Browsing the hallowed halls of Bergdorf Goodman and sashaying down Madison Avenue may be iconic New York shopping experiences, but true fashionistas know that the city’s real gems are its boutique shops. Each one is curated by the singular and impeccable eye of its owner and provides access to unique items of clothing that you can be sure to stand out in.
Stepping into Kirna Zabete is like falling down the rabbit hole into a wacky, designer-filled wonderland. The multi-room space in hip South SoHo features striped floors, hot pink columns, lipstick-red archways, and massive black-and-white chandeliers. The décor says it loud and clear: Only those with bold style need browse here.
If you’re a fashion devotee, get excited to spot the names of designers that you’ve never heard of. Boutique owners Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley have a knack for spotting talented unknowns and featuring them before anyone else. Where else are you going to find a jersey tee trimmed with ostrich feather, or a cute little clutch with a fried egg and chili peppers done up in intricate beadwork? Buy one of these pieces, and in a couple years when everyone is wearing them, you’ll be able to say, “Oh THAT designer? I’ve been wearing her for ages.” Not ready to take the gamble? They also select the most interesting pieces from the collections of established designers like Valentino and Christian Dior, and prominent up-and-comers like Anthony Vaccarello and Rosie Assoulin.
FiveStory is pure elegance. A marble-and-velvet oasis inside a tony Upper East Side townhouse that you’ll fantasize about moving into instead of shopping at. Well, you’ll be thinking about shopping, too. The layout is maze-like, but you won’t mind getting disoriented one bit as you meander through room after room of treasures for men, women, and children. If you fantasize about dressing your child as a stylish mini-adult, they’ve got you covered.
The goods live up to the exclusive feeling of the environment. If you want to make a splash at a party, try on a sequined American flag button-up in magenta, gold, and teal. If it works for you, make sure to buy those shiny gold high-heeled sandals shaped like Chinese-dragonesque cats to wear with it. Helmed by Claire Distenfeld, a burgeoning fashion mogul still in her 20s, the boutique carries only pieces that are uniquely exquisite. You’ll find avant-garde pieces that most uptown stores would never carry for fear of not finding the right buyer. You’ll find designers carried nowhere else in America. You’ll find pieces created especially for FiveStory that can’t be purchased anywhere else. If that’s not très chic, what is?
Owen is one of those painfully hip spaces that couldn’t exist anywhere but New York. The store’s industrial cement floors and exposed brick are classic remnants of the Meatpacking District’s heritage. Walk in, and for a moment you’ll wonder what the odd material is that covers one wall and the entire ceiling. Then you look closer: 25,000 paper bags forming a honeycomb pattern.
The store is consistently filled with a very particular type of customer – sassy, savvy men and women with a taste for bold trends and the confidence to pull them off. Lots of mesh and cutouts for the ladies, for example. You may find the clientele intimidating, but it gets balanced out by the accommodating staff. Owner Philip Salem says their goal is to treat everyone like Beyoncé. Between the fabulous fashions and the VIP treatment, your inner Beyoncé will be dying to get out.