Articles by

<Laurel Pinson>

03/31/10 3:00am

If only all husbands were like Jerome Dreyfuss, the boyishly handsome talent who started designing handbags in 2002 pretty much solely for his wife and her friends. As he saw it, there weren’t any versatile, logo-free options on the market for such stylish dames. Now, of course, it doesn’t hurt that his wife happens to be the impossibly chic Parisian designer Isabel Marant.

The resulting bags created such buzz that Dreyfuss became a seemingly overnight sensation among the fashion set (despite having spent years designing clothing), and his signature brand of supple, utilitarian-yet-sexy carryalls quickly popped up (and sold through) at it-stores like Barneys. Pretty soon, Dreyfuss was thigh-deep in the industry that he’d previously found ridiculous for its lack of truly wearable options.

Of all the designers making a name for themselves in the post $2,000 handbag era (indeed, it seems as though Dreyfuss’s timeless, effortlessly chic bags blossomed at exactly the moment that showy bags like the Balenciaga “Le Dix” and the Fendi “Spy” were on the wane), Dreyfuss really seems to get it. His bags are composed of buttery-soft leather (and, more recently, exotic skins), that age beautifully and are chock full of brilliant little compartments for everything a woman would ever (ever) need. The popular “Twee” style boasts two side pouches, a zippered compartment on the flap, and an extra interior compartment for super-hidden essentials. The larger “Billy” satchel is soft and slouchy, with pouches galore and short and long straps for added wearability. In a cheeky twist, Dreyfuss even gave many of his bags male names (Antoine, Franky, Diego)—a nod to the fact that for a lot of women, a bag becomes more than a functional carryall, and more of a trusted companion. My favorite add-on to the bags is a tiny detail that some miss: Each comes equipped with a tiny leather cord on the bag’s interior with a teensy flashlight. The purpose of said light? To help a gal locate whatever she might have lost in her bag. (Even my husband-to-be was impressed by that one.)

Dreyfuss’s newly-opened outpost—his first in the U.S., boasting nearly every style in the Dreyfuss lookbook—is as quirky and charming as its wares. The designer has built a cool, wood-walled cabin of sorts within the larger Soho space, creating a more intimate store-within-a-store experience that also allows Dreyfuss to house periodic installations outside of the designated retail area. (Dreyfuss even purchased some of the sculpture-furniture inside the store straight off the MoMA floor.) Dark, leafy palms peeking from behind the wooden walls only heighten the playful, treehouse-inspired quality of the store.

Of course, the full experience will be complete when Dreyfuss’s other half, Marant, opens her long-awaited stateside outpost right next door in late April—creating a hotbed of Parisian style. Hide your credit cards accordingly.

Jerome Dreyfuss, 473 Broome Street between Wooster and Greene Sts.

03/17/10 3:00am

I remember when I first trudged down to the quirky downtown outpost of Opening Ceremony, located at 35 Howard Street on a charming stretch of Chinatown-meets-Soho (even years later, I still sometimes have a hard time finding the right block, giving it an Alice-down-the-rabbit hole vibe). The store’s mission statement echoes that of the founder of the modern-day Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, insofar as its founders—Humberto Leon and Carol Lim—chose to highlight a rotating selection of international designers and brands each year. It was a cute, highbrow idea—bringing indies from places like Germany and Sweden to mix with locals like Vena Cava and Tsumori Chisato. However, there are a lot of cute, highbrow boutiques in New York that have fallen prey to their own cool factor—believing that the city’s denizens on the whole are willing to pay for something “interesting” and then going under when the economy stumbles. Eight years later, the store is stocking $2,760 Rodarte sweaters for men, and has expanded into Los Angeles and Tokyo in the middle of a recession, leaving a trail of ever-more-spectacular collaborations in its wake. Touring the chain’s latest outpost at the Ace Hotel, I couldn’t help but think back to discovering the offbeat store all those years ago and wondering, How did this happen? How has Opening Ceremony succeeded with such panache where so many other “concept” boutiques have failed?

For one, Leon and Lim have preternaturally good taste. If the duo weren’t wildly successful buyers for the store, they could probably earn a fortune doing trend forecasting. They capitalized on Swedish brands like Acne before they had any American presence and threw weight behind about-to-hit-it-big designers like Alexander Wang and Rodarte, both of whom have rewarded the store’s unwavering support with incredible selection and exclusives (Rodarte recently launched a cheeky line of $155 sweatshirts emblazoned with “Radarte”). They were also one of the first to successfully think of a store as more of an event—emphasizing the moment of discovery—by hosting pop-ups and stores within the store to offer the city what the market was missing. Case in point: O.C. brought Topshop to Soho before even Topshop could, debuting Kate Moss’s much-anticipated collection for the label in a specially curated second floor. They also have just the right kind of famous friends, like Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman: downtown, unfussy-stylish—the thinking fashionista’s icons. The store’s muse, in many ways, remains the iconic downtown style gal, Chlo√�ƒ�’�†�€™�ƒ¢â�€š¬�…¡�ƒ�’â�‚�š�ƒ�€š�‚´ Sevigny, who’s even translated her brand of 90s-vintage sex appeal into a collaborative line with the store.

Granted, with its latest endeavors, some wonder if O.C. can maintain its “indie” cred on such a massive scale. The collaboration with Spike Jonze on a Wild Things-inspired clothing line was brilliant (and perfectly targeted the store’s smarty-hipster crowd). But at the same time… a $610 furry animal suit? More recently, a collaboration with Levi’s (on corduroys, surprisingly enough) seems to have a more mass-market appeal. Of late, the phrase “painfully hip” seems to be what most aptly describes the chain—exemplified by its smaller iteration at the newly-realized capital of all things cool, the Ace Hotel. (The Breslin + Stumptown coffee + Opening Ceremony = cool factor overload?) All things considered, however, the outpost—like all of Leon and Lim’s launches—seems to be doing everything right, from stocking cheeky candies from around the world to editions of McSweeney‘s to much fawned-over Proenza Schouler handbags. Is Opening Ceremony the department store of the new decade? Memo to Barneys: Be afraid, be very afraid.

03/03/10 3:00am

Remember that big blizzard that hit on February 10? Yeah, that was the day before fashion week. While schools were closing and folks were getting out of work early, I was in the office frantically putting the finishing touches on a seven-page, color-coordinated spreadsheet outlining the next seven days’ worth of shows. Come Thursday morning, I put on my most glamorous first-day-of-fashion-week outfit and rubber boots to trudge out into the drifts, only to hear the first reports trickling in that Alexander McQueen had killed himself.

To put it mildly, getting that kind of news on the first day of fashion week (and mind you, fashion week continues to London, Paris, and Milan after New York, so really we’re just the appetizer course in a larger fashion week feast) was the worst kind of sucker punch. McQueen’s talents far outweigh the vast majority of American luminaries—even my most beloved indies. So the theme of the week became pressing on—through snowstorms and tragedies, all the while trying to look our Sunday best.

The Scene: If September’s event was defined by the onslaught of Twitter, February’s could have been titled “When Bloggers Attack.” It was like all of a sudden the community decided to catalogue and evaluate the presence of the dozens of bloggers that frequent the shows—spearheaded by quirky 13-year-old (yes, 13) Tavi, who’s irresistibly charming because she quotes movies like Clueless even though she wasn’t alive when it came out. Full-time-editors-trying-to-keep-their-jobs notwithstanding, the fashion horde loves a rule-breaker, and bloggers certainly fit that bill. Outside of the runways, the party circuit was noticeably dimmed (whether it was the snow or the recession or just the February blues, who knows): There was no Courtney Love in a gas station this year after Alexander Wang, though there was Patti Smith at the Milk Studios after-party for (and I’m still not entirely sure how this connection was made) LnA.

The Shows: As was the case with Spring 2010, fall’s collections seemed to bear the scars of a nation enveloped in job losses and retail closures. The big elements making an appearance at most of the runway were the most luxurious of materials: leather (dresses! T-shirts! Shorts!), velvet (shades of our 90s junior proms), and fur, fur, fur—from pink fur jackets at Peter Som to fur skirts at Michael Kors. I mean, was PETA too busy chasing down Johnny Weir at the Olympics or something? The one recession-inspired standout seemed to be the madcap print mixing—stripes with florals, metallics with knits, checks with… you get the idea. The whole effect went beyond boho and into thrift store-meets-workroom scraps chic, the pinnacle of which was Rodarte’s exquisitely crafted patchwork dresses and tattered bridal gowns. Other stand-outs for fall were Proenza Schouler’s Heathers-meets-Buffy moody prep school girls (think black lips, pleated skirts and thigh-highs); Altuzarra’s Edward Scissorhands-meets-Twilight leather bodysuits and long red dresses with exaggerated seams; and the week’s game-changer, Marc Jacobs, who avoided the majority of the week’s “trends” and opted for timeless style in the form of impeccably tailored jackets and glamorous, 30s-inspired gowns.

02/17/10 4:00am

It may be part of my job description to distill a certain number of consistent trends from the 16 trillion runway shows and market previews I see each season in a kind of fashion alchemy, but since I first started writing about style in the city in the early aughts, the task has seemed more convoluted each year.

Fashion is undergoing a transformation not unlike that of music in the late 90s: Niche and “alternative” is slowly becoming “pop” as indies, forward-thinking talents, and mid-price labels are becoming as relevant as the tribe’s previous leaders (Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, and the like). As such, the sheer number of shows held each year at fashion week has grown exponentially as an extraordinary diversity of talent has cropped up. One group’s mini-dress moment is another’s floor-skimming skirt trendsa, and so forth. The good news is, there now seems to be enough to make everyone happy.

Much as the fall season seemed to take its cues from a cultural recession without falling prey to its pessimism (hello, who wears strong-shouldered blazers and over-the-knee suede boots if they’re really scared about their financial future?), spring—for most designers—brought the promise of rejuvenation. If anything, financial downturns are often good for fashion because they force designers (and boutique owners) to single out what elements of the various collections are worth investing in. The effects, I’ll admit, were pretty varied—from Ralph Lauren’s Depression era-inspired “chic overalls” and denim-on-denim styling (gag) to Rodarte’s incredibly inventive MacBeth woman-warrior runway show (we’ll never wear it, but holy hell). Spring has slowly become about something that feels special: a one-of-a-kind print, a peek of lace, or a feather-topped hat. On the other hand, it’s a return to wearable basics in the form of sporty separates, pared-down silhouettes, and slouchy suiting.

For every trend in this piece that I think folks should get excited about wearing, there are at least two or three I think are outright ridiculous. I understand that runways and glossy pages are meant to be a kind of inspiration dressing, but there’s little I find most people can do with a dress that completely reveals your underpants (maybe it’s just me). I’m also not including other hot-off-the-catwalk highlights like feathers (looks fabulous, but I’d dare any girl to make it home from the LES in one piece), lucite platforms (also known as “props from Showgirls”), and leather shorts (so, so, so many reasons those words should never go together). Bottom line, think feminine farm girl or embellished tomboy and you won’t be far off.

02/03/10 4:00am

Think you’re sick of looking at heavy wool jackets and fur-embellished coats? Well, get ready for an entire week packed with models on runways wearing just that. But how much can you really complain about an entire week devoted to pretty people, pretty clothes, too much caffeine, Twitter, and alcohol? Ah, yes. My life is farce. For venturing into the platforms-and-accessories-laden hordes, here are a few insider tips to make you look official.

Location, Location, Location

After more than 20 years, the fashion week caravan is officially leaving Bryant Park, making this season’s collections in the tents its last. Next year, the “official” festivities move uptown to Lincoln Center, much to the grumblings of the community at large. (I’ve tried to point out the benefits of both a Whole Foods and an IMAX in close proximity, but to no avail.) Now, while the old guard says farewell to 42nd Street, the ever-expanding indie scene (aka “the cool kids”) is to be found downtown at Milk Studios, where MAC at Milk will hit its sophomore stride. Simply wandering around 15th Street on the west side is bound to yield some eye-catching results.

Ones to Watch

In addition to commercially successful indies like Alexander Wang (will he show football clutches and ladies in their underoos again?), there are more than a few rising stars to keep tabs on, which is, ultimately, what gatherings like Fashion Week are for. Jeremy Scott will create quite a draw, mostly because he’s become something of a Gaga designer, and it’s exciting that both he and the talented Peter Jensen are hopping the pond to show here in New York instead of London. In addition, some of CFDA award winner Sophie Theallet’s creations have made it onto the figure of one Michelle Obama, which virtually guarantees a packed front row and a collection that will be front-and-center in more department stores by fall. Finally, the indomitable twosome, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, will be showing their upscale, minimalist line The Row for the first time this season. Now, we’re admittedly not fans of the whole celebrity-turned-designer fad, but so far the twins seem to be the real deal.

Celebrities! Parties!
Pretty People!

Thanks to the ever-shrinking corridor that links fashion and celebrity, there are real, live celebrities at Fashion Week. To kick things off, Lady Gaga will perform at amfAR’s annual charity gala on February 10th at Cipriani on 42nd Street. Also, it’s pretty unlikely that Sarah Jessica Parker will skip out on Halston, considering she’s a president and chief creative officer now (that still feels weird to say). And finally, there’ll be enough reality TV blitz to go around, between cameras following Kelly Cutrone for her new Kell On Earth show to the Kardashians unveiling their line for Bebe during the week.

New York
Fashion Week runs

February 11-18,

showing Fall 2010 collections

01/20/10 5:40am

In the midst of a turbulent retail landscape, labels have been quick to roll out all manner of think—fast “new stuff” to entice shoppers—from collaborations and capsule collections to seasonal pop-ups. The trend shows no sign of slowing in 2010, as Levi’s joins forces with Opening Ceremony, a multitude of designers (like Stella McCartney and Tom Binns) create limited-edition pieces inspired by Tim Burton’s upcoming Alice in Wonderland, and—most heart-stoppingly horrifying of all—Jimmy Choo pairs up with Ugg Australia to create $600 frankenshoes.

All of these unconventional match-ups and special-editions, however, pale next to the most pervasive trend in contemporary high-end fashion: the lower-priced spin-off.

What started as a fall-and-spring phenomenon has evolved into a full-blown micro-industry, with a calendar that keeps pace with the primary collections’ endless stream of seasons—pre-fall, holiday, resort, etc. It seemed like we’d only gotten over the blitz surrounding Jimmy Choo for H&M (wherein even editors waited in lines around the block), when the Rodarte for Target frenzy started up. Already on the docket for 2010 (that we even know of—it’s only January): Jil Sander for Uniqlo in January, Sonia Rykiel for H&M in March, and Target’s insane lineup: Jean-Paul Gaultier in March; Zac Posen’s dresses, Cynthia Vincent’s shoes, and Eugenia Kim’s hats in April; and recently announced Tucker by Gaby Basora sometime after that.

Those who can’t (or would rather not) score a deal with Target or H&M have chosen to launch or expand their own lower-priced line, like Alexander Wang’s fast-selling T collection or Carolina Herrera’s “CH” line. Designers are also fleeing to TV, and with good reason: Naeem Khan, a lesser-known designer with a penchant for gorgeous cocktail dresses, created a line for HSN that sold out in ten minutes flat. QVC has enlisted a slew of fashion folk like Thuy, Rachel Zoe and Erin Fetherston to spearhead its section, and is even planning its own show during New York Fashion Week in February.

Much like everyone else, I’m not entirely sure what side of the fence I’m on. On one hand, there’s a certain genius and challenge in extending a high-price brand to a budget audience. Rodarte’s collection for Target, for example, disappointed many fans who’d hoped for better fabrics, but also brought their playful, artful aesthetic to the 99 percent of us who’ll never be able to afford the main collection. Which brings us to a second point: Designer fashion is insanely, prohibitively expensive. We live in a society that’s constantly tempting us with what we can’t have—in magazines or billboards—and there’s a satisfaction in finally being able to get a taste of what we’ve been missing.

On the other hand, we’re approaching a place where main collections are to lower-priced lines what couture once was to ready-to-wear: Everyone poo-poo’ed it, but it slowly became the main revenue keeping couture alive. It will be a sorry day indeed when Rodarte’s Target line is the only reason Rodarte can continue to exist. Truly, there is something afoul in an industry where that is the only resort.

01/06/10 6:00am

A new year feels like a fresh start at first, but within a week of New Year’s Eve—once you’re back to the five-day work week and realizing winter isn’t even halfway over—it can start to feel like the beginning of another long, hard slog. When I’m coming off a nice vacation and readying myself for the trip back to work, I like to visualize the next good thing—three-day weekend (MLK Day is January 18!), a dinner with friends, a birthday party, what-have-you—that’s coming my way. For those of you who are similarly inclined, here’s what holds promise for the kick-off year of the next decade.

High fashion is now available for under $100 nearly every other month
Thanks to a slew of designer capsule collections for mass retailers like Target, H&M, and JCPenney, there’s practically a new high-end-meets-low-end line launching every other month. Set your alarms for the second installment of Sonia Rykiel’s collection for H&M (February 20), which will include her signature colorful striped knits and French-girl dresses, and Zac Posen’s line for Target (April 25), highlights of which include a series of typically over-the-top party gowns and one dress that can be worn three different ways.

Fashion Week is moving to Lincoln Center
After years at Bryant Park, the big tents will make an epic move to the artsy-fartsy land of Lincoln Center for the Spring 2011 shows, which take to the runways in September. True, the fashion community’s less than enthused about the new location (whether you walk up from Columbus Circle or down from 66th Street, it’s extra schlepping in five-inch stilettos), but you just know there’ll be fanfare surrounding the new locale, and who doesn’t love fanfare? Plus, if the shows don’t cut it, the close proximity of an IMAX theater could provide some welcome relief.

A New York indie is taking the reins at Bill Blass
Jeffrey Monteiro was essentially an under-the-radar, little-known talent (much beloved by a select minority) before he was hand-picked to be the latest in a string of top-tier designers to revitalize the iconic brand—Peter Som being the most recent. Monteiro may not be a name the rest of the world knows, but boutique shoppers in New York have already fallen for the flatteringly structured dresses in his one-year-old line—likely because he’s been influenced by all the right mentors, from Derek Lam and Jane Mayle.

Isabel Marant and Jerome Dreyfuss are coming to Soho
In one of the great love stories of contemporary fashion, two French designers that have been much ballyhooed over are, wouldn’t ya know it, married. She’s known for her thrown-on sexy brand of bohemian dresses, and he for his buttery-soft, functional-yet-edgy handbags. Fortunately for us, they’re opening up their first U.S. outposts in Soho come February, right next door to each other. Don’t that just warm your heart?

12/23/09 3:00am

What If the World Threw a Recession and No One Came?
2009 answered the question: What would fashion folk do if the country stopped spending? The answer: Throw more lavish parties, launch more lines, and create a lot of fanfare around a movie that celebrates the way things used to be. Well, even if The September Issue couldn’t save the glossies, maybe over-the-knee boots (or the Snood) will save fashion.

Trends that likely won’t make the cut in 2010 but that we nonetheless indulged in:
Saints forgive us, we bought strong-shouldered blazers, over-the-knee boots and lavish, sparkly statement necklaces. Truth be told, we never dreamed in a million years we’d buy such extravagant-looking clothing in a recession.

Trends that likely won’t make the cut in 2010 and that we wisely managed to avoid:
Dizzying as fall’s sensational looks were, we still couldn’t reconcile our consciences to accept the purchase of things like fur vests (who’s cold now, bitches?) and leather shorts (or dresses, or really anything that’s not pants).

Nonsensical words we never thought would be important until this year:
Snuggie, Slanket, Snood, Gaga.

Biggest Buzzkill: Topshop
Remember when Topshop opened? Blogs tracked the opening with a fervor not seen since Proenza Schouler for Target. Kate Moss was like a god. People cried when the opening was delayed, drooled into their pillows thinking about that one time they went to the store in London, and lined up at dawn waiting for the doors to be flung open. And now? It’s like an H&M or Mango—over-saturated, over-trendy, and impossible to navigate. Passing the behemoth on Broadway feels eerily like running into an old high school boyfriend.

Cult we’ll never quite understand: Chanel Jade Nail Polish

Never in our wildest imaginings could we have anticipated that a nail polish would rival the fervor seen around Chanel’s purple-y black Vamp, and that the color of said polish would be a creamy, sickly green (currently selling for over $100 on eBay). We miss the 90s.

The Phenom: Alexander Wang
To recap: Wang’s Fall 2009 show in February was one of the most surprisingly difficult to land a ticket to (you could literally feel the buzz building around this kid), and by his Spring 2010 show in September, he was headlining Milk Studios’ calendar, sold out his accessories collection in hours and hosted an after-party with Courtney Love in a 14th Street gas station-turned bar. He’s so good, it’s scary.

No money for a store? Try a pop-up! Need a fast influx of cash? Try a collaboration!
Every time we turned around this year, there was another pop-up installation (Brooklyn Flea “Gifted” Market in Manhattan! L.A.’s Jenni Kayne suddenly has a shop in Soho!) and cross-brand collaboration (Opening Ceremony + Wild Things! Rodarte + Target!). Sure, it was overwhelming, but maybe it was exactly the kind of interspecies mingling that one needs to keep the tribe alive.

The New Golden Touch: MObama
Forget Oprah, forget Stephanie Meyer—this year, everything Michelle Obama touched turned to gold, from
J.Crew to Jason Wu. Within a year, a style blogger who was covering the First Lady’s ensembles had already scored a book deal (Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy), and Jenna Lyons of J.Crew earned herself a reported million-dollar bonus.

The Dearly Departed: Christian Lacroix & Martin Margiela
No, they’re not dead, but they’re certainly done with fashion for the time being. Lacroix’s house could not be saved from its own towering debt and was reduced to a mere licensing business with a handful of employees, while the mysterious Margiela quietly took his leave from the house he created, with no clear intentions to ever return.

12/09/09 4:00am

What is it about the holidays that invokes equal parts generosity and greed? On one hand, there’s a constant stream of gifting opportunities, helpful suggestions and the awareness that, yes, one is obligated to purchase cheery, festive presents for the top folks on one’s list. On the other hand, there’s Black Friday, the fresh-markdowns-induced frenzy of elbowing masses who—let’s face facts—are most often shopping for themselves.

During one such frenzy, I spotted a woman carrying a bag I’d coveted for months but was unable to afford, and I was amazed at how instantly jealous and stymied I felt—none of which was exactly “holiday spirit” material. And so, in the spirit of that envious consternation that invariably nips at the heels of a season of wishful thinking, here are the moment’s most coveted (and, for the most part, out of range) items. If you’ve got the cash (or you’re paid in euros), this is without a doubt what you should spend it on.

A Tom Binns Necklace
Remember that stunning photo of Michelle Obama wearing a strapless gown and an over-the-top-yet-still-elegant pearl-and-sparkle necklace? Well, then you’ve got some idea of Mr. Binn’s costume-y statement necklaces, which typically range from $500-$1,500. Go for colorful or estate-inspired—either way, you’ll transform everything in your closet, from a black dress to a t-shirt and jeans.

Custom Earnest Sewn Jeans
If you’re not already familiar with Earnest Sewn‘s brand of clean, sophisticated denim, I’d highly recommend taking a trip down to An Earnest Cut & Sew on Washington Street in the Meatpacking District. While rather expensive (most jeans run about $200), they’re darn near perfect, in an elaborate range of bootcut-to-skinny silhouettes. However, it’s impossible to find a pair that fits you just perfectly, so the store also offers custom pairs starting at $300. A pair of jeans that hugs your curves in all the right places, but also doesn’t show your butt when you sit down? Priceless.

Eres Lingerie
Forget La Perla, Agent Provocateur and, for goodness sake, Victoria’s Secret. The perfectly cut, wispy lace bras from Eres, rendered in feminine-but-not-girly shades of dusty rose, plum and pale gray, are the ultimate in sultry (but not overly sexy) underpinning. Frankly, it’s a shame they’re rarely visible. Especially since they’re over $300.

Proenza Schouler’s PS1 Handbag
It’s hard to emphasize the “it” nature of this handbag. During Fashion Week, I started counting how many editors either carried one, stared at a friend’s, or loudly discussed saving up for one. Possibly most importantly, in classic Proenza Schouler fashion, this is in no way an annoying-looking bag. With its part men’s briefcase, part elegant lady’s carryall vibe, it’s kind of hard to imagine ever getting tired of it—especially in black leather or soft caramel suede. At this point, though, it’s tough to find them, and even when you do, the price tag remains a stiff $1,595.

A Gary Graham Dress
Nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award this year, Gary Graham‘s moody, feminine pieces have become as sought-after as they are hard to track down. With layers of carefully piled lace and chiffon, or exquisitely patterned silks, the dresses manage to be confident, feminine and tough all at the same time. It’s like only the coolest boutique in any given neighborhood is permitted to stock his wares, and once you finally lay eyes on (and invariably fall in love with) each finely wrought dress, you discover that detail has its price: usually around $800.

11/25/09 4:00am

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).

Albertine General
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)