On the Town
by Rebecca Prusinowski, Paper magazine contributor, 07/28/2010
805 Washington St., 212-734-2525, Meatpacking District, Manhattan
Alison Brettschneider ran a wholesale showroom for years before switching teams to retail. In December 2008, she created 25 Park, an online boutique featuring under-the-radar women's lines with unique, relaxed-luxe appeal. Six months ago she decided to test the waters with a one-month pop-up lease on the Upper East Side. The tactile 25 Park shopping experience proved to be a popular one because—boom!—inventory cleared in an instant. Brettschneider followed up with stores in Bridgehampton, Malibu and, most recently, the Meatpacking District.
Inside this latest shop on Washington Street, 25 Park serves up a mix of established and emerging labels that you're not likely to find elsewhere: the elegant dresses by our favorite Copenhagen designer By Malene Birger, the adorable single-button silk shorts by NYC's own NAVAR, the spotlight-stealing studded tie-dye top by LA designer Leila Shams. The shop also sells minimal blazers and belted leather pants by Elizabeth and James, Ibiza glamour garb by Antik Batik, studded denim jean shorts from Blank and much, much more. The common thread? "They're all fabulous," Brettschneider mused. "There is something for every woman here, no matter her age or profession. If I think it's fab, I buy it."
Add to that list baby fabulosity. People were always admiring what her little girls (aged 1 and 4) were wearing, and after getting stopped on the street for the one zillionth time, she decided it was time to stock the kids' labels she loved, too.
Rapha Cycle Club
352 Bowery, 212-228-1529, NoHo, Manhattan
Road riders rejoice! Rapha, the London-based company renowned for stylish, high-performance cycling products, has parked itself on Bowery. Through September 30, Rapha Cycle Club is offering NYC more than just the industry's best biking apparel and accessories—the pop-up serves as a hub for riding enthusiasts, with a gallery, a Third Rail Coffee café (hello, Stumptown beans!) and weekly group rides.
"Rapha's retail presence is primarily online, so it's really nice to be able to try on and feel the brand's clothing here," said Mike Spriggs, the shop's manager. The Bowery outpost stocks Rapha's retro-classic-looking jackets, tees, jerseys, shorts and pants, along with their hats, gloves, socks, warmers and assorted cycling accoutrement. All products are developed and tested by active riders, resulting in smart technical details and fabrics. Innovative as the design may be, however, the Rapha look is sharp and understated as opposed to space-agey. Celebrated bespoke tailor Timothy Everest created a jacket for Rapha, and avid cyclist Paul Smith collaborated with the company on a beautiful series of leather accessories and bags emblazoned with iconic road racing imagery.
Rapha Cycle Club is outfitted with a gigantic communal table for sipping Third Rail's award-winning java, watching the race on flatscreen TVs, browsing the selection of cycling publications or simply mingling with fellow bikers. The gallery in the back of the store features rotating cycling-themed artwork, while ephemera—including cool prints and original jerseys—decorates the rest of the space. The best vintage piece at Rapha, though, has got to be the Broom Waggon parked in the back. The original 1960s Citroën H-Van, brought in from France, doubles as the dressing room.
461 Court St., 347-227-8227, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Black Gold brings records, coffee and antiques to a burgeoning strip of local businesses in Carroll Gardens. Situated smack dab between "the Franks'" lauded eateries (Frankies 457 and Prime Meats), Black Gold adds its own touch of nostalgia with a curated selection of vinyl, specialty coffee by Rook Coffee Roasters, and early American and Victorian-era antiques.
Owners Sommer Foster-Santoro and Jeff Ogiba left their hospitality and design jobs, respectively, to pursue a neighborhood venture they'd long envisioned. They designed the space together with the help of Foster-Santoro's husband (and Ogiba's BFF), an antiques dealer who sources the shop's collection. Black Gold's taxidermy, relics and religious ephemera are in superior condition, with a price point that sings.
Same goes for the music. Ogiba says he wanted to offer records you won't find everywhere else—and at the best possible price. We spotted some solid punk, psych and soul titles alongside classic rock and early hip-hop. "We really like to have a little bit of everything," Ogiba noted, "though Talking Heads and our jazz and blues seem to move immediately." Business has been turning so quickly, in fact, that their stock of music and antiques on display have morphed almost completely since they opened a few weeks ago. "The sound and look here constantly evolves, and we like that," they agreed.
It all makes Black Gold the perfect place to lose track of time—combing through bins, inspecting rare mourning art, grooving by the listening station while noshing the SCRATCHbread treats they sell. Just remember to bring your Black Gold tote when you inevitably return—carrying this custom canvas bag gets 10 percent off your purchase.
85 Mercer St., 212-202-1404, SoHo, Manhattan
Valeria Smith's handbags have been a hit in her Buenos Aires hometown since the brand launched in '07, but her chic SoHo flagship marks the company's first US foray. The new shop is teeming with delicious summer bags—and a spunky retro ad campaign—that caught our eye from afar.
Smith's upscale accessories are handcrafted using imported Italian leathers, though it's her approach to colorblock and shape that makes them really stand out. (A former graphic designer, she's got a knack for dimension). What's more is that these totes, shoulder bags, hobos, clutches, wallets and beach bags attain a look that's both beautiful and fun: bright nautical hues like navy, coral and esmerelda green are paired with strips of subdued jade, macchiato and graphito, and then finished with simple, uncluttered hardware. "This is the first season I got really courageous and experimental with colors," Smith confirmed. The snakeskin embossed leather bags in vibrant aquatic shades are her personal preference—and they're the brand's best sellers.
As for Valeria Smith's first home outside of Argentina and Uruguay, "I've always loved SoHo," she gushed to us. "I lived in SoHo with my husband (the company's CEO) many years ago. After we established the brand in Argentina, we knew we'd be back in New York and that we'd start in this neighborhood. It's fulfilling a dream. We got so lucky because Mercer Street has always been one of my favorites."
2 Prince St., 646-684-3494, NoLIta, Manhattan
Abby Hoe established her youthful, easy-breezy lifestyle brand just a little over two years ago, and already she's opening her first store. Miss Hoe sits at the busy corner of Bowery and Prince Street, but inside it's all whimsy and wonder, "like a little playground," she says.
Hoe got her start designing menswear for a major label, but after six years, she set off on her own with something more fun, feminine and affordable in mind. Tinkering with fabrics and sketches she'd amassed over time, Hoe began crafting toys and trinkets that became a hit in Japan. Takashimaya and Kitson couldn't get enough, and Hoe quickly branched out with women's apparel and accessories.
Right now Miss Hoe's got a look—and NYC location—that are sure to boost the brand even further. There are heaps of flowy summer dresses with unique cuts and cool prints, from girly florals and bold plaids to nautical stripes and spaceship patterns. Miss Hoe also carries a nice selection of gray and black separates (the unofficial NYC uniform), cotton chiffon dresses with subtle lace detailing and cool denim pieces (including this season's go-to short shorts with a high waist and loose fit). Our faves might be the black and white polka-dot drop-waist dress and the dip-dyed cotton tank dress.
This brand hits the mark for gals seeking ease of movement but with some fanciful flair, and the space was designed to reflect this M.O. Candy-colored armoires, tree branch clothing racks, thrifted kitsch and floating books that double as displays keep the mood light and fun.
25 Bond St., 212-420-6000, NoHo, Manhattan
Bond Street has gone next level with the new United Nude flagship. The innovative shoe brand founded by Rem D. Koolhaas (nephew of famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas) and Galahad Clark (of the centuries-old shoemaking fam) is now bringing otherworldly footwear and a dazzling store concept to this cobblestone street teeming with cool.
The 1,800 square foot interior is outfitted with a sinuous wall illuminating United Nude's complete 2010 Spring/Summer collection. The box frame display is backlit by a computer-programmed LED wall that unfurls waves of bright color throughout the black space. It's a sight in itself, but the shoes still take the cake.
What began as a single-strapped shoe experiment in 2003 has expanded into a series of iconic collections and collaborations. After the success of that first United Nude product—the Möbius, using a single band to form its sole, heel, bed and upper—Koolhaas and co. have continued to advance footwear design. The Eamz was an homage to the furniture classic, while the Fold was conceived as a scarf for the foot. And then there's the Low Res, a semi-automated shoe that's been digitally scanned, reproduced and molded into rubber. Trippy!
We initially felt a wee intimidated walking into this store, what with the mind-bending design and exalted Koolhaus name. But the United Nude staff immediately quelled fears of uneasiness, engaging UN's cult fans and curious newcomers alike. Between the outstanding service, visionary shoes and interior, United Nude is Bond Street's best yet.
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