On the Town
by Rebecca Prusinowski, Paper magazine contributor , 10/02/2009
JF & Son
19 Kenmare St., 212-696-0765, Lower East Side, Manhattan
JF & Son have opened a retail outpost and communal design space in the former INVEN.TORY shop on Kenmare Street. The storefront features the company's limited edition women's, men's and unisex pieces as well as their collaborative collections with local artists. It's an outstanding mix that emphasizes shape, detail, texture and design synergy.
Founder Jesse Finkelstein and partner Katie King experiment with different fabrics and materials to create clothing that is both functional and cool. Perfect wardrobe staples (like black cotton dresses, light denim buttondowns and expertly tailored silk blazers) line the racks alongside splashier designs—handmade tie-dyed suede shoulder bags, dazzling multi-colored sequined tanks, mustard yellow beaded buckle belts, eye-popping patterned scarves, dresses with bold graphic prints, etc. The storefront is currently carrying a women's collection with Ellen Koenigsberg that fuses her keen vintage sensibility (she owns second-hand shop Ellen on Ludlow Street) with their one-of-a-kind textiles.
JF & Son is about more than great style, though. Their approach to design and production also sets them apart. The company has a studio in India, where they develop all their custom fabrics together with local artisans skilled in traditional beading, embroidery and printing. Their business model eliminates the middleman so they can ensure high quality goods, labor conditions and collaboration from New Delhi to here in Nolita.
Use Your Head
262 Mott St., 212-334-6755, Nolita, Manhattan
Nothing beats scoring a designer vintage piece for peanuts—except, perhaps, knowing your purchase went toward a good cause. Double awesome! That's why we were pleased to discover Nolita newcomer Use Your Head. The shop features a stellar selection of vintage and contemporary designer pieces, with all proceeds going to the SoHo Partnership, a non-profit organization that provides job training and employment for New York's homeless.
The charity resale store is a new revenue stream for the Partnership (founded in '92), but things got off the ground quickly thanks to an impressive roster of fashionable donors. Lauren Hutton gave over 30 pairs of shoes. Marc Jacobs, Rachel Roy and Nicole Miller donated pieces from current collections. And Equinox sent over some lululemon athletic wear. All selling for at least 70 percent off retail prices...
Among the women's dresses, blouses, suits, bags, scarves and shoes, you'll find donated vintage wear from couture clients who had labels like Karl Lagerfeld, Mary McFadden and Pilar Rossi. There's also a drool-worthy mix of gently-worn designer goods: We loved the Ferragamo plush red jacket ($300), a bad-ass pair of Ann Demeulemeester boots ($120) and some Roger Vivier red suede booties ($300). Add to that Valentino, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, collection pieces by Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang, and so on. Use Your Head carries a range of hip and haute, and it's all priced to move—so you can help them to help others.
989 Third Ave., 212-486-9300, Midtown East, Manhattan
Scott and Susan Kuhlman have relaunched their menswear label and they're rolling out new stores to boot. The Euro-inspired dress shirt company has set up shop on the bustling corner of Third Avenue and 59th Street. It's a beautiful three-story building that features pressed-tin ceilings, oak floors, and huge windows overlooking the Bloomingdales frenzy below. The scene inside S.Kuhlman is considerably calmer and much more refined, which makes browsing their nice selection of casual and business shirts all the more enjoyable.
The brand was founded on the idea of bringing the old-fashioned art of European dress shirts to today's modern man at prices everyone can afford. Influenced by the colors and styles they see when visiting their home in Italy, the Kuhlmans incorporate gingham, stripes, paisleys, florals and plenty of blues, whites and purples within their collections. The shirts are designed with a two-button spread collar, six-button front closure, and subtle details in the pockets and stitching. The look is classic cool (yet office-appropriate), and at $85 a shirt, you can stockpile your wardrobe for all occasions.
S.Kuhlman is expanding their business beyond the dress shirt to include men's blazers, sportcoats, cashmere sweaters and more. The blazers will have an exaggerated collar and funky lining—offering a fresh take on an old-school favorite. Watch for them to hit the store next week, and stay tuned for more S.Kuhlman developments as this brand charts its menswear comeback.
16 Prince St., 212-343-1945, Nolita, Manhattan
The LA-based contemporary clothing brand just opened their second retail outpost here in NYC, and it's replete with chic versatile pieces for fall. The main draw, of course, is the company's super-soft cashmere: Women's cardigans, crew necks, tunics, turtlenecks, tanks, and dresses line the racks in an array of rich earth and berry tones. But there's more to Vince than their signature cashmere. We were wowed by the herringbone boyfriend blazers, fur vests, prima cotton tees and fitted leather jackets (check the Paper Leather Drape Neck Jacket—meow!). The selection is understated and cool, layers easily, and can be styled up or down—excellent investment pieces, in other words.
The company launched a menswear line last year, and it occupies a good part of the new space. Much like the women's garb, the emphasis here is on clean design and subtle detailing. The Duo Plaid Shirt features a check pattern on the reverse side of the sleeve (making it more than your usual flannel), while a pair of cotton straight leg pants has a dash of elastane for a little stretch and much leaner look.
Neon green mannequins aside, the new Vince store has settled into the cozy confines of Nolita rather unobtrusively. Its big(ger) name might have been cause for concern, but as it turns out, the interior is sharp, the staff is friendly, and a nice mix tourists, fashionistas, and neighbors stopped by during our visit.
263 S. 1st St., 718-915-6982, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Dunlin handbag designers Shiho Nagashima and Ramana Goldstein have opened their first retail outpost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Longtime residents of the 'hood, the artist duo discovered the storefront while seeking new storage space for their growing line of bespoke bags. Established in 2006, Dunlin produces a small collection of unisex shoulder bags and duffels each season. "No girlie bags here," Nagashima said with a smile as I surveyed a heavily-varnished gray tote. Indeed, the look is raw and rather industrial, but not without an obvious commitment to craftsmanship. Top-of-the-line leathers from around the world are hand-finished and the customized hardware detailing has been individually applied. Beyond the rugged exterior beauty of these designs, shape and versatility have also been carefully considered—Dunlin bags will work with a pair of Balenciaga booties as well as on the back of a Harley.
Nagashima and Goldstein transformed what was a basic white-walled T-shirt shop into an exquisite setting that rivals any high fashion magazine spread we've lately seen. Thrifted furniture pieces—from sewing tables to a piano bench and bedpost—have been re-purposed to artfully display the Dunlin bags. Deconstructed chandeliers and antique décor reinforce the brand’s chic weathered vibe. Though the bags here may cost a pretty penny, a visit to Dunlin is truly worthwhile.
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