It must have seemed like a horseman of the apocalypse to the stylish denizens of Soho: Crocs signage on one of the area's charming, historic buildings, at the corner of Spring Street and Wooster. But don't let a new Crocs outpost in the neighborhood blind you to the groundswell in the city: Ever so slowly, real, honest-to-goodness fashion is creeping back into previously big box-dominated areas like Soho and Bleecker Street.
Sure, there's still an unavoidable sickly-sweet cologne wafting from Hollister on Broadway, and some revered indie shops like Lyell can't afford to stay afloat (Lyell has announced it will shutter in June), but there are worthy openings ahead. Isabel Marant's much-hyped new store on Broome Street—feted by no small number of seriously chic editors—brought a new focus to an area previously dominated by stores like Sephora and Armani. Marant's husband Jerome Dreyfuss's handbags next door are, similarly, evidence of more interesting fare in the neighborhood, and Aussie It-label Zimmermann has also just opened on Greene Street.
On tap for Soho launches this summer and fall: a new, concept-driven Diane von Furstenberg store that will include both the label's contemporary collection and vintage pieces come July; and a Ralph Lauren space to fill the void (if one can call it that) left by the less-than-savory denim store Replay on Prince and Greene by fall. Granted, DVF and Ralph Lauren are far more big-box than Rachel Comey, but they're both eminently more desirable neighbors to have than, say, that terrible Parasuco brand that moved its club tops and jeans into the respectable East River Savings Bank. (Parasuco has, incidentally, recently shuttered. More good news!)
Even Bleecker Street, the stretch of turf bookended by Reiss, a UK chain, and eighteen bajillion Marc Jacobs stores, has gotten an uptick in its roster. Freemans, an LES shop with its origins in the popular restaurant of the same name, recently opened a Bleecker Street offshoot near Christopher, boasting an in-house suiting label and Quoddy boat shoes. Better yet, APC has announced it will open a new location on the block, building on the success of its Soho store.
Sometimes it's easy to forget how quickly a place can transform in New York. Heck, when I moved here, everyone was wearing trucker hats and trying to get into Bungalow 8. The city can recover from its own mistakes—and no, this doesn't mean that Hollister will be closing anytime soon, nor does it mean that Soho is suddenly going to be the home of poor, hip artists again, but it's a start.