipps Plaza in Buckhead
Virginia-Highland store in Atlanta

Although I am not very familiar with the Atlanta fashion scene I am familiar with all the fashion editorial positions I see opening up at newly launched fashion/lifestyle mags in the area. And as if to answer curiosity’s call, the Atlanta Journal Constitution offers some excellent reporting by Nedra Rhone that gives the scoop on the latest and greatest Atlanta retailers… and why they still need more…
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
New York is the undisputed fashion capital, with Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles rounding out the list. But which city reigns in the South?
Savvy shoppers point to Miami or Dallas. And maybe … possibly … Atlanta?
Not just yet.
While multi million-dollar upgrades at Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza and Cumberland, new malls like Atlantic Station and Mall at Stonecrest, and the arrival of high-end boutiques and discount chains have drawn attention to the city’s retail scene, there are some things Atlanta lacks.
In the strange alchemy that turns a city from so-so to shopping mecca, industry experts acknowledge some essentials, such as a truly walkable shopping street, a strong fashion community and of course, image, image, image.
For every retail hit Atlanta’s had in recent years, there’s also a miss.
Oscar de la Renta opted for Dallas. Fendi headed for Houston. And H&M, the Swedish trends–for–less retailer, seems to have overlooked the South altogether, at least for now.
Not that retail growth isn’t healthy.
From 2003 to 2006, the city’s retail business growth outpaced the national average at 22.5 percent, compared with 14 percent, according to data from Buxton, a retail research firm in Fort Worth, Texas. Atlanta also topped retail heavyweights such as New York and Las Vegas.
But the city’s image — a mix of traditional Southern and new urban — may be a drawback. "I think there is an impression that it is still the ‘Gone With the Wind’ Southern lady here," said Leigh Testa, spokeswoman for Neiman Marcus. "She is still here and she is elegant … but she’s not the only woman here."
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s association with hip-hop has added some diversity. But a melting-pot image doesn’t automatically attract retailers like the hip Spanish retail chain MNG by Mango, which recently opened a store in Dallas.
Atlanta was runner-up.
"They are both great shopping cities," said Garo Ghevondian, who owns the Mango franchise in Dallas. "I was going for more of a fashion city."
Ghevondian found retail space in NorthPark Center. It’s one of Dallas’ more exclusive malls and the site of Fashion at the Park — four days of runway shows in March, featuring high–end designer clothing.
So how did a city associated with big hair and bright colors earn so much fashion cred?
"Dallas is up and coming, and there is Fashion Week here, so I saw an opportunity," Ghevondian said.
Ed Fox, director of the J.C. Penney Center for Retail Excellence and professor of marketing at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, said Neiman Marcus helped put Dallas on the fashion map. "Perhaps not as a fashion center," he said, "but as an area in the Sunbelt where fashion mattered and people paid attention to it."
It was only a matter of time before marquee designers rushed in and the city began to turn out designers of its own.
Atlanta hasn’t quite achieved that kind of endorsement…
For the full story go to:
–Joanne Molina for Second City Style

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