Friday, May 8, 2009



WHERE: Route 3, Clifton N.J.
May 6th, 2009 ---6::00 PM

Words, Images Judith Ecochard
Family Image courtesy of Mandee


That was the collective reaction from the press and suppliers alike who disgorged from our limo-like Manhattan based bus – into the get the heart beat goin’- vibrant new flagship location of MANDEE, a hip and insanely affordable chain for female trendsetters. This store marked the rollout for the soon to be updated stores throughout the country. This Mandee --- has just opened on a busy byway in the Garden State.

Being native Manhattanites, we vaguely knew the chain store-there’s one down on 14th Street-though the gals and manufacturers we spoke with before the big event had shopped there for years- when growing up.

Happily (unusual) Mandee, STILL a family owned business run by the congenial and very well respected (that was clear) Mandelbaum family---got the fever to re-brand its retail emporiums so that not only are the latest looks ready to buy, but the shopping environment is EXCITING, FUN and FRIENDLY.

THINK a poured concrete floor in a massive industrial like warehouse space---with super high ceilings sportin runway/television overhead hanging lights, snazzy display racks/shelves of trendy clothes/accessories in aisles that are browser easy and grouped sensibly, a dressing room worthy of a Dolce and Gabanna manse,

and our fav, an elevated white block runway that strikingly divides the space and usually has mannequins adorned with the head to toe looks that customers want or is used for happenin’ in-store events.

We were treated to a fashion show with models struttin’ to the music attired with the freshest outfits and oozing boatloads of sass and smiles.


Lucky us, we got to chat with lots of nice folks in upbeat moods.

The talkfest began straight off when leaving midtown’s busy rush hour streets. We sat amongst manufacturers who were very eager to experience the new Mandee and see how their merch is displayed.

And every supplier we spoke with…from the purveyor of body wear, to the guy that “makes the trousers,” --- to the India based maker of fab diaphanous tunics and beaded tops (nice!)

---all proudly highlighted the top quality of goods delivered (and the prices are astonishing)…and the high standards and fairness of the Mandelbaum family. And the latter remarks were unsolicited!!!!

As soon as we got into the store itself, we were BUZZING. The latest tunes set the beat for an action packed evening…that was catered and expertly served. We loved the humongous chocolate fountain (very popular), passed hor d’oerves, smoothie bar, a professionally attended carving station, and huge round tables laden with cheeses, crackers, breads, fruits etc. What a feast.

But it was the conversations we had from the staff that really defined the night for us.

First off, we gabbed with the outgoing sales assistants to see what’s selling. Like their customer base, we figured, these gals (twenty something) wore colorful printed summer frocks under cropped jackets…so xoxo Gossip Girls.

They gave two thumbs up to distressed denim, particularly cutoffs and pedal pusher lengths--- and rainbow colored skinny jeans.

Ethnic/tribal prints (tunics) paired with dangly earrings, oversized beads, chunky wooden/plastic bracelets and multi-strand necklaces for that Bohemian hippy chic pizzazz is HUGE.

And surprising to us, embroidered peasant blouses (gee we wore that back in the day when we went to Mexico for high school graduation)—is also selling. Plaid is still popular though we think that is more of a Fall 2009 item.

The eighties revival, ~à la Madonna is also big. In fact, we are saving our gift card to snag one of those pleather motorcycle bomber jackets that the guys from JouJou assured us will be delivered this summer. The skinny rubber bracelets we still have.

Shoe wise, we admired how Mandee nailed all the right styles-the Gladiator, grommet dazzled wedges, peep toe and strappy patent leather sandals, flip flops and festive print canvas espadrilles for $24!!!!

And the most wanted labels are represented to---including former tattoo artist turned graphics genius brand Ed Hardy and the edgy Christian Audigier ---serving up cool lifestyle sneakers and pastel flip-flops respectively.

Another great confab for us was a conversation with a sweater buyer---who knew her stuff like no other. Hailing from the costume design world (Broadway Shows!!!), she commented on how slim silhouettes are big. Since Mandee sells in season (the buy it today/ wear it tonight…tomorrow mind set), we were both curious as to how some of those big chunky cable knit sweaters we saw all over the Fall runways was going to translate into this market.

One thing for sure…color pops, and print as wells as solid tone sweaters are selling.

We also admired the merchandise mix that is smartly laid out by the cash registers. ELF Cosmetics---one of our fav inexpensive makeup/body care lines, kitschy retro style martini and wine glasses, silk/gold thread embellished picture frames--- and Hello Kitty anything are moving out according to Nikki, a vivacious Merchandise Mandee employee.

And because every gal gets a quick wardrobe life from a new carryall, the store’s selections included cute patent clutches, shiny wristlets, oversized leather like satchels and hobos, chain link handbags, and splashy lined beach totes.

Congrats are definitely in order. It’s so great to see a creative, well thought out retail branding plan that’s executed well… like the “Field of Dreams”----build it and they will come.

FACTOID: Mandee began as a Brooklyn foundation store for women sixty years ago, started by the grandmother/widow of today’s execs.