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Saturday, April 25, 2009
My favorite NYC shopping spots, part one
Just as a warning, this post isn't really about Anthropologie so feel free to skip this one if you don't plan on visiting NYC to shop any time soon. It's OK, Anthro will be back on Monday! But I did want to address a common question I get where should you go to shop in NYC when you come to visit? I've divided things into mini-neighborhoods.
Here are my top 5 shopping grids:
1. 5th Ave between 14th St & 23rd St
2. Broadway between Houston & Grand
3. Spring St. between Lafayette & Ave of the Americas
4. Prince St. between Lafayette & Ave of the Americas
5. Madison Ave between 60th St & 80th St
- Lexington between 57th St & 60th St
- 34th St between 5th Ave & 7th Ave
- 3rd Ave between 75th St & 86th St
- 5th Ave between 51st St & 59th St
- South St Seaport
1. Flatiron (5th Ave :: 14th/23rd)
Stores within: Free People, Bebe, Esprit, Anthropologie, J.Crew, Banana Republic (women's & men's stores); Gap, Express, White House Black Market, Club Monaco, Armani Exchange, Precision, Juicy, Zara, H&M, United Colors of Benetton, BCBG Max Azria, Nine West, Aldo, Victoria's Secret, Sephora, Lucky Brand.
Man, I'm tired just typing that list! I used to work at 5th Ave & 21st St and I can remember some pretty awesome lunch shopping excursions. I recommend starting at 23rd St in Madison Square Park (23rd St where Broadway/5th Ave cross) and working your way south. And just for the record Madison Square Park is NOT near Madison Square Garden. You see Madison Square Garden has actually been in several neighborhoods and it used to be near the park when it was named.
In this gaggle of stores I frequent BCBG, Nine West, H&M, Anthropologie and J.Crew the most. They're all national stores so I won't talk too much about them. The H&M here has misses downstairs while upstairs is men's, young trend and a small lingerie room. Most of the stores in this neighborhood are two levels. The Anthropologie has a generously sized home section upstairs in the back and sales items downstairs. The staff there (and really at all 3 NYC Anthros) is very nice and super helpful. The J.Crew is pretty hit and miss. I am not a fan of the manager. She is loathe to give customers breaks or discounts on anything unless she absolutely has to. I can think of at least 3 situations where a nice manager would have just erred on the side of customer benefit and they failed to. Lame. The staff is hit or miss. Women's sale is sometimes upstairs, sometimes downstairs. They have shoes there. (My favorite NYC J.Crew is the Madison Ave store -- not the collection store -- on Madison between 44th and 45th Sts. Super nice staff and management.) I used to shop at Esprit a lot but have backed off in the last year because their quality has steadily declined. Zara is like H&M but slightly more expensive. I have better luck there in the winter than the summer.
This area is also close to Union Square, which has Filene's Basement, American Eagle, Forever 21, Steve Madden, Geox, Puma and DSW. There is also a green market there on the weekends.
2. Broadway between Houston & Grand
stores within: Urban Outfitters, Kenneth Cole, Esprit, Mango, Uniqlo, Zara, Forever 21, Express, Nine West, Aldo, American Eagle, Prada, Armani Exchange, Ann Taylor Loft, H&M, Guess, Lucky Brand, Steve Madden, Arden B, Levi's, Club Monaco, Old Navy, Quicksilver, Payless Shoes, Aerosoles, Flair, Bloomingdale's, Exstaza, Madewell, Scoop Warehouse, Yellow Rat Bastard, Necessary Clothing, Adidas, Topshop.
If you come to New York City, you need to go to Soho. And I highly recommend the Red NYC Soho Map to find all the stores that are cleverly nestled within. End of story. You can't do Soho in a day. Tiny neighborhood but packed with shopping. And as a warning it is insane here on the weekends. Like, you can barely walk the sidewalk is so packed. Many eateries here are cash only. I started this grid at Houston but Atrium up by Bleecker is a popular spot with the college crowd.
My favorite store on Broadway is Uniqlo. This Japanese store just landed in NYC last year. It's kind of like H&M in that they sell inexpensive basics. But it's just so...organized and almost like an assembly line. Want a merino sweater? They have shelves upon shelves of them in every color. Their cool licensed tees are a highlight. I'm still kicking myself for missing their Wonder Woman tee in my size over the winter. I was completely disappointed by Topshop, which just opened. First of all, waiting in line to get into a half-empty store is not cool. Secondly it was all 1980s derivatives. I was so scared to see these clothes out in the wild. Great to visit to say you've been there but too expensive to be novelty fun. Go to Forever 21 for your disposable party clothes.
Sticker shock is a pretty common thing in this nabe. But don't be afraid to go into any store! You never know what kind of sale you might find these days. The Bloomingdale's in Soho is a paired down version of the flagship store. I haven't been very successful finding clothing here but their shoes on 2 has been a gold mine for me. The shoe staff are really nice peeps to boot. Likewise, Madewell has a friendly staff and enviable denim. I've gotten a few cute tops from J.Crew's hispster sister store. You must own "this many" scarves to enter. If you don't mind making a bit of a detour the Nanette Lepore store is just a couple of blocks east of Madewell on Broome St. It's a small store but everything drool-worthy is there. Well worth the trip.
I also highly recommend the Scoop Warehouse. It has both men's and women's select designer fashions from current season with last season's on sale in the back. Their buyers make great choices and I come here often. On the cheaper side I also like going into Exstaza, one of the few remaining local shops. Yes there is some hideous stuff here but you can also find some great items here. It's all about the search.
One more thing -- Houston. It's pronounced Hows-ton. Not hews-ton. Common mistake.
3. Spring St between Lafayette and Ave of the Americas
Stores within: Sissy, Parasuco, Cleo & Patek, Ben Sherman, Sabon, John Varvatos, Burton, DC, American Apparel, J. Lindeberg, Burberry, Chanel, Diesel, LF, Theory, Olive & Bette's, Wink, Emporio Armani, Flying A, Comptoir des Cotonniers.
Some side street highlights: Barney's Co-op, Anthropologie, Ralph Lauren, Elie Tahari, DKNY, Sacco, Dolce & Gabbana, Max Studio, M Missoni, Miss Sixty, 7 for All Mankind, Oliver Peoples, Reiss, Anna Sui, Adriano Goldschmied (aka AG Jeans), Louis Vuitton, Nicole Miller, Agent Provocateur, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Ugg, Kate Spade, Catherine Malandrino, Lucky Brand, Tommy Hilfiger.
Prince St tends to get more foot traffic but Spring St is where I do most of my walking in Soho. I work at Spring/Ave of the Americas now and coming to Soho was like being transported from a blah tech center to a cute European village. Cobblestone streets, plenty of sidewalk cafes and pedestrians far outnumbering cars make this a fun place to be. Though the list of shopping places is short it's the side streets that add to the allure.
When I do my secondary sweep of Soho (primary is #2 above) I start at Spring St and Ave of the Americas and weave my way East. I go to Thompson, up and down and then East one block. To Sullivan, up and down and then East one block. And so on. There are just so many places to go! Most of the shops are tiny boutiques. This can really throw you when you're used to box stores. But be patient and self-assured...you will find great stuff!
OK, let's get down to it. Sissy is an accessories store. Their jewelry tends to be fairly priced (under $100 for most things) and their handbags range from the low $200s to $500 and up. They have some clothing in-store, mostly focused on going out looks. A lot of silk, rayon and the like. Parasuco is a denim bar of sorts that is slanted towards men but has women's options as well. Think embellished pockets, wide legs, acid wash (shudder). Expect to spend at least $100 on a pair. One of my ex-boyfriends swore by their shirts. Ben Sherman and John Varvatos are of a similar vein. Ben Sherman has a definite edge to it for the rock star in your life. I love walking through the store. The staff is sometimes overly attentive so be prepared to be hounded a bit. Also, the exchange rate makes items very expensive at both Ben Sherman and John Varvatos. Varvatos' store is all men's clothing. They have some decent suits and thoughtful casual dress looks for guys but mostly brand themselves as edgy and rock and guyliner and grrrrr. I find this store to be overly expensive.
Cleo & Patek is a handbag shop that my friends love but I find a bit sketch. Their items are nice enough but they seem to have a bit of a fell of the truck quality to them, know what I'm saying? You could go for the real thing at Louis Vuitton. I am not a fan. There's also Kate Spade whose collections are gorgeous but the prices are not. On the rare occasions when she has sales I will take a peek.
Speaking of stores I mostly browse in, the Chanel store is sparsely populated by both product and shoppers these days but man if I could just afford one of their tweed jackets...Burberry's price point is a bit lower but aside from their trenches its point of view just does not speak to me. I spend a lot of time in Barney's Co-op where there's a great pared down selection of designer goods. They have an awesome denim section downstairs and their accessories section always has at least 1 studded belt. I am currently eyeing a beautiful Vince dress there. Flying A is an awesome vintage shop where I scored a great messenger-style bag and a nice top. Their stock is always changing and I like to check in at least once a month. Their prices are pretty fair and sometimes negotiable.
The stores I hit most often start with Wink. This little box of a store has so much packed in. Jewelry on the walls. Shoes in baskets. Amazing clothing on two racks in the back. They carry a few overlap brands with Anthro: Frye and Seychelles shoes come to mind. This store is midrange in price, starting at around $75 and going up from there. But it's really a little treasure trove. I also love the Theory store. It's great for finding work clothing for those client meeting days and occasionally you'll find a nice going out dress. Comptoir des Cotonniers is a mother-daughter design team from France that specialize in timeless pieces. They have a lot of tunics, silk shirts and cropped pieces. Very cute stuff starting at about $100.
The side streets are a treasure trove. West Broadway between Spring and Broome is home to Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie, Miss Sixty, Tommy Hilfiger, 7 for All Mankind, Reiss...and so on. Reiss is another favorite of mine. Lots of frill and ruffles in a avant grunge kind of way. Out of my price range though unless they have a sale. This area also has tons of denim from AG Jeans to Diesel to Lucky. The Anthropologie is a one-level dream. They have a good shoe selection here and I always love the way this store is decorated. Their homewares section focuses on kitchen. Good sale selection and lots of gorgeous Antho jewelry. Friendly staff and good number of dressing rooms. You simply must stop in the Catherine Malandrino store to drool for awhile before trekking to other designer stores like M Missoni or 3.1 Phillip Lim. And when you're wiped out stop by Ben's Pizza for a slice, Once Upon a Tart for a treat or Rheon Cafe for some meal fare.
Alright, more to come tonight. Happy shopping!