Online shopping has its place, but it’s missing one key ingredient – the experience. The new Clearfork Neiman Marcus has that in spades.

Members of the media were bowled over at a preview event Feb. 8 of the nearly 95,000-square-foot shopping destination, which gleams with polished marble and bright LED lighting throughout.

The layout is familiar in some ways, with its central escalator just off the cosmetics department leading up to ladies’ apparel, which is still separated neatly by designers and departments, but this time the more adventurous layout has no right angles.

With unique merchandise offerings and a newly thought-out presentation and layout, Neiman plans for this store to become a prototype in many ways, beckoning shoppers back to the brick and mortar, for a shopping experience they cannot find anywhere else.

“Many of our newly designed departments will serve as prototypes for updates to existing Neiman’s locations and new stores in our future,” said Scott Mitchell, vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus Fort Worth.

The store boasts many exclusive vendors, new services, a tranquil NM Cafe, a new open-sell concept in cosmetics and private spa rooms.

"Neiman Marcus is thrilled to continue serving our loyal Fort Worth market and welcome new customers to The Shops at Clearfork. Our ties to Fort Worth are long-standing and we are excited to grow along with the community,” said Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group. “This is a store of the future, offering a reimagined shopping experience. Neiman Marcus Fort Worth promises to deliver the perfect balance of innovative technology with the service and incomparable fashion and luxury that has been the signature of Neiman Marcus for 110 years.”

Neiman Marcus Fort Worth has upped the “wow factor” with additional vendors including Prada, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera Co., Derek Lam and Dolce & Gabbana − all of whom are new to Fort Worth. Another newly unveiled clothing department is called NM Active, capitalizing on the popularity of athletic leisure wear and featuring an exclusive line.

The gifts and home department now scatters merchandise more randomly throughout, rather than displaying entire collections and brands together, to give the feel of shopping in someone’s living room. Edie Parker and Jay Strongwater created exclusive products with special nods to Fort Worth. Strongwater designed an eye-popping ornament hand-painted with depictions of a Bass Hall angel, a longhorn from the Fort Worth Herd in the Stockyards and Sundance Square. The exclusive ornament retails for $275.

Upstairs the fresh-faced NM Cafe with pops of grassy green ties the space together. With a familiar menu and extended hours, the most noticeable addition is a full-service bar with a selection of wine, beer, specialty cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. Combining cocktails and luxury shopping, what could be better?

The window coverings in the cafe will ultimately open to expose a view of the rest of the Shops at Clearfork. The space has a more modern and sophisticated, less “ladies who lunch,” feel to it. Dining at the Hedges and Zodiac restaurants in Nieman’s former Ridgmar Mall store was always slightly a stretch for dudes, but this space should prove more inviting for both sexes. Cafe hours will be extended from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Additional brunch selections will be introduced on Sundays.

Some of the biggest updates are in cosmetics and fragrances. Formerly all cosmetics were stored behind counters, requiring assistance. Products are now available for self-service throughout the cosmetics department, which is now divided into quadrants. Beauty concierges and the central consultation table are readily available for those seeking more guidance. Complimentary makeup consultations and applications are provided.

The Fragrance Room is one of my favorite new areas. The oval shaped, glass-walled space offers customers a highly interactive olfactory experience. Created to compliment the nearby open-counter cosmetics area, product testers are displayed at central banks and organized into eight fragrance categories to help narrow down the choices — warm and spicy, woody, rose, floral, citrus, gourmand, green and men’s. Customers may test and consider options while enjoying natural sunlight.

A museum-quality art collection adds to the experience, making Neiman Marcus Fort Worth a true shopping destination. Ninety percent of the art collection made the move from Ridgmar to Clearfork, striking a familiar tone for loyal shoppers but also allowing them to enjoy the art with fresh eyes. Most of the collection was handpicked by Stanley Marcus himself.

Neiman Marcus has purchased original Halston sketches, which are found in each of the eight couture fitting rooms. Several new artists were tapped to contribute their vision to store, including Fort Worth native John Holt Smith, whose pink-toned Vertical Wildflower Sequence 2016 and blue-toned Vertical Swim Sequence 2016 are prominently displayed upstairs. Other newly acquired artworks are by Carol Benson, Matt Clark & Jackson Echols, Charlotte Smith and Marcelyn McNeil.

The location

Simon Properties and Cassco Development Co. partnered to develop the first phase of retail at Clearfork, with Neiman Marcus being the first component.

“Neiman March has a deep history in Fort Worth, providing its loyal customers with luxury offerings and unrvivaled service,” said Crawford Edwards, Cassco Development.

Alamo Architects of San Antonio, who designed Neiman Marcus’s Austin location, designed the Fort Worth store. The building façade draws inspiration from woven fabric patterns key to much of clothing the retail sells, noted Billy Lawrence, founding principal of Alamo Architects.

“When Alamo Architects was challenged to imagine a unique new Neiman Marcus for Texas in the 21 st century we turned to the culture, setting and climate of Fort Worth for inspiration,” he said.

Using state-of-the-art technology from Gate Precast Concrete, Hillsboro, Alamo was able to create unique, handcreafted panels for the retailer. Several of the bespoke concrete panels feature white and clear hand-broken quartz that glisten through the day as the sun moves around the building, noted Lawrence. “This is something we couldn’t have done a few years ago,” he said.

The interior was designed by CallisonRTKL and uses textures such as rope, leather and rebar in ways that are reminiscent of other places in Fort Worth and West Texas.. A reflective, chain-like backdrop in the shoe department, for instance, is reminiscent of the water flowing down a wall at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, store officials noted.

Regional landscape specialist Bob Anderson of J. Robert Anderson Landscape Architects used self-sustaining, plants, grasses and trees including Lindheimer’s Muhly, Crape Myrtle and Texas Sage around the building.

The store opens Friday, Feb. 10, to the public.  -

www.neimanmarcus.com/

Robert Francis, editor of the FWBP, contributed to this report.

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