NEW YORK SHOPPING GUIDE
Get the most out of one of the world’s main fashion capitals with our insider’s guide.
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New York is where America’s great designers go to reach the proverbial next level, which usually starts with showing a revolutionary collection during Fashion Week and ends with international recognition. A future Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein won’t have arrived until he’s opened a store or three somewhere in the city that never sleeps and often shops.
Nearly every Manhattan neighbourhood has a unique retail identity. Consider Fifth and Madison Avenues, with their glistening stacks of luxury boutiques and world-famous department stores. Or the cobbled streets of the downtown villages with their funky, hidden-away shops patronised by those with more dash than cash. As the world’s high heels descend on New York for Fashion Week, its rich and diverse shopping scene is more relevant than ever.
Get the most out of one of the world’s main fashion capitals with our insider’s guide to its must-shop stores and stylish places to pause.
Lee Carter edits Hint, an online New York fashion magazine reporting up-to-the-moment trends, runway, fashion industry and shopping news for the city.
First opened in London, then Tokyo, Dover Street Market is an avant-garde phenomenon. The brainchild of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo, Dover has now sprung up in New York’s newly christened, formerly humdrum NoMad (north of Madison Square Park) neighbourhood. The multi-brand, multi-floor concept store stocks the artful wares of designers from all over the world, including a select number of luxury labels that want in on the zeitgeist.
The little Lower East Side shop that could, Opening Ceremony has revolutionised retail with its eclectic mix of merchandise and uncanny power to predict the Next Weird Thing (including but not limited to Ben-Day dots, eyeball prints and pixelated tigers). The brand has collaborated with the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Spike Jonze, and its owners Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are the new creative directors of famous Paris fashion house Kenzo.
New York’s best-kept menswear secret, Odin has three outposts in the East Village, West Village and SoHo. Men of the modestly directional sort can feel confident in its slogan tees and statement suits by the world’s finer men’s designers. Odin’s own line has also received plenty of buzz, particularly the cult scents that women are now borrowing from their boyfriends.
Kirna Zabête, a combination of the owners’ nicknames, opened in 1999, selling an upbeat blend of luxury items in a range of categories: clothing, jewellery, home, baby, pet – even candy. Known for their impeccable seasonal edits of the top runway collections, from Stella McCartney to Christopher Kane and New York’s own Proenza Schouler, university friends Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley bring a personal touch to the art of shopping.
While the Upper East Side has its share of glamorous Bs —Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Henri Bendel — Barneys New York is the king of destination department stores. The fashion faithful flock there for conceptual and luxury labels alike, not to mention the died-and-gone-to-heaven shoe floor. It’s not all old school, either: in 2017, a downtown location will open at Seventh Avenue and West 17th Street, in the same building where Barney Pressman founded his menswear company in 1923.
Bergdorf’s is as much an institution as it is a department store, a term that belies its hefty cultural contributions. That it sells all the primo labels the world has to offer almost seems beside the point. In 2012, the store quirkily toasted its 111th anniversary with collaborations with 111 high-profile design houses —including Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin — and an award-winning documentary film, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s.
About a century ago, Saks Fifth Avenue perfected the culture of fine shopping and white-glove customer service when similar stores were decades away. Today, the high-end department store serves as the flagship for a network of 41 Saks stores across 22 states. The ground floor beauty department can get pretty hairy, especially during the Christmas rush, but a calmer shopping environment can be found on the upper floors.
Designer Marc Jacobs is not only a native New Yorker but also a prominent fashion player, cheerleader and mascot all rolled into one. So it’s no surprise that he eschewed the beaten tracks of SoHo and Madison Avenue in favour of the charming residential blocks of the West Village. Here you’ll find his cluster of single-storey shops along Bleecker Street, divided by category: women’s, men’s, beauty, children’s (Little Marc) and books (BookMarc).
Prada’s flagship, Epicenter, sprawls across half a city block of SoHo’s shopping district, on Broadway. Inside, all things Prada can be found, including Miuccia Prada’s colourful and critically acclaimed spring 2014 collection, which was influenced by Latin American muralists. The vast space also functions as a venue for special events, such as the label’s star-studded bash following the premiere of The Great Gatsby.
In a cosy corner of the five-star Carlyle Hotel, Café Carlyle harks back to moneyed, mid-century New York. For decades, musicians of all stripes have played to the small, discerning crowds that fill its banquettes and sip on martinis. Judy Collins regularly strums her guitar here, while Woody Allen performs with his jazz band once a week.
Less than a month old, SoHo’s Sant Ambroeus is the spritely younger sibling of the Upper East Side establishment, itself a transplant from Milan. On any given day you’re likely to spot a British fashion coterie that includes Vogue’s Grace Coddington and make-up artist extraordinaire Pat McGrath. Early birds flock to the Italian bistro just after dawn to build up their strength before hitting the local shops.
New York’s ‘gastroteque’ of the moment, Buvette hits the spot for peckish shoppers in the mood for French food. About as small and quaint as it gets, Buvette is the place to dash for a quick croque forestier and a splash of white wine before braving another round of West Village shopping. Top brands, including Burberry, Brooks Brothers and Rag & Bone, are found nearby.
For homesick Brits, there is no more comforting a refuge than Tea & Sympathy. Stocked with essentials from the UK — everything from Cadbury chocolate to Union Jack mugs — the tiny shop/café caters to visitors and American anglophiles alike. Its sticky toffee and Victoria sponge cake are said to be the favourites of regulars editor Tina Brown and actor Rupert Everett. Ask nicely and you might learn the secret to their legendary Scotch eggs.
Once a speakeasy, the Beatrice Inn has retained its low ceiling and underground feel, despite its recent transition from nightclub to trendy restaurant co-owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. With a fireplace in each dining room, the Inn makes for a homey stop after a long day's shopping. It's only open for dinner, so it's best to leave your day's loot back at the hotel.
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