Walmart-Amazon Battle Takes to Manhattan With Dueling Showcases

(Bloomberg) -- Move over, Marc Jacobs. Adios, Alexander Wang.

Not long after New York City’s Fashion Week ended, a somewhat more downscale sartorial show kicked off this week. The stars of the runway were Walmart Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., both of which took to the streets of Manhattan with competing events to show off their latest threads.

In a ground-floor studio space in New York’s Flatiron district, Walmart unveiled four apparel brands to the city’s black-clad fashion press. A short cab ride away, Amazon held an “exclusive look at the best products for summer” at Chelsea Market, a onetime Nabisco snack factory turned urban mall that’s now owned by Google.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, was there to establish some fashion cred. Executives showed off embroidered boyfriend jeans ($21.92), cork wedges ($19.88), and peasant tops ($13.44). Racks for George, a menswear label, had gingham shirts, tropical prints, and cargo shorts, now available in less-baggy versions that don’t extend below the knee. Fashion writers snapped photos and listened to Walmart execs discuss its new plus-size women’s line, Terra & Sky, which took 18 months to develop and is available in sizes 14-wide to 30-wide.

“We have more fashion than we’ve ever had before,” said apparel senior vice president Deanah Baker. They’re being careful not to go too far. “But I’m not going to take something that came off the runway yesterday. We don’t want something so distinctive that you can only wear it once a week.”

Walmart is hoping that the new threads can help check the encroachment of Amazon, which is now the second-most-shopped apparel retailer, trailing only Walmart, according to a recent study. Walmart has also acquired apparel startups Bonobos and ModCloth, and will open a dedicated online site to sell Lord & Taylor’s more upscale offerings next month.

Mimosas, Selfies

Meanwhile, Amazon showcased everything from books to baby products at the block-long Chelsea Market, where attendees were whisked in private elevators to a third-floor viewing room complete with a mimosa bar, a mini beauty salon and selfie stations tagged with the event’s social-media theme, #AllOnAmazon. Walmart’s event had no hashtag -- and no mimosas, either.

Amazon’s aggressive push into fashion was on full display, with rolling racks of clothes and tiered displays of shoes promising a very Walmartesque pledge of a “one-stop destination” for apparel. Amazon didn’t ignore the plus-size crowd either, as its Lark & Ro clothing line offered everything from sleeveless blouses to laser-cut dresses, ranging from regular to plus sizes.

“From tried-and-true heritage brands to contemporary designers, Amazon Fashion offers a wide selection of styles for the entire family,” according to event’s media guide.

Neither company claimed to be aware that its bete noire was but a few New York minutes away.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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