New York is springing back to life, quickly. New retail concepts are coming alive and the “newness” itself is a great change. Certain neighborhoods, deemed premier shopping destinations, were subject to extremely high rents before the pandemic whereas many stores and restaurants had to close their doors as rents doubled and, in some cases, tripled. It turns out that landlords get big taxes losses on their properties from a negative rental income deduction that really softens the blow of empty stores — for them. In return, we get to walk along stretches of blighted streets plastered with for-rent signs.
The good news is that rents are down 30 to 40% in many areas of the city. That is allowing new stores and restaurants to arrive post-pandemic. It is also enabling many business to move, modernize and hopefully flourish in the coming years, bringing us new shopping and dining experiences. I wonder, with delight, who will be filling up all those storefronts in the coming months.
I saw the sign announcing a new Valentino boutique on Spring Street several months ago. A few weeks ago I walked by and saw signs of life. They were opening the next day. The store looks very different than the Fifth Avenue flagship that they closed at the end of 2020. Valentino had sued their landlord quite publicly to get out of a long term lease. The landlord has sued back. The Fifth Avenue store had opened to much acclaim in 2014. When the brand moved out, workers painted over the David Chipperfield signature terrazzo walls, which is part of the claim in the law suit. In any case, Valentino moved into the old Diesel store, which is also relocating. Retail and real estate … always on the move.
Valentino opted for a completely new look and concept in this space. It is much smaller than Fifth Avenue, and is tightly edited. The boutique was designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli, the brand’s innovative designer. The clothes are younger and more sporty than in other Valentino locations. Changes continue as the terrazzo walls are being phased out of other in-store Valentino shops as well.
The shoe department is quite large, with both casual and dressy shoes. The Rockstud remains a staple. The oval lighting fixtures on Spring Street were brought over from the Fifth Avenue store.
The newest sneaker is crocheted from tubular ribbons, and mixes craft with tech. There are video screens all over the boutique. This set displays how the sneakers are made. Fascinating, actually.
This is the display of women’s clothing. The lower level is packed with clothing that associates are happy to bring up for you to see and try on. Other designer brands do the same thing to keep the cluttered look at bay. The bare bones of the boutique say “Soho,” with the exposed brick walls.
There is also a handbag and jewelry section. It is pretty compact, but still offers many choices.
What is on display for men is also much younger and more street-oriented. The bright colors and interesting prints are upbeat. Men’s sneakers are also available.
Again, there is a lot more clothing downstairs that can be brought up. Just ask for what you want.
The store is very open, with spaces that flow. Landmarked columns define the space. And one-of-a-kind treats are available in this location.
Do you love your pet, or need a gift? Collars and leashes are made to order for all sizes of dogs in 10 colors. There are also three shapes of new Rockstud pet totes to order. You choose the shape, pick the initial — yours or your pets — and provide a photo of your fur baby. Artist and illustrator Riccardo Cusimano will create an adorable portait that you can help position on the bag.
The Alcove is at the front of the boutique. It sets the mood for the new Valentino. If wasted space is a luxury, then this is definitely a focal point of the store.
Valentino, 135 Spring Street
Across Wooster Street Pinko, an Italian contemporary brand has taken over the building that One Kings Lane used to occupy. Pinko had stores on West Broadway and Madison Avenue. This much nicer space replaces both of them. The brand has a young but wearable vibe. And a sense of humor.
The large and airy space offers many categories of clothing. Day to night. The use of built in fixtures is minimal, so everything can be rearranged as needed. Bags and shoes are displayed all over the boutique. There is a lot here to look at.
The store is on two levels. The variation of a Tube Man is there to be happy, and does not move. The Love Birds logo is on the clothing, accessories and around the store.
Pinko’s designers play with fabric mixes like the camouflage and cloud print fabrics here. They also turn a bit more serious with strictly tailored coats and jackets.
Demin is located up and downstairs. Jumpsuits, shorts, jeans and more, along with cool shirts and tops.
Different generations shop here, as there is a something for pretty much everyone. Shopping should be fun. It is here.
Pinko, 143 Spring Street
The Lacoste flagship moved out of its Broadway space for a renovation. Newly reopened, the store is filled with tons of causal fare. As you walk into the store, the women’s department is to the right. Men’s and women’s collections share fabrics and color stories. Of course there are logo tennis shirts, or polos.
The women’s collection is tightly edited. Aside from colorful polos, there are dresses, skirt, sweaters and colorful button down shirts. Hats, totes, bags and sneakers round out the offering.
Men have a much larger department, with more categories of clothing. Rene Lacoste, a French tennis champion who won 7 Grand Slam titles in the 1920s, perfected the polo shirt in the 1930s. The signature crocodile logo came to be when Rene saw a crocodile suitcase in a store window and made a bet with a friend. The bet: if Rene won a certain match the friend would buy him the bag.
He lost, but the American press on hearing the story, nicknamed him The Crocodile for his ferocious style of playing. Rene placed the crocodile on his reinvented tennis shirt. He is shown above in the boutique with another champion, Bill Tilden. The brand now makes all kinds of tees and sweats, all bearing the famous logo.
The polos line the back wall. Jackets, coats woven and knit shirts, pants and more all wear the logo.
The legacy brand also offers different colors and styles of sneakers. All of them display the Crocodile. It’s nice to know that classics can last and yet evolve. The Crocodile has staying power.
Lacoste, 541 Broadway
Two: Minds opened very recently in MePa. We lost the Jeffrey boutique last year, but two of its buyers have opened this store using the experience they gained working there. It is a small boutique and has many of the same labels they used to buy. The selection is much smaller, younger, and more carefully merchandised with a more minimal feel.
Balmain, Givenchy, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, The Row, Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, Peter Do, Alexander Vaulthier, Thebe Magugu, Amina Muaddi (from South Africa), Nili Lotan and more are here.
Men’s wear was a big component of the Jeffrey business. The Two: Minds men’s department is cutting edge, too. Offering street looks and fine casual clothing. There is also a small, but focused, collection of fine jewelry.
The shoe selection is very deliberate. The owners went with newer brands that work with their clothing selections. Of course, there are handbags from many different designers.
Pierre Balmain signature logo bags and Givenchy bags are part of the mix. Neutral colors, a New York signature, abound. But there are statement pieces in bright colors so that everyone is happy.
Two: Minds, 34 Gansvoort Street
t.a. is a tiny multibrand boutique a block from Two: Minds. It is a black-owned store that stocks eclectic indie brands. The space is filled with several high curved fixtures, and a nifty stool so the clothing can be reached. This is not a store for the timid. The clothes here inspire.
The owner, Telsha Anderson, offers clothing that makes a statement. Designers include Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Christopher John Rogers, Rosie Assoulin, Ellery, Brother Vellies and others.
There are interesting accesories for the home and the mind. Shoes and bags are also part of the mix. Want a ceramic shoe? You will find one here.
Nicely merchandised, Telsha fills the store with three to ten designers at any one time so the shop tells a story. These are chosen from the over 30 brands that she works with. I like the concept of a rotating selection. Individual taste is always better than an algorithm. We have way too many of those in our lives now.
T.a., 332 West 13th Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.