Monday, May 10, 2010
MARTIN+OSA: On the Death of a Friend
Since its launch in 2006 MARTIN+OSA has pretty much been retail's best kept secret. The stores are staffed with the most professional, friendly and knowledgeable people who remember you time and time again. I once equated it to boutique shopping in a standard retail environment. American Eagle had to have sunk a boatload of money into the build-outs on these stores - they're absolutely beautiful with warm wood, concrete floors, impeccable fixtures and fitting rooms that you can actually fit into, lay out your selections AND sit down in.
From the very beginning M+O has had a handle on the best in basics - especially the denim. As a denim aficionado I can only say, and my closet would attest to the fact that, they have ALWAYS gotten their denim right. It doesn't matter if you want a skinny, straight, or wide leg their jeans fit well. And even better - they are constructed to fit all kinds of bodies for people of all ages.
I can't even begin to tell you about the amazing leather jackets I've purchased, the private label handbag lines they introduced me to, or the most off-beat shoe/boot labels that now line my closet as a result of shopping in these stores. To say I will be rationing all the wonderful cashmere pieces I've purchased at M+O in the past 3+ years would be a gross underestimation.
On March 9, 2010 American Eagle abruptly announced plans to close the MARTIN+OSA concept, including all 28 stores and the online business. Roughly a year prior I had heard murmurings from the CEO regarding the possible closure of the division and thought it was a bit hasty considering the condition of the economy (hel-lo we're in a recession!), the fact the division was only a couple years old, and the lack of worthwhile marketing extended by the parent company. At the time I hoped some company would cut in, acquire the label and fine tune its marketing strategy. No such luck. Cut to a year later and I feel like I'm watching the slow death of a really good friend who has been there to remind me quality is not only found in labels at Barney's or in the J.Crew maze at current - no offense to either of those because they are amazing, but variety is essential to keep a balanced sense of style.
On Saturday I visited the Newport store to stock up and almost all the denim was sold out in my size. Gulp. I left with only 2 pairs and a cute skirt (get online and get what's left while you can people!).
As crazy as it sounds, my heart actually ached because the beautiful vibe that once embodied the store has been replaced by a bargain-like atmosphere instituted by corporate. Even if that is the reality of the situation, it seems distasteful and disrespectful to the people who have kept the brand alive - both employees and customers.
In parting I can only say: American Eagle you are dead to me. If I ever do have kids and you're still around I will be sure to jam them into A&F before ever stepping foot into one of your doors again. You should be looking at the Gap to see what struggling to stay loyal to your customers despite your own shortcomings looks like. Bitter much?