Brooklyn has no shortage of shopping destinations, but lately it feels like all the press has been covering the ongoing invasion of the chain stores; from the impending arrival of a J. Crew in Williamsburg to the soon-to-be-built, uh, J. Crew in Cobble Hill, it sometimes feels like this borough’s streets will eventually look like those of that other borough across the river. Never fear, though, Brooklyn hasn’t become a mall yet, and is still chock-full of beloved boutique stalwarts like In God We Trust and Bird and Hickoree’s. But we’ve covered those places plenty of times and are ready to highlight some of the more recent additions to Brooklyn’s fashion scene. Here are our 10 favorite new boutiques, all about as different from J. Crew as can be.
We can’t gush enough over designer Jill Lindsey’s first brick-and-mortar boutique, which really shouldn’t even be subjected to such limiting nomenclature; just last week, the shop debuted an in-store café, bar, and backyard garden, with a downstairs bridal annex to come sometime in the future. But besides expanding what it means to be a retail shop, Lindsey has also added her homey, personal touch to the neighborhood: She often hosts classes and workshops that encompass a range of fields, be they fashion, crafting, and even therapy (she’s held a three-part emotions-based, therapeutic workshop in the store), as well as outdoor DJ dance parties, and even sing-alongs for kids led by Brooklyn musicians. Lindsey has also certified herself as the go-to girl for special occasion dresses, nearly all of which are one-of-a-kind, though should a wrong-sized dress in the store catch your eye, she’ll make it again, custom-designed. Aside from the designer’s own pieces, you’ll also find beachy tie-dye tops and dresses from UPSTATE, men’s Ts and sweatshirts, lotion and soap from Apotheke, floral arrangements, and gorgeous wooden spoons and rolling pins by Willie Martin, a woodworker and fly fisherman in Patagonia. Not to mention it’s the only place around where Fort Greene residents can peruse one-of-a-kind, custom-designed garments and home goods with a glass of wine in hand.
370 Myrtle Avenue, Fort Greene
The brand’s second outpost (the other has been in Nolita since 2008) opened quietly in the space previously occupied by Mini Mini Market in June, and since then, it’s become Brooklyn’s best resource for denim lovers—which pretty much means everyone by now, right? Founder Lisa Fuller has stocked most of the space with her own denim line, which includes high-waisted black skinnies, distressed boyfriend jeans, and surprisingly wearable shorteralls for grown-ups. With Fuller’s denim, it’s all in the details—you’ll notice unusual features like subtle snakeskin pockets or military buttons on each pair, and also some not-so-subtle ones, like built-in suspenders. While her jeans now occupy stock in over 120 stores around the world, find them in their true home here, along with jewelry, dreamcatchers and silk tops from other big brands like Mink Pink, Pamela Love, and Mai Fujiwara. Stock up before fall, and you’ll be able to shop Fuller’s new line of loose-fit tees, too. Fun fact: Jenny Slate recently named a pair of Courtshop high-waisted jeans as her favorite post-breakup outfit because “they make my butt look like a big ‘ole heart. I feel really loud and proud when I wear those jeans.” And isn’t that what jeans are all about, anyway?
218 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill is replete with bars, restaurants, and art stores, supplying the kids at nearby Pratt, but one thing it’s not yet known for is retail. But that didn’t matter to clothier Charnier Corey, who opened Leisure Life NYC last summer between Emerson and Classon, next to a bar, naturally.
A store right there would do well to create an inviting atmosphere, and Leisure Life NYC does just that. It feels like a secret, one you don’t want to keep. It’s also the fully realized vision of one man, with a love of sports memorabilia, leather accessories, and vintage fashion in the outdoor dandy mold. Not that Corey hasn’t got a little help from his friends: there’s a well-curated selection from small brands like Monsuun, which makes ties and pocket squares; Stone Island, which makes nylon outdoor vests; and Bobby Joseph, who’ve provided military coats, a camouflage shirt with reworked suede sleeves, and a line of one-off teddy bears, upholstered in bright fabrics or leather.
These nestle up against leather backpacks and duffel bags, vintage Starter and satin varsity jackets, oversize flannel shirts from Pendleton and Ralph Lauren, and items from Leisure Life’s house line, which include tweed varsity jackets, oxford button-ups in multiple fabrics, crew neck sweaters, and a wool and cashmere blend overshirt, perfect for autumn. You’ll want to tell all your friends.
559 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill
Husband-and-wife duo Briana Swords and R. Smith not only totally lucked out by happening to have super complementary last names, but they’ve also scored on transforming the beautiful former factory space into the perfect home for 75 designers’ wares, including coveted labels like Rachel Antonoff, Samantha Pleet, and Ilana Kohn, plus their own collection and other collaborative projects. With their very own studio located in the same space, Swords (the designer of the duo) creates her line in the newly booming retail landscape south of Grand Street in Williamsburg, where Swords-Smith stands out not only for its incredible stock, but for the beauty of the shop itself, an industrialist-meets-modernist nod to the neighborhood. Lined with hardwood floors and a grid of dark wood on the ceiling, the airy room provides an antidote to other, overstuffed boutiques, making it an ideal spot for pop-up shops, art exhibitions, and parties. The accessories department is particularly robust, with unusual hats by Yestadt Millinery, cute detachable collars by Cleo Ferin Mercury, and sculptural jewelry by Brooklyn designers K/LLER and Norwegian jeweler Bjorg.
98 S. 4th Street, Williamsburg
Like many of its neighbors, Feltraiger is an LES-to-Brooklyn transplant, now cozily at home in Williamsburg. The store’s new location is handsome, rugged, and a bit industrial, though its character is softened by the hardwood flooring and reclaimed wood details in its shelves and displays. Feltraiger’s heavy-duty, LA-made menswear includes motorcycle jackets, Chippewa brand boots, hefty plaid shirts, no-nonsense skinny chinos, above-the-knee cargo shorts, and at least one model of camouflage cargo vest. If Filson and Urban Outfitters had a lovechild, Feltraiger might be it. Its overall aesthetic might best be described as “American Hipster Butch,” in the best possible way.
The store is one-stop shopping for the sophisticated urban greaser, and so naturally also sells pomade, as well as eyeglasses (non-prescription), and a branded plate puller, which allows for easy removal of motorcycle license plates. Almost all the store’s inventory comes from the Feltraiger private label, and the two brothers who co-founded the store, Jon and Dan Feldman, hope the wares they sell are of a high enough quality to last generations. So whether you’re outfitting for a motorcycle rally up Bedford or only dressing to impress at Union Pool, Feltraiger probably has just what you’re looking for.
155 Grand Street, Williamsburg
I first met Hideya Sagawa, the proprietor of Front General Store, last winter at the Brooklyn Flea. He was manning a vintage pop-up booth with a variety of tasteful military jackets and other vintage menswear; I left with a black wool beanie, U.S. Army issue. Sagawa moved to the US from Japan in 1990, and quickly fell in love with vintage Americana. For thirteen years, until he opened his own store late last year, he worked at What Goes Around Comes Around, organizing window displays and coordinating designer sales. Before that, he was a peripatetic regular at New York flea markets, selling from his vast collection of Americana: clothing, kitchenware, toys, rugs, etc.
Front General Store is an extension of the pop-up shop’s aesthetic. The concept draws inspiration from old general stores of the West, or at least the West of the imagination: the clothing is heavy on denim, military wear, horsehide leather brogues, classic wool sweaters, and flannel shirts. Sagawa and his partners travel to flea markets across the country looking for wares. Some (OK, a lot) of Sagawa’s collector’s impulse has found purchase at Front General Store: along with the clothing, there’s an amazing array of collectibles, soft goods, and tchotchkes, including Italian and French sunglasses from the 40s and 50s, mid-century bowties, saddle bags, government issued watch caps, felt pennants, vinyl signs, Navajo jewelry, metal work tags, garment pins, and brass buttons.
143 Front Street, DUMBO
Nestled in what feels like a miniature city block within a city block, between microshops Wedge (cheesemongers), Little Zelda (coffee, tea, pastries), Stork (kids’ clothes), and the Crown Inn bar, Rosebud Vintage is the oh-so-precious cherry on top of this twee Franklin Avenue sundae. Though the show room may be smaller than most bedrooms you’ll find in this part of town, the inventory doesn’t crowd the browser. The stock is womenswear, but one should not overlook the small selection of books and dishware toward the back, both charming in their eclectic makeup.
Fanciful dresses organized by color hang on one side of the room, and on a wall by the front window is arranged a small collection of small hats. The walls are decorated with vintage photographs (which may or may not be for sale), and a glass display case by the front houses a charming array of jewelry, both antique and contemporary. Rosebud Vintage is the perfect spot to find a conversation piece, a one-of-a-kind gift for a friend, or the perfect pillbox hat for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. After shopping, it’s either high tea or happy hour, and either way you’ll be decked out appropriately. And as an added bonus? There’s ample bike parking for shoppers and browsers alike.
726 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Created to meet the needs of the female motorcyclist, DOOMEDnyc was founded last year by Rachael Inman and Jason Goodrich. The new shop shares a space with beloved Greenpoint boutique Kill Devil Hill, and doubles as a studio where Inman—who has training in industrial design, but is clearly a natural with leather—makes gorgeous, hand-tooled leather goods, like the classic Road Warrior Barrel Purse (so much cooler than a simple school bag inspired purse, right?) and the Doomed Outlaw Makeup Roll (one of Inman’s first creations, which came into being because she wanted to be able to “ride and be femme”).
And while most everything is designed for the kind of woman who takes to the road with ease, you don’t need to know your hogs from your Hondas to admire the fine craftsmanship and streamlined design of DOOMEDnyc’s pieces. All it takes to fall in love with Inman’s line is an appreciation of beautiful, locally made goods (all the leather is sourced from Pennsylvania and Inman does everything else in-house). But hey, who knows? Maybe purchasing a Lone Wolf bag for yourself will bring out the Easy Rider in you. There’s only one way to find out.
170 Franklin Street, Greenpoint
If you’re not familiar with the fashion line Electric Feathers, just think of the best dressed woman you’ve seen walking around Brooklyn recently; you know, the one whose style seemed effortless, whose outfit floated around her in that enviable, seemingly impossible to imitate kind of way. Well, chances are, she was wearing Electric Feathers.
Started by designer Leana Zuniga seven years ago, the line of languid, billowing dresses and flowy separates has gained a cult following for its beauty and wearability, so it was only natural that Zuniga would parlay her deft touch to a more comprehensive retail enterprise, namely, Electric Nest. Part boutique, part fashion house, the South Williamsburg shop features the full line of Electric Feathers clothes, as well as jewelry, assorted accessories, and the type of home decor item that would’ve been instantly snapped up by Talitha Getty for her Marrakesh home. And while the clothes themselves are definitely pricey (dresses start at $300, and only spiral up from there), there are still unique and affordable gems to be found, like addictively scented, whimsically designed Keetja Allard candles and Lauren Manoogian’s gorgeous leather bangles.
60 Broadway, Williamsburg
The beautiful vintage pieces at Bushwick boutique Chess & the Sphinx conjure images of the most iconic women of the twentieth century; each item preserved and lying in wait for you to decide just who you might want to wake up and channel today. Because we don’t know about you, but some days we wake up feeling like Jackie O (“I will get these thank you notes written today!”), while other days we’re more like Daria (“There’s no point in writing thank you notes.”). And those are just the days when we need to write thank you notes! We won’t even get into what happens the rest of the time.
Chess & the Sphinx co-owners Sara Chess and Erika Perenic have carefully curated everything from Hepburn-esque black dresses to Peg Bundy-like leopard bodysuits to Marcia Brady-ish bandeau swimwear (plus Lana Del Rey’s entire wardrobe) into an easily digestible display for vintage connoisseurs and amateurs alike. Small selections of sleepwear, lingerie, shoes, bags, belts, jewelry, barrettes, and knickknacks fill out the shelves.
Chess and Perenic’s deep love for fashion and history is obvious, but so is their respect for the Brooklyn girl (they’re Bushwick residents themselves). Prices only occasionally top $100, merchandise is frequently updated, and their friendly in-store demeanor draws out the inner style icon we didn’t even know we had. After all, most of the time we’re just happy to leave the house with some semblance of clean hair and a dress copped from Angela Chase’s closet. But Chess & the Sphinx has us covered those days, too.
252 Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick