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A Tale of Two Pop-Ups

September 11, 2008 | 10:00 am

Gap_colette2_2 A decade ago "The Onion" joked about the proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops with an article titled: "New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks." Today it might be "Temporarily Retail Space Opens Briefly inside Existing Pop-Up Store," as more retailers are playing the "limited-time only" game as a way of shaping image. Two notable examples during New York Fashion Week show how right -- and how very wrong -- it can go.

Gap has sorely been in need of an image tweak, and bringing Patrick Robinson on board as creative director has been a step in that direction. Colette X Gap, its temporary boutique collaboration with famed Parisian retailer Colette at 680 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan (the space is carved out of the Gap flagship here, technically making it a "shop-in-shop," mais non?), feels like two steps back.

It opened on Sept. 6 and will shutter exactly 30 shopping days later on Oct. 5, and sells an assortment of very limited items done in conjunction with artists and labels like Kangol, Repetto, Longchamp, Neckface and Ruben Toledo.

On opening day, the line stretched around the corner, and when we stopped by on day two it was 40 people deep. Now we don't mind waiting in line -- in fact we kind of enjoy the thrill of the hunt. (We once spent nearly eight hours queued up in the hot Anaheim sun to buy our beloved a Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room collectible fruit bowl in the shape of Rongo the god of agriculture.) But we do expect to be rewarded. After 15 minutes cooling our heels with visions of Adam Kimmel's gray jersey necktie printed with navy blue anchors and the Clements Ribeiro/Karen Nicol short-sleeve sweatshirt adorned with lace, we were ushered in, only to paw through custom-made Post-Its ($15) and an unnecessarily confusing Alexis Mabille something-or-other shaped like a giant bow tie for $350 (we had to ask a sales clerk who informed us, not wholly convincingly, that it was a an evening bag.)

Both items had sold out the first day -- and there were no plans to restock. "We only got one of those," the register lass told us about the necktie. "And we sold it to like the third or fourth customer." Come on, who stocks a single necktie? There's such a thing as being too limited-edition and too precious for your own good, and for the next four weeks you can find it camped out in Mid-Town.

Bodega_scene2 On the other end of the spectrum are the also temporary Bullseye Bodegas by Target, which will be open in four Manhattan locations September 12 to 15. The island is famously devoid of permanent Target stores, and the retailer has staged temporary stores in the past, including a holiday-season floating Target docked at Chelsea Pier. (A permanent outpost is set to open in Manhattan in 2009.)

When we popped in to the pop-up at 57th and 6th for a press preview Wednesday night (there will also be bodegas in Union Square, Soho and the East Village), we found a fantastically colorful, Warholian pop-art faux shelf fronting complete with make-believe "Bullseye" branded products and empty soup cans clad in Campbell-esque wrappers (if you looked closely enough you noticed the names of the assorted designers were on the labels).P91000073_2

Mixed in were designer collaborations with 22 designers (some of which are not yet available in regular Target stores) including Anya Hindmarch, Sigerson Morrison, Jonathan Saunders and Jemma Kidd -- all in the $20 to $60 range. Although it's not quite fair to compare the vibe to the minimalist elite feel of the Gap X Colette space -- aside from the vastly different price points, there was free-flowing alcohol from three strategically placed open bars -- but Target clearly hit, well, a bull's-eye with this one.

We left with just one question: What's the deal with the shelf full of $19.99 garden gnomes by the front door? We're really hoping it's a clever collaboration featuring the Travelocity spokesgnome. 

-- Booth Moore and Adam Tschorn

Photos top to bottom: A crowd of 40 queues up in front of the Gap x Colette temporary store on 5th Avenue on day two of its 30-day existence, a crowd parties it up at a press preview for Target's Mid-Town Bullseye Bodega on Wednesday night and $19.99 garden gnomes were offered alongside designer goods. All photos by Adam Tschorn.

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