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2:43pm, Prince St. If you’d seen the pair of Marc Jacobs shoes they had in their window, you would’ve stopped too. The beauty is, it’s a consignment shop. Ina houses every chic label you can imagine and at prices that are truly unbelievable. I was in there for 15 minutes and I found a Chanel military jacket for $330, last year’s Prada roman sandals for $135, and a bright red Foley+Corinna corset top for $125 that I guarantee you is still selling for retail less than 20 blocks away. You know the merchandise is good when you’re trying on one of a dozen exceptional pairs of Marc Jacobs shoes and a girl nearby is choking up while handing the woman behind the counter a pair of shoes to sell.
3:02pm, Prince St. At this point, I was starving, and smelled Café Habana’s melting cheese from the sidewalk. It may be totally typical of the Nolita “scenesters,” but it’s quick and cheap (a ham and cheese torta with fries set me back less than $10) and I grabbed a seat at the window to watch the other shopping characters walk by. It might have been three o’clock, but the crowd looked like lunchtime. That’s what happens when you wake up at one.
3:26pm Granted, the first thing that grabbed my attention was some guy trying way too hard to complete what seemed to be a fairly simple skateboarding trick. Then I saw the store he was standing in front of. Eleven turned out to be a great store for vintage because it’s small, somewhat unassuming, and actually has old Def Leppard Ts and Nike hightops that don’t smell. They had some pretty hideous bohemian dresses, but that’s forgivable given their great selection of $45 cowboy boots and $15 college Ts and their Hindi hip-hop soundtrack. Plus, the Vespa in their window certainly gives them Nolita street cred.
3:41pm There are still some bewildered old Italians roaming this neighborhood and a sweet old man in a dapper hat crossed my path on Mulberry trying to look for a name on an apartment buzzer. Adorable.
3:47pm Crossing Bowery, I realize that nearly every store I’ve been in has played Blondie. Is Debbie Harry really that cool?
3:50pm, Orchard St. Swallowed the lump in my throat and braved Apollo Braun again, a store that I find genuinely frightening. Maybe it conjures memories of that girl I sat next to in high school who used to spend free period going medieval on T-shirts with scissors and a Bedazzler. That girl — on coke — could have put this store up in a weekend. It’s a punk wonderland of brash colors, kitsch slogans, and anything shredded. That said, I spotted this great green trucker hat that I would have thrown down cash for if it weren’t so last year. It said, “You I Love: The Heart Wants What it Wants.” Deep.
3:59pm I’d heard about Forward, a kind of new designer “share,” from some freethinkers in the fashion world that I considered reliable, so I was delighted to strike up a conversation with a former participant in the experiment, Dainne, who designs under the label “Suxi N. Rice.” As Dainne put it, Forward is an “LES socialist experiment,” putting a group of designers chosen by a panel made up of mostly fashion editors into a communal store, since a co-op is decidedly cheaper than any one designer coughing up $1,800-$3,500 a month in rent. When I asked her about the geographical movement of ‘what’s hip’ eastward from SoHo to Nolita and now to the Lower East Side, she agreed that there was something special, something “communal” about the neighborhood. Perhaps it’s somehow more European. She was quick to lament the fact that Forward has to fight to keep its support from the state, while in Europe this sort of thing is not at all uncommon. This was why she felt such a connection to one of the older designers featured at Forward, Selma Karaca, who is Turkish. As Dainne put it, “She drinks wine.” As for me, I loved the store. I loved Dainne’s Pucci-inspired wispy resort dress (though she admitted that her funky gray suit jackets were what really seemed to sell), I loved Voleuse’s colorful ballet shoes painted with slogans like “all that glitters is gold,” and I loved Selma Karaca’s skirt made from strips of painted canvas. Dainne even invited me for dinner because, according to her, her astrologist had told her to be open to new social experiences. While this could have cast her previous analysis about the world of the designer into shadow, I chose to let it stand.