The Lower East Side is in flux. New businesses are opening, blending the old and the new, tradition and innovation, and the whimsy and the serious (style). The area is more for New Yorkers than the tourists in neighboring Soho. There are still many tenements — old and new law — but there are also modern buildings housing hip hotels, apartments and some original shopping concepts like the Essex Street Market. Clearly, Orchard Street is seeing a lot of development. Although, some might be nostalgic for the tenements of the early 19th century — the Tenement Museum has preserved that way of life, and is always crowded with visitors — as they do play an important role in the city’s history and sociology, architecturally speaking, they leave much to be desired.
The hipsters’ lament of authenticity lost is countered by a clique of innovators bringing newness to this old neighborhood. Cutting edge international art galleries are opening, like one in a former fabric warehouse, and smaller indie brands are filling petite stores in tenements, as well as in new builds. It is fascinating to see what those with imagination develop up and down the street.
P&T Knitwear is one of these new businesses. The owner, Bradley Tusk, is a venture capitalist, who has also worked in politics. He opened this large bookstore and event space honoring the business his grandfather ran after arriving in New York. An unusual name for a bookstore, but why not?
Along with selling books on a lot of diverse subjects, the store contains a podcast studio and a cafe, as well as an event space. The idea is to really open the space up to the community.
The history of his grandfather’s business covers one of the walls. And the contrast between then and now is fascinating. The photos of the old stores and tenements is a reminder of the scrappy beginnings of successful immigrants.
Adjacent to where the books are sold is an area with stadium seating. Authors promote their new books with talks and Q & As. There are also many events held for children, including a recent Trick or Treating event starring books, not candy. Everyone is welcome.
Like a traditional bookstore, there are many different sections each one filled with books on that subject. There is a even section for children and young adults, too.
A cafe is located towards the back of the store. A variety of coffees, teas and matchas are served, along with snacks. When the event space is not in use for events, tables, chairs and free wifi are there for those who want a public co-working area.
P&T Knitwear 180 Orchard Street
Bobblehaus is in the same building. Owned by two Chinese-American women, the large space is full of a lot of fun ideas. They host musical events, and also feature the work of artists they know upstairs and dotted around the selling floor.
Objects, clothing and statement pieces all have a sense of humor. They sell Pop Mart Blind Boxes, dispensed from a repurposed arcade box. And they also feature clothing that leans towards genderless.
The clothing is all made from deadstock (fabric from different sources that have been sitting in inventory somewhere) and recycled fabric, and is clean, casual and modern. Interesting pieces that comment on modern life are also placed around the store.
Fun water bottles and stylish carriers are featured, but playful artwork is found all over the store. The framed piece in the display is an 3-D embroidery of a box of Strepsils.
There are little details on the clothing. The pants in the center have a cargo feel, and the bottom of the legs zip off to give you shorter pants, too. And the denim utility pants boast a one-of-a-kind print.
Bobblehaus, 180 Orchard Street
The Frankie Shop had moved out of this space to renovate last year. The refinished store is double the size of the original one, but is still on the small side. They had moved into a much larger space on Crosby Street, which is now a second location for the brand. The focus is on clean oversized basics with attitude.
Well-priced tailored suits are the starting point. A larger range of colors is now offered. There are also oversize tailored shirts in a variety of fashion colors, and even a few stripes. This season’s sweat shirts and tees are also available.
The denim collection is growing, with shirts and dresses now available. Coats, too, in easy shapes, belted or not. And there are a smattering of dresses, also in easy shapes. Faux leather ones look the newest.
The store is often packed with both locals and a few tourists. A small selection of cool bags, shoes and jewelry is in the cases and along the walls. There is a little bit of everything in this sleek little store.
Frankie Shop, 100 Stanton Street
Laams is as much a bazaar as it is a store. Laams the brand offers printed tees and some jackets and hats. A new printed “zine” was on display that features the artists who show in the store. Each issue features a different person, and connects readers to them. There are corners of pretty much everything. Vintage magazines fill one with many different titles, including old Life magazines. Laams-designed graphic tees also line the wall.
An embroidery machine sits at the front of the store, and is used to customize clothing. Art from a large variety of local artists hangs everywhere.
There is a good selection of books on artists and art, and all sorts of artistic genres. The books line one side of the store, sharing the space with collectible merch.
On the second floor mezzanine the are bins and bins of vinyl. And the customers are buying it. If you’re missing the records you tossed, you will probably find replacements for them here.
Tarted-up skate decks and sneakers, and Bearbrick collectables are below. One flight up is a very cramped display of vintage clothing, and recently that was cleared out for a showing of large scale paintings by Heywood. The space also hosts events and parties. Their recent bashes included KidSuper and Halloween.
Laams, 74 Orchard Street
Mia Vesper has a shop just down Orchard Street. She produces one-of-a-kind and few-of-a-kind fashions as well as small runs of other styles. The designer works with deadstock fabrics, too, along with vintage and artisan-made fabrics, as well as some new fabrics.
The newer fabrics are re-used for more casual clothing. The checkered suits on the rail are actually corduroy.
The dresses and outfits along the wall include seasonless chiffon statement dresses. Vintage shoes and boots, especially cowboy boots, also line the store. And the sizing goes from 0 to size 14. Inclusive in every way. And pieces can be tailored to fit the customer.
The coat is cut from the same corduroy as the outfits on the other side of the store. Vintage tapestry and other vintage textiles are also worked into dresses and ensembles. Many of the clothes are offered on a year-round basis, until the supply of that textile is gone. And it’s all made in New York.
There is jewelry here too, and pieces of the jewelry can also be custom made. Vintage glass is mixed with silver to make bracelets and all sorts of necklaces. Incorporating vintage into new pieces is the goal. Even the curtains that cloak the dressing room are artisan-made.
Mia Vesper, 69 Orchard Street
Wray is built around a commitment to making clothing that fits everyone. Sizes are offered from XXS to 6XL. Most brands may do XL, but do not make clothing larger than that. Clothes are designed for all body types, with styles like signature wrap dresses and shirt dresses.
The clothing is for a relaxed lifestyle. Lounge sets are popular; and are always restocking. The clothes are made sustainably in China, India, and South America. The clothing is relatively season-less as favorite prints are used for several deliveries. In the summer months there are also bathing suits in fun prints.
The clothing is young and fun. The brand also offers accessories and gifts. The fabrics used are year-round like cotton poplin, stretch cotton and synthetic mixes. The racks are packed because of the wide variety of sizes offered.
There is a small denim collection as well as jackets and trenches. Wray also offers clients a way to resell past purchases from the brand. The collection is consciously created and is a welcome destination for women of all sizes.
Wray, 38 Orchard Street