Nolita, or North of Little Italy, offers a completely different shopping experience that its neighbors SoHo and NoHo. The stores of Nolita are mostly housed in smaller tenement-like apartment buildings and brick row houses that are dwarfed by SoHo’s much larger landmarked buildings. The small streets — once a tree-lined extensions of Little Italy — have a lived-in feel. And there is a real sense of neighborhood.
Recently, many new stores have bloomed in Nolita where one-of-a-kind shopping experiences are not one-offs. These shops like to represent smaller brands and tend to offer a more personal vibe. Nolita does not disappoint.
Descendant of Thieves has a club house meets bordello vibe. Clothing is produced in New York City in small runs of about 200 pieces per style. You will not see yourself coming and going in Descendant of Thieves looks. There is a back story to the name, but it is too complicated to get into here. Three partners design and produce it.
The sign above the dressing rooms reads, “Love Thy Neighbor, But Do Not Dress Like Them.” The patrons preach individuality. There are many pieces in interesting prints created by the brand.
There are also puffers and printed coats, soft baby cord pieces, patterned jackets and lot of pants. The pressed tin ceiling is also an original, painted in multi-color patterns.
Back of house storage in many Nolita stores is nonexistent. So owners get creative and use objects like vintage files for storage.
The designer is proud to say that they make interesting clothes for interesting people, and he designs for the cult of individuals who are the needle — not the haystack. He is happy to tell you to go shop someplace else. This boutique has a proudly New York attitude, with well priced, extremely well made clothing.
Descendants Of Thieves, 247 Mulberry Street
Standard & Strange is located down the street, and is full of clothing from around the world. The brand was born in Oakland. The owners are committed to selling clothing that is so well made that it will stand the test of time. They insist on buying from sustainable brands and they donate 2% of profits to charity.
The back of the store has a display of shoes and boots from different brands. The boots and shoes will last, and they are priced accordingly.
There are tables full of denim and pants in all sorts of fabrics. Cords are very big this season, even printed cords. Standard and Strange store their boots in boxes stacked under tables full of pants and shirts. It’s a Nolita thing.
They also sell puffers and many kind of jeans. The space has high ceilings and so the owners cleverly installed a dry cleaning rack overhead to store extra sizes and pieces of puffers and other clothing. Leather jackets come in all shapes and designs — be it bomber, motorcycle, western shirts, and trucker (just to name a few).
And there are myriad novelty shirts folded on the tables; and stacked on the shelves. There is so much here it can get a bit overwhelming, but the staff is so friendly and happy to guide you to the goodies.
Standard and Strange, 238 Mulberry Street
A few blocks away is the new Buck Mason woman’s store. The born-in-Venice-California brand started out in men’s clothing before adding women’s. The business outgrew the space so a store for women only has now opened across the street. The brand sells effortless, updated basics, featuring pieces made in America. It is popular and when I was in the women’s store, three or four groups of men walked in asking where the men’s tees were. Across the street, they were told.
Both the men’s and women’s lines focus on well made basics in quality fabrics, and a limited amount of colors. Cotton tees are the staple, but there are all sorts of jackets — in canvas, shearling and leather — and sweats, sweaters, loads of pants and more.
There is a lot tucked into this small space. Buck Mason knits its own fabric to ensure quality. And the brand keeps growing and growing. They now have over 20 stores across the country.
The store may be small, but the dressing rooms are comfortably sized. They are used as displays, too, showing new dresses.
What is new this season are soft and fluffy alpaca blend sweaters. They are as light as air, and super cuddly. New updates to the supercharged basics arrive all the time.
Buck Mason Women, 230 Elizabeth Street
Industry of All Nations is another shop that closely considers how its products are made. The L.A. based company has outposts on the East and West Coast, and even a store in Joshua Tree. The New York store is the smallest of them. All of the locations use storage shelves as a means of display. Casual, updated basics are the basis of the collection.
The clothing is aimed at men, but since there are seven sizes from P to XXL, women can certainly wear most of the styles. The styles are updated basics made from natural fibers. Colors change by the season.
The only sweaters they sell are made from alpaca in Bolivia. A trend this year. And the colors are the natural colors of the alpaca itself. Jars of the raw fiber are part of the display. This is a very comfortable lifestyle brand that offers ease of dressing.
Industry Of All Nations, 232 Elizabeth Street
Clare V has been around for a while. The L.A. based brand has just moved into a much larger space and is offering an extended product range. Shoes and clothing have been added to the original collection of interesting and well price hand bags.
The bags come in leather and some woven materials. They are mostly made in L.A. Different straps of varying lengths and handles are for sale so you can personalize your bag. A pretty large selection of costume jewelry is also scattered about the store.
Bags come in smooth leather, and woven leather, as well as suede. Everything has a French touch as the designer’s husband is French. And you will also find a collection of made-in-L.A. perfumes and candles.
Bags and clothing can be monogrammed with printed or gold foil letters, embroidery and hand painting. The new store has a nicely decorated back yard, with lots of natural light.
Other accessories include fun trucker hats, and a ton of small leather goods.
Clothing and shoes are available, too. There are many sweaters and sweat shirts with fun images and slogans, as well as dresses, blouses and jackets with a California flair. The brand now has over twelve stores around the country. Clare V has a growing business, and it will be interesting to see where it goes next.
Clare V, 240 Elizabeth Street
Elizabeth Street has seen a real rebounding of business. Print Fresh, selling pyjamass, lounge, sweats and accessories, has also opened a shop. The owner sold and designed prints for clothing and textiles for many years. She found manufacturing partners in India and went on to produce garments made from the prints she and her team design in organic cotton that she sold to many stores.
This is the first Print Fresh store. The prints are made using hand silk screens. They are also made into items for the home like placemats, napkins, coasters, sheets, duvet covers, pillows and more.
The brand does seasonal prints, and prints inspired by nature and Indian themes. There is also a collection of bags made from padded, quilted cotton.
The surface is the draw here, and of course everything is as sustainable as possible. If you want to sleep colorfully, look no further.
Print Fresh, 260 Elizabeth Street
Little Words Project has opened a second New York store in Nolita. The store specializes in making bracelets with a message and a mission. You can customize your bracelets or purchase the pre-made messages.
The bracelets come with a trackable code in the signature charm. You can wear your bracelet, or share it with a friend. You can track the registered bracelet and share images on the brand’s website.
The boutique also sells fun greeting cards, on-message clothing and more. It is fun to live in a pink world.
Little Words Project, 239 Elizabeth Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.