Purchasing a fragrance can be intimidating, and buyer’s remorse is frequent. Not at Twisted Lily. Owner Eric Weiser will personally guide you through his cosy scent emporium, helping you express what you feel about notes but cannot verbalize, and he’ll make samples of everything that catches your interest. The shop also carries a wonderful selection of skincare, bath goodies and makeup.
You won’t find five-carat knuckle-dusters at Erica Weiner, or any designer bling for that matter. The focus here is on delicate, minimalist metal jewellery with a slightly punk bent. In this era of enormous, proudly fake statement necklaces, don’t let this “quiet” jewellery fool you. There’s a subtle sensuality in the swag earrings that connect multiple pierces, midi rings that stop at the knuckle, interlocking puzzle rings and brass cuffs. Crafted in sterling silver, brass or filled gold, the prices on these wares are easy to swallow.
In need of a mature-but-casual weekend wardrobe of preppy-with-a-twist separates? Steven Alan is the place to find it. It’s a finer J. Crew, with pieces from the eponymous line intermixed with other like-minded designers. The magic of Steven Alan is that you can buy everything here in a mad dash but the result will give the impression that you are a devoted street-stylist and discerning, hip shopaholic.
You’ll be shocked at how reasonable the prices are at Nu, an emporium of practical yet feminine clothes and accessories. The shabby-chic display and creaking floors make you feel as though you’re rummaging inside a friend’s giant walk-in closet. All this comfort means you’ll end up trying on styles and prints you never pictured yourself in. And at these prices – dresses range from $50 to $200, tops $35 to $115, accessories start at $10 – why not express a different you? Nu is the place to safely experiment.
A casual DIY ethos is the name of the game when you cross the Brooklyn Bridge into “Brownstone Brooklyn.” But don’t let the earthiness fool you. This borough is teeming with style – of the arty-sporty tribe – and it’s taken the world by storm. As for the fuhgettaboutit grittiness you might associate with the borough? You’ll discover nothing here but sincerity and friendliness – and plenty of eco-conscious goods and locavore delicacies you can feel good about.
Bird (pictured above)
Looking for easy elegance? Check out Bird, founded in 1999 by Jen Mankins, former head buyer at Steven Alan. Bird was a fashion destination back when Brooklyn was “undiscovered” and it still dresses well-heeled Brooklynites with clothes for every occasion. It also does a high volume of online sales with personal service, catering to busy professionals all over the country who admire the minimal maximalist aesthetic (and yes, they ship internationally!).
No trip to NYC is complete without a stop at a vintage emporium, and Amarcord is among the best. All the major fast-fashion chains are replicating vintage looks these days and it’s harder to justify spending a lot on an “original” piece. But Amarcord’s stock, which focuses on 1960s to the 1990s, consistently falls into that sweet spot of affordable and wearable. No matter the era, Amarcord stocks pieces that look just right right now. Bonus: the handbags and jewellery are total outfit-makers.
Because you still associate New York City with Sex and the City, a stop at SATC costume designer Patricia Field’s shop, House of Field, is a must. A recent visit revealed an amazing collection of the kinds of exhibitionistic punk looks that put Field on the map nearly 50 years ago (think light-up bras). More subtle designs are on offer, too: an exquisite hood made of chain mail; a billowing mesh maxi skirt with attached suspenders; a preppy sky-blue button-down emblazoned with tiny fast-food items. These could have come from the resplendent, dark mind of Alexander McQueen or Sarah Burton – and all for less than the price of a cab from JFK.
Plenty of cultured New Yorkers will tell you to skip MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and head to the MoMA Design Store instead. Entrance is free, for one thing, and the offerings are incredible. From chess sets by Man Ray, a coffee service by Jeff Koons, gorgeous furnishings by Bauhausian Josef Albers – this shop has it all.
Rachel Comey garnered a cult following amongst New York’s creative women when she launched her namesake line 13 years ago. Her aesthetic is best categorized as vintage-intellectual: feminine flourishes are held in check by boxy, or loose, counterpoints and rare colour combinations. Fans are thrilled that she finally opened a store of her own this year (which, incidentally, happens to be next door to her apartment). Comey’s shoes, the perfect marriage of 1944 and 2014, are wildly popular. You shouldn’t leave New York without a pair.
About 100 years ago, the women who lived in this district’s tenements – mostly European immigrants – were employed as milliners, silk flower-makers, shop clerks and, of course, seamstresses and dressmakers. Bohemians and artists came to live here next, seeking cheap rent, raw spaces and distance from Uptown moirés. Although every bit as posh as Uptown today, NoHo boutiques – nestled among what remains of immigrant enclaves, successful artists, creative offices and a huge student population – are less polished, more eclectic, irreverent, and betray the zone’s industrial and bohemian past. The setting might actually inspire you to take some fashion risks!
Opening Ceremony (pictured above)
College buddies Humberto Leon and Carol Lim left their corporate fashion jobs in 2002 to open Opening Ceremony on a sleepy stretch of the SoHo-Chinatown border. Their intent? To celebrate collaboration, friendship and a mix of established and under-the-radar fashion – with the added zing of a foreign country’s best designs blended in. A hangout space for artists and friends, and with an ever-evolving display ensuring a feeling of discovery, Opening Ceremony’s multinational approach hit a nerve. The store now occupies four stories and features over three floors of womenswear, a shoe gallery in the basement, a bookshop, a kid’s corner and a men’s store next door.
The newest addition to the city’s “concept store” offerings is Dover Street Market, the brainchild of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo. A spectacular retail experience, it functions like a museum with objects culled from around the world. Says Kawakubo: “I want to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos: the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision.” This ambitious vision comes with price tags to match. Sure, you can grab a pair of Converse-CDG sneakers, but DSM also boasts some of the most amazing, expensive togs in the city.
On West 56th Street and 5th Avenue, you’ll find Norma Kamali’s HQ. The designer, whose body-conscious and corporate-femme ensembles put her on the map in the 1980s, is still going strong, offering everything from bikinis to pantsuits to workout gear to ball gowns. Kamali’s ensembles are easy to wear, simple to mix and match – exactly what busy, on-the-go women require.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s shoe department is so big it was given its own zip code: 10022-SHOE. You’ll find pumps, ballet flats, oxfords, loafers, booties, slingbacks – and likely glass slippers – all by shoe gods like Louboutin and his ilk, as well as lesser-known geniuses like Pierre Hardy and Tabitha Simmons. If your “winter feet” are not prepared, pop into Saks’ Advanced Skincare Day Spa and ask for Georgette for a pre-shoegasm pedi.
The 89-year-old Argosy Book Store on nearby East 59th Street is where Bill Clinton does his holiday gift shopping, according to a recent article in The New Yorker magazine. The shop’s six floors are brimming with rare and out-of-print books. There’s also a terrific autographs section, which includes letters and private papers of celebrities from all spheres, politics to sports to music. Don’t forget to peruse the outdoor bargain table by the entrance.
Ask anyone what they think of when you mention shopping in NYC and chances are they’ll respond “Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s!” This swath of Midtown is understandably crowded with pilgrims en route to New York’s most famous retail establishments (you might even see some partaking of danish and coffee by the Tiffany windows), but make no mistake: natives walk among the throngs, and they take these shops very, very seriously.
Bergdorf Goodman (pictured above)
Did you know that ready-to-wear clothing was invented in New York City? So was the art of window dressing (by none other than L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wizard of Oz). Bergdorf Goodman’s famous holiday windows are reason enough to visit the storied shop, but you owe it to yourself to explore this mecca outside in. If you really mean business, book an appointment with personal shopper Betty Halbreich. And why not reserve tea at the elegant BG restaurant, where you can rest your tired shopper’s legs and take in the incredible view of snowy Central Park?
We break down The Big Apple into bite-sized shopping pieces
Sure, you can visit the glittering Norway Spruce at Rockefeller Center or go see The Rockettes after cocktails at MoMA’s The Modern bar – but the one thing you absolutely must do in NYC is shop. Whether you’re buying for yourself or for loved ones, hunting down an ultra-luxurious purchase or heaps of fun, faddy knock-offs, here’s an insider’s guide to maximize your holiday spree.