For a few hours on Saturday, 31st Avenue at Midtown Crossing will transform into a fancy, exclusive shopping mall called Haute City.
It will be filled with high-end clothing, product demonstrations, live music, food, drink and a few brands that aren't widely available in the Midwest.
It will be Omaha's first large scale pop-up shopping experience, said Caroline Hinrichs, of Step Group, the Omaha experiential marketing firm organizing the event.
Temporary, or pop-up, retail has been a trend for several years on the coasts, she said. In the Midwest, where commercial retail space is more plentiful and less expensive, it's been slower to catch on outside of holiday seasons.
Hinrichs hopes Haute City, named to evoke the feeling of exploring somewhere new and chic, changes that.
From noon to 6 p.m., more than 50 local and national brands and stores — including Glo Lounge, Chocolatier Blue, Lucky Bucket, Arena Swimwear, Roots & Wings, Rhylan Lang and many others — will open shops on 31st Avenue, the circular drive that borders Turner Park. Participating retailers are renting tents, tables and furnishings, which will begin arriving at 5 a.m. Setup will begin a few hours later.
The shops will be housed in those tents, as well as in a cabana, in an Airstream, and whatever else the retailers come up with, Hinrichs said. Many will offer services — a clothing boutique will school shoppers in the art of scarf tying; a stationery company will create a letter-writing studio. Shops will be mixed and matched. A clothing boutique, for example, will be set up next to a wine and cheese shop, giving Haute City the feel of, well, a city.
“It's all coming together to be an environment where they get to discover, to explore, like they would a city,” she said.
To finish off the day, at 8 p.m. Step Group is putting on a fashion show entirely made up of looks that can be purchased in Omaha shops. Brands to be featured include Mavi, BCBG MaxAzria and Rachel Zoe, among others. Experimental dance, aerial arts and musical group Quixotic Fusion will provide entertainment before and during the show on parking lot A at the complex (for more on them, check out Go in Thursday's World-Herald). An afterparty on the rooftop lot will follow the performance.
The goal of Haute City — and of pop-up retail in general — is to blur the lines between marketing, retail and entertainment, Hinrichs said.
“It's a very successful way to make a splash,” she said.
It also provides retailers with the opportunity to personally interact with customers, said Angela Lee of Omaha, creator of Sholdit, a scarf that converts to a clutch, and one of the brands participating in Haute City.
That's important to her.
Sholdit is brand new, and a few local (and national) retailers carry the product, but Lee would like to expand. Additionally, Sholdit looks like any circle scarf, though a discreet zippered pocket allows wearers to store a cell phone, small wallet and other necessities. It's important to Lee that potential customers see how the product works.
“It's something that needs demonstrated,” she said. “If it's just hanging there, people are going to think, ‘Oh, it's just a scarf' or, ‘It's just a bag.'”
Kelly Schwieger, Midwest sales rep for the shoe brand Jambu, is also setting up shop at Haute City.
Schwieger described Jambu as an eco-friendly and stylish line of shoes similar to Keens. As with Sholdit, New York-based Jambu is available in a few Omaha stores, though Schwieger would like to reach more customers.
“While we have some exposure in the Midwest, there's not a ton of it,” he said.
At Haute City, Schwieger will have Jambu styles for fall 2012 — not yet available in stores — ready for customers to try on and purchase. And the intimacy of an event like Haute City will give Schwieger a better chance to explain the eco-friendly details of Jambu — vegan leathers, soles made from rice leather — to customers.
The idea is that customers “walk away understanding the brand, not just the product itself,” Hinrichs said.
Haute City is designed for the savvy shopper, she said, and she hopes customers feel almost as if they're on vacation for the few hours Haute City exists.
To that end, they're charging $10 just for entrance to Haute City. Hinrichs said they want to attract guests who are truly interested in what products the event has to offer. At the same time, she said, tastings, giveaways, access to products that aren't widely available and services like styling will make the admission worthwhile.
“We want it to be for people who are looking for that next best thing,” she said.
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