Evaluating the openings and closings since last August is a glass-half-empty, half-full kind of thing. Are we now in the grips of mega-stores like Muji and Apple? Or should we be fluffing our feathers over the fact that boutiques we highlighted years ago are still open? I mean, they opened a Babeland in Park Slope! Doesn’t that give us all hope?
Rogan (330 Bowery) There were a lot of openings on the Bowery this year — sparking the expected “the East Village is dead” outcry (but seriously, it’s been dead for years, right?) — and while $300 sweaters aren’t exactly bringing punk back, Rogan made really interesting use of the old Bouwerie Lane Theater, creating a dark and dramatic retail space out of an 1874 landmark.
Thistle & Clover (221 DeKalb Ave) Between Stuart and Wright and this new well-edited boutique, Fort Greene is poised to give the Slope a run for its money. Owners Camilla Gale and Rand Niederhoffer focus on pared-down, timeless pieces, and have done a great job cultivating relationships with new designers via their Open Calls.
Madewell(486 Broadway) It’s true that it’s an offshoot of J.Crew. It’s true that you could lump it in with the monsters of Soho. But hey, hasn’t J.Crew been doing more interesting stuff lately? And aren’t their bright yellow jeans and printed scarves pretty adorable? And affordable? Don’t be so cynical.
Aloha Rag (505 Greenwich St) Ok, I know the prices here are rivaled only by Barneys, but it’s a crisp, sleek boutique that stocks an unbelievable array of labels, from Lanvin and Maison Martin Margiela to Galliano and Iosselliani. The window-shopping alone is worth the trip downtown.
Acne Studio(10 Greene St) Arguably made famous by its run at Opening Ceremony, this Swedish label now offers its much-coveted denim (perfectly dark and skinny!), tees (soft and slouchy!) and shoes (platform lace-ups!) to the drooling masses out of its very own Soho store.
THECAST (119 Ludlow St) If you’re as sick as I am of slick-and-glossy or “streetwear-inspired” menswear shops, this is the spot for you. Decorated like a deliciously grungy speakeasy, this tenement basement is filled with brilliant, dapper goods like tailored suits and scrimshaw cufflinks right next to mounted deer heads.
And briefly, the downers:
While Rogan and, to a certain degree, Oak were downtown-friendly additions to the Bowery scene, Blue & Cream (a cheesy Hamptons boutique) and John Varvatos in the CBGB space are decidedly not. Also, the hubbub made over the Coach Legacy store was completely unwarranted. Who really wants a $12,000 handbag that’s still from Coach?