There is a contagious energy in New York right now. Yep, spring is coming soon, but more than that, there is just so much going on around town. Safe to say, we have been pretty spoiled this winter. No major snow nor other disruptions. And we are going to be spoiled by myriad new and interesting stores that are filling the streets, uptown and down, each reflecting different price points and artistic visions. Every city has its own shopping charms, but the breadth of possibility available in New York is in a class of its own. And in Soho and Nolita alone — there are several hundred stores to choose from.
Azzedine Alaïa is back in town. The brand had partnered with Jacqueline and Julien Schnabel years ago in a store a block away. That store now houses A.P.C., which wisely kept much of Schnabel’s design. The new Alaïa boutique feels like a gallery, with sleek minimal architecture. The front of the boutique has smoked glass windows, and no display, because if you know, you know. Inside clothing and accessories mingle with art by Robert Rauschenberg, Mike Kelley, Jonathan Horowitz and Donald Judd.
The boutique is narrow, but deep. Clothing, with all the Azzedine flourishes, sits on the right. Accessories and shoes line the left side. A curving staircase leads to a double height room with more goodies.
You generally know an Alaïa piece when you see it. His use of volumes and shapes is a brand signature. All of his singular techniques are here. Along with bags and shoes that are difficult to find in New York.
Evening wear is well represented. The dressing rooms are well appointed with flattering light. And the sequins and knit ruffles are very special.
The spring shoes are flirty and fun. There are clogs, wedges, fancy heels, as well as flats and evening shoes with wrapped ankles and tulle bows. And there are decorative spring boots. Pretty much anything that the Azzedine glamazons might need to shine.
Although Alaïa is known for his knits, there is plenty of denim here, as well as stunning leathers, structured jackets and poplin pieces. The shearlings are to die for. And every season there are a few Alaïa prints. It’s nice to have the brand back in New York.
Azzedine Alaïa, 149 Mercer Street
Jonathan Simkhai started his brand over twelve years ago in New York. It is now based in Los Angeles, and offers a wide range of clothing and accessories. The New York store is his third, and is just across the street from Alaïa.
There are plenty of looks for evening this season, and many strong pieces for day. Large photographs of the collection are hung above the racks of clothing, showing a variety of looks.
Shoes and bags are a part of the brand mix. Everything is in an affordable contemporary price point. The looks are young and fun, but not juvenile.
There are pants and jeans, as well as lots of crochets and knits. And there are coats and jackets. Pretty much anything you might need is here.
The store is open and breezy, with lots of light artistic touches. It is a comfortable and pleasant space to shop and try on clothes. Something that seems to be a trend these days.
The contemporary market is growing in the States, driven by individual designers with a sense of individual style. They are opening boutiques all over the city, and seem to have replaced the bland, corporate giants of the past. It is a very welcome change.
Jonathan Simkhai, 158 Mercer Street
New York now has a Fred Segal. Anyone familiar with Los Angeles knows that Fred Segal is one of the places to shop there. Mr. Fred Segal was a retail pioneer who had one of the most visited stores in L.A. He invented the concept of shops within shops on Melrose and Crescent Heights in 1965. You never knew who you were going to meet in the parking lot, or what newness you would find. The business was eventually sold and the store is now on Sunset in an equally large space, with free parking.
The New York store is tiny, roughly the size of one of the smaller L.A. shops. The concept is different, too. A single collection will have a residence in the boutique, and then will rotate out to be replaced by a different one.
The current collection is a relaxed group of tees and sweats dedicated to LA and Fred Segal. It reflects the vibrant feel of the brand’s laid back origins. Graphic prints and LA-centric motifs predominate.
There is also a wall of vintage that will be permanent. It is well-curated, with a good selection of covetable pieces. All the right labels are there.
There is a sense of humor in the selection. The colorful jacket is a ’90’s Moschino copy of the famous Versace Warhol Marilyn Monroe print. Only, Moschino used his face for the image. There are many equally collectible items here.
This collection of clothing is unisex. The sizing goes from XS to XXL. All-inclusive. I am looking forward to seeing the next capsule.
Fred Segal, 252 Lafayette Street
Golden Goose spent months renovating its Soho flagship. It is now known as a Forward Store. The space doubled, and there is now a second floor downstairs. So much has been added. There are artists, called co-creators, who will customize the brand’s product with you. The front of the ground floor is a dedicated space for co-creating.
There are racks of clothing for men, women and kids. Speaking of children, the Italian company is investing in the future. They are moving to make everything as sustainable as possible. One step at a time.
Some of the sneakers in the boutique are housed at the back of the ground floor and in a mirrored room. The brand is extremely popular and has many fans. And the new store has an entirely different look than the old one.
Downstairs propounds a very new world. Shelves of plants lines the walls; offering a kick of oxygen. And the sign at the bottom of the stairs lists all the new services that are now provided. The brand aims to make the everything so it all lasts longer. They do repairs as well as tailoring and customizations. If your kicks are too grungy, Golden Goose can clean them. And they also offer a comprehensive recycling program.
There are many different styles and colors of sneakers to choose from. There are over 15 different models, and those come in different materials. And the decor of the store is eclectic, with many funny found objects lining the walls.
Repairs and co-creation are done right here. All the sneakers in the slots on the back wall are there for those purposes. Add studs, messages, drawings, lived in manipulation, patches, tapes and fun laces to your kicks. You can really bring your ideas to life.
Golden Goose also makes handcrafted boots and shoes in their Venetian factories. Bags, too. The staff is very friendly, and easy to work with. That’s a relief, because with the breadth of choice available you need a knowledgable associate to work with you.
Golden Goose, 468 Broome Street
Cult Gaia has taken the space vacated by Pas de Calais. The L.A. brand gut renovated the space, giving it an elegant makeover. Handbags were the basis of the collection that was started in 2012; a rattan handbag became a cult piece. It has grown to be a full lifestyle brand, again in the contemporary price range.
This season the clothing leans a bit on the dressier side. There is also a selection of bridal clothing. Cult Gaia is named for the Goddess of Mother Earth, and the daughter of chaos. The inspiration is imperfect perfection.
Large windows are framed with arches, and have displays of the clothing, bags and shoes. The sinuous curving sofa is perfect for trying on the brand’s shoes.
And the shoes are a lot of fun. They are lighthearted, embellished with interesting sculptural details. The bags are playful too and come in many different materials.
The collection is quite large, and there are some pieces that are not exactly out-on-the-town looks. Instead, they are made to have fun in while wearing.
It is all clothing with an attitude, and a definite take on fashion today. There are innumerable ways to dress these days, and exploring your options is a very easy thing to do in New York. Another only in New York experience.
Cult Gaia, 60 Wooster Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.