The holidays came early this year. Retailers have been unapologetic about diving headlong into the holiday spirit, desperate to bounce back from a difficult year for retail and an absolutely dismal holiday shopping season in 2008. As of the second week of November, several department stores had already unveiled holiday windows (ahem, Barneys), sent phone book-size holiday catalogues (ahem, Bloomingdales), and marked down merchandise in anticipation of the holiday hordes. Heck, the Bryant Park holiday shops even added a whopping 22 days to its season, opening three weeks early, on November 6. As the Wall Street Journal put it: "Black Friday" has become "Black November." While I wish I could issue a big "stand down" message to all the big box retailers (and the world at large), the best I can do for now is to encourage you, dear reader, to try and look past the glow of Madison Avenue windows and newsletters hawking online sales and take a stroll in your own 'hood. For many local boutiques, the holidays account for a massive percentage of annual sales—and many won't survive another season devoid of foot traffic. For the second year running, I've vowed to keep it indie and local: Here are a few new spots I'm adding to my shopping list—all having opened in the last year. (Ahem, in addition to regulars like Bird and Castor & Pollux and Auto and Stuart & Wright and Maryam Nassir Zadeh and RePop and, and, and...)
Brooklyn Flea's "Gifted" Holiday Market
Forget the other generic festive markets, stuffed to the gills with seen-it-everywhere charm necklaces and scented candles, the Brooklyn Flea's curated selection of vintage jewelry, retro posters and maps, hipster t-shirts, quirky housewares, and—of course—tasty treats has become a New York mainstay for a reason. This year, the Flea's holiday market will be housed in the old Tower Records Annex, at East 4th Street and Lafayette, kicking off Black Friday (November 27).
Kyung Lee's sister boutiques on Christopher Street, Albertine and Claudine, have long been our go-to destinations for unique dresses (Gary Graham, Lover, and even custom creations) and one-of-a-kind accessories, so we were thrilled when Lee opened General on the same stretch of pavement, stocked with antique and vintage-inspired jewelry. Impossible-to-please gal pals will delight in Madame Fortuna's mixed-charm necklaces and Mawi's chunky costume pieces. (15 Christopher Street, West Village)
A store with a retro appeal whose stock is anything but old-fashioned, the brick and mortar complement to the magazine is as quirky and cool as its print counterpart. The shop's wares include indie names like Samantha Pleet, Electric Feathers, Pamela Love jewelry, prize vintage, and gorgeous art and table books. (244 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene)