As I have been walking around Soho and Nolita over the past few weeks, I have noticed that the streets are getting more and more crowded. People are carrying shopping bags, eating in restaurants, sipping on coffees and cocktails, and exploring the SoHo street vendors. There is a bit of excitement in the air, and a sense that things will get back to normal. We still have a ways to go, but it is indeed nice to feel a sense of optimism on the street.
Believe it or not, new stores for both men and women have opened in SoHo. So what’s new? Most of them were planned pre-pandemic, with a few opening before stores were locked down. Each boutique has its own point of view, and its own history, and they are welcome additions to the city.
Kenzo is a storied name in fashion. Founded in 1970 by Kenzo Takada, the first of what would become a wave of Japanese designers in Paris and one of the earliest ready to wear designers to throw ground breaking exuberant runway shows filled with models of all colors and races. Multi-culturalism was Kenzo’s visual language from the beginning. On a sad note, the much beloved designer was felled by Covid-19 last week at the age of 81. Always a fixture at the Kenzo runway shows until this season, he would have felt welcome in the brand’s first New York boutique.
The store’s design is an interesting arrangement of industrial display racks filled with clothing and accessories surrounded by mirrors that reflect light all over the space. Filipe Oliveira Baptista, the current designer, is responsible for the store’s design. The boutique carries both men’s and women’s pieces, and will also offer revolving artistic installations.
Kenzo was known for his prints and pattern mixes. Baptista uses prints and colors to great effect, too, even on shoes and boots. The clothing is relaxed and urban.
The clever store design allows for many types of clothing to be shown. Even though the store is small, the layout feels spacious. The pieces can and should be mixed and matched for maximum effect.
There are many accessories in the boutique. Some are displayed in vintage 1970’s Plexiglass pieces that contrast with the industrial design.
There are leather handbags, lots of backpacks and belt bags. Some sport the tiger motif that is used in the Kenzo x WWF collection. A portion of the proceeds of the sale goes to the TX2 tiger conservation project. Men’s clothing is found at the back of the boutique.
Original 1970’s leather chairs accent the space, and customers do plop down and enjoy them. Prints are also featured in the street-wise men’s collection that is full of sweats and puffers, as well as many casual jackets and coats. Sneakers, another well known brand staple, come in both solids and prints.
Kenzo, 107 Grand Street at Mercer Street
Alex Mill sells very relaxed and casual clothing for women and men. The brand’s original product was a perfect men’s shirt. The company was started by Alex Drexler, son of the uber merchant of J. Crew fame, Mickey Drexler. Alex teamed up with some ex-Madewell and J. Crew designers to make what they consider the best clothes for right now. The brand’s motto is “Not more clothes, but the right clothes.” J. Crew it is not. Everything is more cooler and more unisex. And not super preppy.
There is not a huge assortment of styles in the store. But each piece does have a point of view. The fabrics are good quality, and come from Italy, Portugal and Japan.
Alex Mill is in love with jumpsuits this season. You will also find easy jackets, denim, pants, tee shirts and cashmere.
There are many denim offerings. So what’s new? The company works with small suppliers in America to make small runs of denim. One involves upcycled denim, The New Denim Project. The other is The Natural Indigo Collection. Unsold pieces from previous collection are sent to a small batch dyer to be reborn in new shades of indigo. Being environmentally friendly is big part of the brand’s identity.
Alex Mill’s quest for the perfect shirt continues. The design team offers different styles in many kinds of fabrics.
The men’s collection offers many of the same shapes as the women’s collection, but in different proportions. Accessories such as hats, sunglasses, scarves, shoes and sneakers and bags are for sale.
Another one of their interesting projects is the Botanical Dye Collection. The limited edition collection creates one-of-a-kind pieces, as no two pieces have exactly the same color.
These are the organic dyestuffs that are used, and the colors that they produce. Before chemical dyes were available, all dyes for clothing were natural. It is interesting to see these techniques being revived.
Alex Mill lives by a lot of slogans. Most of them are good ideas. Utilitarian and considerate, the company’s point of view is in step with the times. There is something to be said for easy living.
Alex Mill, 70 Mercer Street and 499 Broadway (two entrances)
Rails, a California contemporary brand, has opened on Broome Street. The spacious, light-filled and easy to shop boutique is perfect for these days of Covid. The design of the store retains the loft-like feel of Soho, and the clothing is definitely not overwhelmed by the soaring space.
The company started out doing soft easy to wear shirts. Rails offers a full collection for men and women, including sweaters, coats and jackets, dresses, skirts and soft bottoms. PJs are here, too.
The colors reflect the casual California lifestyle. These soft shirts look yummy.
There are other ranges of colors, and prints and and patterns as well as their original signature plaids.
The men’s wear has the same laid back feel. In additions to the shirts, t shirts and bottoms, this is one of the few stores to show loungewear for men. Everyone should be able to relax.
Rails, 54 Greene Street at Broome Street
Tamara Mellon is back. A reboot as she calls it. She was the co-founder of Jimmy Choo, the must wear luxury label she sold and then left. I remember finding Jimmy Choo himself in the Camden Market, back in the ’90s. He was selling beautiful custom made shoes from a small stall in the market. Tamara Mellon found him as well, and with his niece, they built a very big business. Shoes are in her blood now, and in 2016 she went back to work. Everyone loves a good comeback story.
The SoHo store is nicely designed, but spare. There is a collection of handbags in the entrance of the store, and a clean display of shoes by size inside the store. The selection of shoes and boots is curated.
The shoes are all made in Italy. Ms. Mellon found family-run factories in Italy that produce small runs. She want to sell good design, with impeccable quality for reasonable prices. “Woman to woman prices,” as she says. With her taste and experience the reboot looks like a done deal.
Tamara Mellon, 97 Wooster Street
Fred Perry opened a small boutique before the city locked down. The brand has legions of devoted followers from all walks of life. Amy Winehouse did a collaboration with them, as did many other musicians and designers. Fred Perry, the man, was a British tennis star in the 1920s and ’30s. He won three Wimbledon titles, and was the first man to win a Career Grand Slam. As he was from a working class family, he was never warmly received in Brit tennis circles. Working class British fans adored him, though, and gave him street cred that continues today. He was very attractive — dating Marlene Dietrich and marrying four times after he moved to the United States. The brand is best known for its logo polos.
The brand logo, a laurel wreath, was modeled on the original Wimbledon circular flick, and is found on most of the pieces in the store. Perry founded his company in 1952 and it is still going strong, with customers of all ages from all sorts of subcultures.
The clothing is casual. Besides the polos, there are casual jackets and sweats, sweaters, and pants. The brand may be over 70 years old, but the clothes are still extremely cool and worn everywhere.
Fred Perry, 483 Broome Street at Wooster Street
Just down the street is another iconic brand, this one American. Paul Stuart has been on Madison Avenue since 1938. You can find the customLAB concept uptown, but it is now available on Broome Street as well. CustomLAB is a made to measure concept for suits, jackets, shirts and jeans.
On one wall are a variety of jacket, shirts and jeans to try on to determine which size to start from in your customization. Choose the model you want, and then body measurements are taken. Pick your fabric from books full of swatches of all sorts of fabrics for all seasons of suits and shirts. Prices are based on the type of fabric that you choose. Pick a lining, buttons, monograms, buttonholes — all are customizable.
There is also a selection of shirts, jackets and pants that are available off the rack.
Sweaters and casual weekend wear are also on sale for takeaway. The store is a more intimate space to shop for custom clothing downtown. A great way to make your life easier.
customLAB by Paul Stuart, 505 Broome Street at West Broadway
It is only October, but I am dreaming about getting to a warm beach soon. The Solid and Stripe boutique lets me pretend. Conceived as a line of men’s bathing suits, it quickly added women’s beach wear. Cover ups and ready to wear followed in 2015.
Chris Burch, of the Tory Burch Burches liked the idea so much he acquired 55% of the brand in 2018. With its bright colors, clean shapes and contemporary price points, Solid and Striped is a winner. There is almost anything you need for a pool or beach holiday.
The men’s pieces are at the back of the boutique. They too are solid or striped.
The styling is simple, but it packs a punch. There are perfect basics, and also suits with a little tweak to them. the RTW complements the swimwear. You can work with a stylist remotely these days, or you can book a private appointment if you don’t feel like popping in.
Solid and Striped, 321 Lafayette Street between Houston Street and Bleecker Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.