Walking from Nolita to the Lower East Side early last month, I spotted a building sparkling in the sun. I wondered out loud what this fabulous little building was doing in a rather an odd part of New York. There are many glam stores in the city, but none quite like this one. I know I’m a little spoiled, but I still prefer to shop in a beautifully designed space. The old retail notion of stuffing as many garments as possible on a rack (presumably to trick the shopper into thinking they are getting a bargain) leaves me cold.
In our about-to-be post-Covid world, presentation is as important as product when it comes to reshaping in-store shopping. Recently, the stores I have been discovering all seem to share that ethos, with each brand doing it in their own way. And that’s even better. After all, a little diversity goes a long way.
Daily Paper is a brand owned by three Black friends from Amsterdam. Their streetwear line is one of the fastest growing young European brands. Drawn to the LES, as they grew up in a similair neighborhood in Amsterdam, they found a building that needed to be gutted. Heather Faulding of 4plus Designs brought their vision to life. The style is Afrofuturic, and it incorporates features like Dutch gables, wide open interior spaces, and nods to their multicutural roots.
The outside of the store was designed to look like African beadwork. Colorful crushed Arizona Ice Tea cans are carefully arranged on panels that cover the building. Logos are used instead of signage.
The inside of the store is a statement, too. The clothing for men and women has a distinctive style.
There is diverse range, including jackets, pants, dresses, shirts and blouses. It’s not just about hoodies, tees and hats. They sell suits as well as unconstructed jackets.
The store is on two levels, and they are hoping to open a space on the roof where people can come and relax. A symbolic creature winds its way up the staircase leading to the second floor.
The second floor has a skylight and a glass panel looking down on the ground floor. Bright colors, prints and structured clothing mix with joggers and sweatshirts.
On the right is a pillowy seating area with a collaged map of the United States made of newspaper above it. Bags and other leather goods are on display. There is also a selection of hats.
The coffee and juice bar has a big espresso machine and a selection of drinks for sale. All safety protocols are in place, and everyone is masked — staff and customers alike.
The clothing is well designed and imaginative. The pale blue jacket in the middle is a pinstriped shirt that is padded so it becomes a spring-weight puffer; and it has a print with attitude on the back.
The designers are into collabs. They did one with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The sweatshirt in the customer’s hands (flooded with sunlight) is decorated with very pale sunflowers and other flower varieties. And Bob Marley x Daily Paper Capsule Collection (February 6th marked the icon’s 76th birthday) is here.
Daily Paper, 18 Delancey Street
Indie designer Sandy Liang recently opened a simple but interesting space. The spare design and deliberately spackled walls are a design statement in itself. This is her neighborhood, as her family runs a nearby restaurant.
The clothing is contemporary and quirky. She started with unusual faux fur coats and grew from there.
You will find a little bit of everything from dresses, suits, blouses, bottoms, to sweaters and lots of coats.
Sweaters and sneakers are arranged on shelves near a large Chinese ceremonial vase that celebrates her Asian heritage. She also loves Mary Quant’s black Daisy logo, and offers her version.
Sandy Liang, 28 Orchard Street
American Vintage is a French brand from Marseilles. Owner and designer Michaël Azoulay was inspired by looks he discovered on trips he made to the US. The only place to find their clothes in the US is in this shop, located in Nolita. Originally the line consisted of only soft, comfortable tees, like those on the left, in many colors. Soon the collection grew to include all kinds of relaxed dressing for men and women.
The store is merchandised with a distinctly French touch. And except for the denim, everything has a soft and tactile hand.
Color is key to the American Vintage look. The pieces are basics with a twist, and come to life with color. Mix and match the colors with greys, neutrals and denims.
The men’s line is smaller and just as relaxed. Sweats and denim make up a good percentage of the offering whereas the colors are more muted than the women’s collection. The silhouettes are pretty unisex.
And if you’re wondering, not everything for spring is pale. The sales people will happily work with you to find your look. I always used to pick up a few pieces when I was in France. These days, it’s certainly nice to have them in New York.
American Vintage, 237 Elizabeth Street
Flying Solo has moved again. The new space in SoHo was designed for DKNY and then became home to the Karl Lagerfeld label. The designer collective showcases more than 80 brands from around the world. Upon moving locations, they took the opportunity to rebrand themselves with a new name to reflect their multinational status.
The large space seamlessly displays the products from the different brands. You never quite know what you will find — whether clothing, jewelry, accessories, and a large selection of cosmetics or self care products.
While many of the designers are emerging ones, there are still some known names — like Vivian Westwood.
Adam Selman, who is also well represented, was a designer who spent years creating looks for Rihanna, Lady Gaga and many other musicians. When he started his business, he decided to focus on athletic looks for women. A prescient move, indeed.
Each designer has a rail of their own or a display space. There are dressy evening collections — not something you normally see in SoHo. But it is the mix of products that intrigues.
Designers can apply to join the collective online. Flying Solo does press for the members, as well as selling online and in-store. The collective approach is a new one, and it gives indie designers a chance to reach new customers. And grow.
There are looks that are avant-garde and looks that are more conservative. While a multibrand boutique will reflect the owner and buyer’s eye, a collective approach has a diversity of creators.
Independent beauty and skincare collections from all over the world are represented. Niche beauty brands are a huge segment of the industry now. With these brands, you can see them in person rather than ordering them online with no real idea of what you will get.
The store is expansive. Because of the number of designers, and the fact that each one is working on a different schedule in different parts of the world, new mechandise is always arriving. The cast of designers can change monthly, too. A sense of discovery is always a good thing.
Flying Solo, 420 West Broadway
You may have wondered where the Ugg store on Madison Avenue went. There were almost always lines out front pre-pandemic. Turns out they’ve opened a much bigger store on Fifth Avenue, with lots of new clothing.
The Australian company’s clothing range has exploded. Sweats, fleeces, outerwear, bottoms and accessories look great. The new colors look fresh as well.
Downstairs is broken into small spaces. There is plenty of casual clothing that looks as comfortable as their boots. If it’s boots you are looking for, they (along with slippers) are scattered about. If you are looking for footwear, take the escalator upstairs.
Half the floor is devoted to footwear. This season’s color comes first. The classic neutrals may be nice, but these fun shades just look so much newer.
There are the usual shades available, if that is what you want. There are also more interesting patterns using multicolors in footwear and accessories.
There is a smaller selection of clothing for men. It’s just as comfy, but not as colorful.
And there is a small section offering comforters, blackets, rugs and throws. Of course, there is a large selection of loungewear. A collection of children’s clothing and shoes is just behind the mannequins. With the arrival of this new store, I suppose we can all feel free to live our lives of comfort in head to toe Ugg!
Ugg, 350 Fifth Avenue
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.