While some might have taken the ‘Back to School’ season as an opportunity to scout New York private schools for over-dressed tweens, I took the road less traveled and really went back to school. Recently, there’s been a surge in boutiques sponsoring fresh fashion talent and I toured these fashion classrooms to separate the wheat from the chaff. Educate yourself.
Every weekend, St. Patrick’s Youth Center transforms into a frenzy of makeshift booths, idealistic young talent and treasure seekers trying on earrings with tiny handheld mirrors. Much of the wares here are, as one would expect, hit-or-miss, and the accessories often win out. While I saw some vibrant crochet knitwear and Dangerous Breed’s “Ski Iraq” T-shirts, I was really won over by Plume and Iwona Ludyga. Plume offers a new kind of chunky necklace mixing silk ribbons, fat plastic chains and organic stones for a fraction of the price one might pay for such items at, say, Kirna Zabete. Iwona Ludyga makes strong statements with long chains, fanciful gold keys and seaworthy charms that come out looking hip instead of cute.
The space at 65 Bleecker is a breath of fresh air. Airy, well-designed and stocked with the valedictorians of the Market (they share a co-founder, Alex Pabon), Emerge is true to the Market’s spirit in that each of the designers runs his or her own “booth” within a grander boutique. I was particularly impressed by Wendel Johnston’s deconstructed suits and patch-worked formalwear, as well as Selma Karacas nigh-couture offerings that seem organic and mystical with their corsets, tendrils and layers of rough-edged fabrics. I cornered the designer in Nana K’s stand, admiring a golden jacket and the necklace she was wearing. “Oh! That’s by my friend Jen,” she exclaimed, pointing to a fellow newbie sitting in the accessories island behind gold chains with sparkling pink beads ? for $28. Fantastic. I also fell in love with Ayazakura’s “spiritual jewelry,” rings and bracelets of multi-layered gold and silver wire with fresh pearls and precious stones.
The experimental cousin, Forward was created by a not-for-profit aimed at preserving the spirit of Orchard Street’s shopping district. A self-proclaimed incubator space, the store sponsors a small number of designers at six-month intervals who manage the boutique while the alumni make up a kind of support system. Forward’s only real flaw is its out-of-the-way location, though once the trek is made, Orchid Jones (by Erin Wallace) certainly makes it worth the while with delicate feminine pieces, including one dress with a gold lace empire bodice and greenish-gold chiffon skirt. I was also drawn to sQin’s leather metallic earrings, which look like metal but are wonderfully lightweight and displayed on a fantastic piece of leather cut to look like lace.
I’m partial to pieces that have a personal touch; I like the idea that someone loved it a little. Browsing a rack of clothes next to the designer sketching new ideas is an experience not to be missed ? especially when she says, “I can make you one in blue, if you like.
THE MARKET NYC: 468 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Houston Streets)
EMERGE: 65 Bleecker St (Broadway/Lafayette)
FORWARD: 72 Orchard St (Broome/Grand)
Hot On the Rack: Pinson’s Picks at Atrium
For over ten years, Atrium has been a showroom for new talent and hot finds in the world of fashion. A true pioneer, it began with downtown labels and now stacks fresh indies next to tried-and-true brands in constant rotation, along with an unparalleled collection of jeans. As you forage through the treasure grotto of racks that is Atrium’s Broadway and Bleecker space, make a pit stop at The L Magazine’s Rack to browse some of Laurel’s picks.
Dondup Kult Boyfriend Jean ($289): Another example of Atrium’s status as denim royalty. Fits like a dream and won’t be on every other girl’s bum in SoHo.
Development Tweed Short Jacket ($475): A piece to wear through fall and into winter, the structure gives this jacket a space age and motorcycle feel at once.
Mason Corduroy Cropped Sailor Pants ($176): The wide leg gives a hint of those popular gauchos but Mason was careful to add classy tailoring.
Claudette Cream Sweater with Crochet Back ($290): A true original, the crochet lace gives this sweater girly appeal but the deconstructed seams give it a rough edge.
Ku Sweatshirt-Blazer: For those of you out there who find blazers a little on the natty side for their tastes, a little too confining, here’s a wonderfully tailored sweatshirt with a splash of skull and crossbones.
LBL by Eamon T-shirt ($105): Though the label sports a number of catchy slogans, my favorite is “Graffiti is Dead.”
Taverniti Collagher Dbl Pky Jean ($242): It’s the push-up bra for men. Trust me, I’ve seen it in action.
Cosa Nostra Plaid Blazer with Silk Lining ($1210): If you’ve got the cash (and it’s pretty serious sticker shock), this jacket does it all: plaid business on the outside, smoking jacket silk party inside ? for the man who thinks he has everything.
Atrium, 644 Broadway at Bleecker
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 9pm;
Sunday 11am to 8pm, 212.473.3980