Spring is finally here and stores with smart new ideas, big ideas, are popping up downtown in lockstep with the daffodils and tulips. As rents become more reasonable and online advertising more expensive, opening a store actually makes sense. A new generation of clever, young designers are figuring out new ways to share spaces and costs. Some of the boutiques owners featured in this piece are even in their twenties (the force is strong in this group!). And all of them are bringing new ideas and new ways of selling style in New York.
So, let’s celebrate youth and newness and hit the streets and shop!
Christopher Cowan, a young British designer who loves all things night-life, opened a collaborative store. He started his business in 2016, and recently found this space in Soho. It used to house La Vie en Rose, Grace Jones’ ’80’s restaurant and the Soho Arts Club. Maybe that’s why he painted it a bright pink.
Joining Cowan in the adventure are Smashbox Cosmetics and Square, a mobile payment company. The designer took two floors and placed his atelier on the lower level. Square, of course, processes payments.
Much of the clothing on offer is statement dressing, like this black and white long feather coat. The customer above uses a makeup station to take selfies in the lush coat.
Sequins, rhinestones and shimmer are the designer’s favorite mediums. Since the studio is on premises, private appointments are encouraged and consultants are on hand to help with everything.
There are some casual sweats, tees and some clothing that can be worn day or night. Smashbox cosmetics are displayed around the store. Going to an event? Why not come and buy a dress, maybe have it altered, and then get your makeup flawlessly done. All in one glamorous shot.
All sorts of pretty hues fill the racks. Most of the looks are a body-con celebration.
Smashbox was started by Dean and Davis Factor, grandsons of the late Max Factor. They had a photo studio in L.A. and the brand was created for professional make up artists working in the space. This room is designed to look like a photo studio. Smashbox cosmetic pro-artists are always around to explain products, give makeup tips, and give in-person professional makeovers.
Christian Cowan, 76 Wooster Street
Les Miss is sort of a collaborative space, too. Started by jewelry designer Leah Ganz, the store is a woman-owned space featuring clothing and accessories made by women who own small businesses from around the world. The funky design is part of the store’s charm. And obviously, mushrooms are a thing here.
There are plush stuffed mushrooms and mushroom candles sitting with rainbow colored knit hats and balaclavas. Whimsical decor is also for sale.
A couch welcomes you to the center of the store. Tee shirts and crop tops hang against the wall, with more mushrooms (“The secret is you got to coordinate!”). A pink table is piled high with jewelry from Ms. Ganz and other designers.
Looking for some fun footwear? Maybe a pair of boots with a pastel mushroom print? Or oversized tie-dyed jeans in shades of green and yellow for spring? Knit tops and sweaters?
Flower-power clothing, lots of crochet tops and dresses share the rack with fun, funky handbags. It’s all a bit odd, and that is part of its charm.
Les Miss, 283 Mott Street
Mara Hoffman recently opened her boutique around the corner from her design studio. She started her business 21 years ago. Although she is known for her swimwear and coverups, she also produces covetable dresses, jeans tops and jackets.
Hoffman has steered her business in a sustainable direction. The store is a collaboration with landscape designer Kari Brooke Elwell-Katzander of Mingo Designs. The light-filled decor meshes well with the clothes.
The dresses and other pieces are all cut for an easy fit. Sizing is inclusive, going from and XS to a 3XL. There is a partnership with Studio Archive Project which curates a selection of painting, sculpture, and works on paper that are for sale. The stylized dinner set above is one of the works available.
Clothing comes in solid, neutral and bright, as well as artistically designed prints. Style made easy.
Some of the works or art are done in fabrics, like these appliquéd, oversized jeans. This boutique is another collaboration that brings some big ideas together for smart shopping.
Mara Hoffman, 183 Lafayette Street
Zegna Lab has just opened a tiny concept store. Really tiny. The company was recently taken public, and Gildo Zegna, the newest chairman, is taking the company in a new direction. The legacy Italian brand is turning towards a younger and more relaxed customer. Suits are not their thing.
Sneakers in a multitude of colors, and relaxed jackets, hoodies, and easy pants are the new direction. Since the store can only display a limited amount of product, new capsules will drop every month or so.
It’s a new way of doing business. The pieces in store now are wearable, chic and beautifully made. What’s not to like?
Zegna Lab, 265 Lafayette Street
12th Tribe is a lifestyle collection that was inspired by its founder’s travels to 11 countries. She started out by selling vintage denim online, and the business has expanded in its eight years to encompass the tribe style.
12th Tribe moved into a store designed and built by the swimwear brand Marysia, who left the space during the pandemic. But it is nice to see the store full of denim and other clothing again.
The clothing is billed as festival style, a.k.a. what you would wear to South by Southwest or Coachella. The vibe is very “under thirty,” and styled for global cool.
Accessories include shoes and boots, hats, and lots of jewelry.
For a variety of reasons, many DTC online businesses are starting to open small stores in the city. This collection of clothing reflects the owner’s taste and vision. The L.A. brand has landed in New York.
12th Tribe, 91 Crosby Street
Pajar Canada is a family owned business based in Montreal. I guess so many of the puffer brands sold in New York are Canadian because they really know cold weather. But Pajar offers lighter spring styles, like these two jackets above.
This customer was interested in this coat as it is machine washable. (All puffers should be washed, not dry cleaned). The sales person was explaining to her exactly how to keep her white coat white.
There is a selection of jackets and coats arranged by color. Since Pajar specializes in performance footwear, boots and shoes are a major part of the collection.
The entire back room is filled with many different styles of shoes and boots. They are made from nylon, canvas, leather and other materials. They are designed to withstand temperatures of up to -22 degrees. Now that’s cold. The soles are designed with rubber ice-gripping soles. And there is a collection for apres-ski.
More of the shoes and boots are displayed here. Pajar also makes a selection of puffers for pups in four sizes. Boots for kids are another specialty. Everyone deserves to stay warm in style.
Pajar Canada, 114 Wooster Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.