The star is lit at 57th and Fifth, holiday windows are sparkling, the streets are bustling, and traffic is slooow moving. New York is always alive, but during the Holiday Season the rush of festivities and the influx of tourists brings even more buzz to midtown.
Fifth Avenue is full of shoppers. And Christmas trees. 150 line the Avenue — as a gift to the city. Although they bring an abundance of Christmas cheer to the scene, many have been known to ooze perfumes that can be headache inducing. Let’s just say it’s no replacement for the smell of fresh pines and spruces.
The Open Streets program was also back in operation. No cars were allowed on Fifth Avenue on a succession of Sundays, from noon til 6pm, and entertainment and refreshments were provided for passers-by. New Yorkers, in turn, were rewarded for their patience, with the opening of a wide range of new shops in and around the shopping crossroads of the city.
East 57th Street is becoming a power shopping strip. Three American houses have joined forces, and opened a large boutique between Madison and Park. Dennis Basso and J. Mendl both closed their respective Madison Avenue boutiques, instead choosing to relocate to the Maximilian space. All three brands are know for the luxe dressing. As Basso and Mendl have a lock on much of the occasion dressing in the city, it is handy to have it all in one place — a boutique that is high-ceilinged and extremely spacious.
Dennis Basso likes mixing it up. Much of his business is custom made, and he is known for his concierge-like approach. He is happy to do custom fittings in store or at customer’s homes. Evening looks, red carpet, bridal and more, the made-to-measure services are a way to dress in unique colors and embroideries custom made for you.
Maximilian offers furs and outerwear, with accessories thrown in. Day to evening, their furs rely on innovative techniques developed over the years. And now they offer fur trimmed coats, and coats for men. All of it luxe and lush.
J. Mendl also offers a collection of gowns and furs. There are specific areas around the store dedicated to each brand, and then there are other spaces where they are all shown together.
If a fur coat is not in your future, consider some accessories. Hats, scarves, gloves, bags and more bring a hint of fur and luxury to any wardrobe. And the fur pillows and throws are a warm touch, too.
Everything is handmade in New York City, using only the finest fabrics and materials. It is as close to couture as you can get in New York.
Dennis Basso, J. Mendel, Maximillian, 34 East 57 Street
P448 has opened in a large space on Fifth Avenue. The Italian-designed-and-made brand mixes fun and whimsy with performance. Women’s sneakers might come trimmed with crystals, or in animal prints. There are many silhouettes and lots of permutations.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri line is a collection of genderless sneakers developed in partnership with their Formula 1 partners. All the shoes sport little Italian flags.
Shoelaces come in a variety of colors and patterns. The different laces create a custom-quality feeling. Bold colors, stripes, metallics and patterns. In all, forty different laces are available.
The store offers ample space to try on sneakers in comfort. P448 is also about sustainability. Vegan, recycled suede and leather footwear is available. There are also sneakers made from the skins of invasive species like lionfish and carp, although you would not know by looking at the footwear.
Men’s sneakers are in the rear of the store, which used to be the Zegna store, and P488 pretty much left the interior as it was. Stairs are now used as display for men’s trainers and slides.
A display at the very back of the boutique explains the compound rubber for soles, Vibram. It describes how the soles are molded for support and also traction. One way to have more sustainability is to resole your kicks, preferably with Vibram, according to P448.
P448, 633 Fifth Avenue
Catbird, a trendy local jewelry purveyor, has expanded to Rockefeller Center. The Williamsburg based brand had opened branches in Soho and L.A. as its popularity has grown. Famous for its “Forever Bracelets,” an appointment-only “zapping” experience. The delicate chain bracelet is welded in place so it never comes off. The welding is called “zapping,” in case you’re wondering.
Everything is made in the Brooklyn workshop. The jewelry is in gold, with a variety of stones. Diamonds, pearls, sapphires, moonstones, rubies, opals and more are used in the pieces. The design is detailed, and the pieces delicate. And this location also offers engraving on certain pieces.
All the stores have areas with clever gifts and treats. This time of the year they have a lot of fun Christmas ornaments. The Grit in your Oyster, Bagels, NYC Pizza Rat, and Greek Coffee Container ornaments are imaginative.
It can be hard to find small amusing gifts in New York, especially in midtown. There are plenty of fun finds here. They also stock interesting goblets, bowls and display pieces from Astier de Villatte.
Jewelry is displayed in the cases, but there are also more styles that the sales people are happy bring out. Catbird also provides a collection of wedding rings.
Gifts and self-gifts also include scented candles and oils and scents, small gift tins of chocolates, object-shaped candles and lights. Think slices of cake and croissants. A bank of swans round out the selection.
Catbird, 15 West 49 Street
Around the corner, N. Peal has opened a second New York location in Rockefeller Center. The British brand has been producing luxury cashmere for almost 100 years. The styles are classic and the colors feature many rich neutrals.
However, N. Peal also offers bespoke pieces. If you want the sleeves or bodies a bit longer or shorter, or you want a style in a different color, or you even want to add a suede elbow patch, they can do it. All the cashmere is grown at the N. Peal estate in Mongolia and knit in China in N. Peal’s factories.
The men’s cashmere comes in classic styles, and includes woven quilted vests, wool doubleknit jackets and more. It’s particularly appealing that N. Peal has been doing collaborations with the James Bond franchise for many years.
Accessories round out the collections. From gloves and slippers to hats, scarves and wraps, there are plenty of styles to chose from. And scattered around the boutique are photos of Hollywood stars who have worn and loved the brand. They also sell a shampoo made especially for cleaning cashmere.
When it gets cold out, get serious about layering cashmere pieces. This tiny store is packed with all the pieces you might need to stay warm.
N. Peal, 620 Fifth Avenue, Channel Gardens
All sorts of experiences are found in midtown. Saturday’s Football is a soccer fan’s dream. Vintage soccer attire from around the world colorfully fills the store. The owner has been collecting and sourcing the pieces for many years. The racks are arranged by country, so fans can find their home city or favorite team and player.
It’s a popular destination, featuring an ever-changing collection of soccer kits, as the clothing is sometimes called. Soccer (football to the rest of the world), for both men and women, is gaining a lot of popularity in the States.
There are garments from World Cups, tee shirts and warm-up jackets. Saturdays Football also makes a range of tees, sweats, and caps using their own brand. And there are new soccer jerseys for sale, too.
The colorful jerseys are available in youth sizing too. Everyone’s favorite players are here.
Business has been brisk since the shop opened. The jerseys could make fun gifts for serious soccer lovers. Since the World Cup is only given out every four years, excitement has time to build. There are certainly not many stores like this one, especially in midtown.
Saturday’s Football, 55 West 49 Street