Experts have been claiming that “brick and mortar” stores are a dying breed. I beg to disagree. There are many new stores opening in New York, down in Soho and on Madison Avenue. The ones I recently found hail from Madrid, Budapest, London, Los Angeles and New York. They agree that a shop or two in the city is a great investment. These stores celebrate crafts, sustainability on all sorts of levels, mindfulness and self expression. The price points are varied, but the one thing they all have is a point of view to share with a dedication to product design, as well as striking interior design.
Loewe is almost 175 years old. Started by leather craftspeople in Madrid, it has stayed true to its tradition. The influential British designer Jonathan Anderson joined the company in 2013. You’ve seen Loewe bags all over the place, but it was not easy to find the clothing. That’s changed. The new flagship in Soho is filled with bags, clothing, accessories and much more. The store is a mix of art and craft. The company values hand made artisanal products, and it even sponsors the Loewe Craft Prize. The bags above are as unique as the store design.
Anderson worked with artists and the architect to create the interior. The space is spare, and a perfect backdrop for the product and the art displayed. The company is a supporter of fine art, and the Loewe Foundation does annual exhibitions in different cities curated by Mr. Anderson and the Foundation. The store is full of works from different artists, and the collection will be constantly changing. Even the display pieces are artistic.
The bags are an important part of the mix. The Elephant, Bunny, and Panda bags are some of the signature animal pieces. The iconic Puzzle and Gate bags have won many fans, but the other bags available are also meticulously crafted. Do you have any idea how much labor goes into these intricate bags? Skilled hands are core to the Loewe brand.
The space is relaxing and not a traditional luxury brand space. Art is everywhere, from the gold foil rat, one of several dotted around the store, celebrating the upcoming Chinese New Year (it’s the Year of the Rat) to the acrylic and metal sculpture tucked among many paintings. The staff dresses in a unisex uniform. The ground floor is dedicated to the women’s collection.
The clothing is artistic, and has been called aristocratic and poetic. It is strict with a touch of whimsy. Hand made details are a brand signature. The black and white and the neutrals work with the large mural on the wall behind them. It’s pleasant to shop surrounded by art.
The women’s pieces are spread out on spare racks that can move as the art changes.
The back of the ground floor is light and airy, with more clothing and bags.
There is a small collection of shoes now, and many more are set to arrive for Spring. They have the same artisanal approach that the clothing has.
Jonathan Anderson knows how to do quirky well. He adds touches of embroidery or hand fringing. This season there are many hand knits like the one at the right, decorated with Anderson’s beloved animals in hand embroidery.
Outfits are displayed against art pieces that complement the spirit of the clothing. While you might not want to wear the look head to toe as displayed, individually the pieces are wearable and individualistic.
The second floor houses the men’s collections. The space has a working fireplace at the back with a comfortable sofa. Many of the bags and accessories are unisex.
The men’s clothing is bright and is designed with an active guy in mind. No suits here. Elevated sportswear meets street wear is the theme. If you like craft and culture, mixed with great design and art, the new Loewe store is a visual treat.
Loewe, 79 Greene Street
A few blocks away, the Budapest-based brand Nanushka just opened a new boutique and cafe. The brand was created by Sandra Sandor, who brought on her partner Peter Baldaszti to expand the business in 2016. Originally known for its supple vegan leather clothing, the brand has exploded in recent years, now selling in over 30 countries. This is their first store outside Hungary.
The spare and chic design of the store matches that of the clothing. It bills itself as a cafe as well as a boutique, with a large espresso machine perched on the counter.
The popular bags come in both real leather and vegan leather. These days environmental issues are at the top of many agendas. The label proves that you do not need a slogan t-shirt to make your point.
Nanushka’s faux leather is the most popular vegan leather brand on Instagram. You can be politically correct and dress well, too. The leather is soft and flexible and hard to distinguish from the real thing. Shop for coats, jackets, pants, skirts and tops from the proprietary material.
Bags, boots and shoes are sustainably made. Sustainability is a growing trend in fashion, and this contemporary brand was one of the early adopters.
Being vegan doesn’t mean being boring. This contemporary label also works in silk, wools, cottons and many blends. The clothes are clean and well designed. New deliveries arrive all the time.
And how could you not love a store that has its own pup to come and greet you?
There is a small group of clothing for men at the back of the store. The collection shares the same aesthetic as the women’s clothes; clean and modern.
There is a smaller selling space upstairs with more clothing and accessories.
The store is designed so the clothing can move around the space. You see single pieces of all the styles with the other sizes tucked in the back, so the store doesn’t feel cramped or cluttered. The Nanushka is a great newcomer, bringing Sandra Sandor’s voice and vision to Soho.
Nanushka, 140 Wooster Street
Heading up to Madison Avenue I found that a new store had opened for The Reformation. The Los Angeles based brand is run by Yael Aflalo. They have stores all over North America, and others in New York. The Lower East Side store was the first, followed by Soho and Noho outposts. Beloved by Millennials, the brand has 1.5 million followers on Instagram. The clothing is well priced, and thoughtfully made. Started almost 10 years ago, it may be one of the first truly sustainable clothing lines.
Yael is serious about her mission. Their slogans, Save the Earth, Look Good, and the one above are the mission statements. There are strict fabric standards she adheres to, with a large section on the website explaining how they got and stay sustainable. She owns her own factory, and is able to go from a concept to clothes in the store in about a month versus 3 to 6 months for most fashion businesses.
The most sustainable fabrics are seasonless, like Tencel and viscose. There are, of course, organic cottons, but any wool or wool blend they use is made from deadstock fabric, leftover or abandoned fabrics from around the country. Reformation clothing is designed and specially fit for all body types and sizes. The look is an easy feminine one.
Shoes are a new category, and are made in suede and leather. And like the clothing, they are very well priced. There is also a popular Bridal Collection that is only sold downtown in the original location.
The collection is wide ranging and always evolving. It has that flirty LA spirit.
The Reformation has a solid and faithful customer base. They make it easy to feel good about looking great.
The Reformation, 1055 Madison Avenue
Lingua Franca, which denotes any language that is used for communication between people who do not share a language, is the baby of Rachel Hruska MacPherson, wife of Sean MacPherson of hotel and restaurant fame. In 2016 she started embroidering the first ones herself, using hip-hop, social and political phrases, her Lingua Franca. The sweaters were sold or given to her well connected friends and the celebrity exposure drove business to her website. A shop was opened in Greenwich Village, and now an even larger boutique just opened on Madison Avenue. As well as the signature embroidered cashmere sweaters, the store carries products made by her friends, including Batsheva clothing and ceramics made by actor Carrie Lowell.
You can find her sweaters for kids, along side Lucite bags and other pieces from Edie Parker. The sweaters turned political in 2017, and are meant for consumers who give a damn about many things. Sweaters are sustainably sourced cashmere, made in fair trade factories, and hand embroidered in NYC by many women of all ages.
The embroidery hoop with the treads shows how it all started. The entire store is charmingly painted. The stairs lead to a space upstairs that houses an atelier for the embroiders to work, and for hosting events.
There are many different kinds of giftable accessories. Hand embroidered statement note cards are cool. A collaboration with the female run toy store, Rose & Rex, produced some dolls created for the Day of the Girl wearing Lingua Franca sweaters, of course.
This is the place to shop for clothes with a conscience. The store is personal. Each sweater has a small tag signed by the woman who embroidered it. Very chic slow fashion indeed.
Lingua Franca, 801 Madison Avenue
Orlebar Brown, a London based company specializing is swimwear and sophisticated holiday clothing, was started by photographer Adam Brown in 2007. They offer solid trunks, but are famous for their photo-print offerings, especially the ones with the iconic Slim Aarons seaside pictures.
The pieces are shorts you can swim in. Brown was on holiday and sitting poolside when he realized that most men’s swim apparel had a limited use. Sure you could swim in them, but if you wanted to go for a drink or for lunch you needed to change into shorts. He decided to make tailored swim trunks that can go anywhere. A great idea.
Tees and polos were added on along with footwear.
Jackets, hats and accessories are for sale in the tiny boutique. Probably the single most intriguing product are the customizable trunks. #SnapShorts allows you to take a favorite photo, drawing or graphic and have it printed on your choice of trunks. You can swim with your dreams or memories.
Orlebar Brown, 987 Madison Avenue
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn