New York may be known for its retail giants, but it is the local artisans and emerging designers whose niche boutiques and shops embody the city’s entrepreneurial spirit
Great views of Columbus Circle and Central Park South from Mandarin Oriental, New York
Inside the Armani store
Just downstairs from Mandarin Oriental, New York, on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, Bouchon Bakery is the perfect place to start your day. This offshoot of the Napa bakery, opened by beloved chef Thomas Keller, offers a perfectly frothed latte and a myriad of delectables, from chocolate croissants and freshly baked bread to their award-winning sticky buns.
Afterwards, a walk along Central Park is a pleasant way to reach the key Manhattan streets of Fifth Avenue, East 57th and Madison Avenue which have enjoyed a renaissance as the world-class destination for the big names of international luxury retail – on par with Bond Street in London, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Via Montenapoleone in Milan and the Ginza district in Tokyo. This is where you’ll find high-end department stores such as the iconic Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York, where ladies who lunch cross paths with hip downtowners and high-profile professionals all prowling for couture.
Savvy New Yorkers after something a little more under the radar head to Japanese department store Takashimaya – the only US outpost of the store – a six-floor shopping palace divided into six well-curated departments. On the ground floor, beauty addicts stock up on La Base fragrances, and colour and skincare from Babor Day Spa, while house gifts and decadent treats – everything from elegant sake bowls and silk robes to necklaces by Gabriella Kiss – are liberally sprinkled throughout. Colourful arrangements fill the sixth-floor floral boutique, while in the basement is the heavenly Tea Box salon, a café serving 42 varieties of tea.
The lobby at Mandarin Oriental, New York
Tory Burch’s Nolita store
For a purely architectural experience, make a stop at the newly opened Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas-designed Armani superstore, where each Armani line is split between separate floors united by a sinuous steel staircase reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim 30 blocks north. The spiral leads up to a bar and great Italian restaurant.
One can’t go to New York without hitting Museum Mile, a lovely stretch along the Upper East Side of Fifth Avenue, lined with museums and other fine arts institutions such as El Museo del Barrio, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim itself. Not only is the area culturally stimulating, it also has several high-end boutiques. Your first stop should be Ankasa New York on Lexington Avenue. Here, husband and wife team Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia – Indian-born designers whose elegantly embroidered fabrics tinsel the collections of Oscar de la Renta, Escada and Vera Wang, among others – opened their first retail store. On two dreamy levels, shoppers can find plush beds draped with cashmere throws and signature silk comforters and pillows, lizard and snakeskin cushions, furniture, lighting and delicate home accessories.
At the Upper East Side shop of fashion veteran and globetrotter Roberta Freymann, you’ll find hand-picked treasures such as beaded Masai jewellery, silk tops from India, ponchos, hand-knit sweaters, wool scarves and shearlings. Meanwhile, around the corner at her outpost shop, Roberta Roller Rabbit, you’ll find cosy homewares, including knits and linens and Freymann’s distinctive furniture collection – classic coffee tables and hand-painted armoires.
A bespoke jewellery case facilitates browsing and conversation at Jennifer Miller, an eponymous boutique that sells a mix of fine and faux gems as well as accessories and apparel to women in the know. Just on the other side of Park Avenue, at the newly opened boutique of British jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, darkened windows and a dazzling Swarovski crystal-encrusted ceiling set the mood for her unique lacquered and gemstone-studded baubles and opulent jewels.
The mini department store Jeffrey was the Meatpacking District’s first hip arrival
Solange Azagury-Partridge’s new Uptown jewellery boutique
Make an appointment at the JBM Vintage showroom – located in an Upper East Side townhouse between Park and Madison Avenues – to survey the jaw-dropping collection of co-owners Jennifer Bandier and Lori Margolis, which includes labels like Dior, Chanel, Halston, Pucci and YSL. Here, you’ll rub shoulders with New York’s most sought-after stylists who will likely be pulling clothes for movies and television. Behind the newly opened doors of Edit, inside another Upper East Side townhouse, hip uptowners find high-end designers, such as Michael Kors, Henry Beguelin, Marchesa, Derek Lam and Martin Grant, as well as more casual day brands like Raven Denim and Christopher Fischer cashmere. For those who like to take their shopping at a leisurely pace, this two-storey shop has an upstairs lounge and bar with a fireplace and flat-screen TV, as well as a ground-floor garden for special events.
Hungry yet? Stop at the Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky, a wood-panelled Viennese café with specialities such as sausages, spätzle and strudel. The real treats are the coffees, piled high with schlag (whipped cream). Afterwards, take a peek at the Galerie’s collection of early- 20th-century German and Austrian art from Klimt to Kandinsky.
A hotchpotch of grit and recent polish are what make the Meatpacking District so interesting. Located between 16th and Little West 12th streets, the neighbourhood retains a smidgen of its history while housing high-end retail like Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Diane von Furstenberg – making it the edgier cousin of Madison and Fifth Avenues.
Fuel up on bangers and mash at the café-boutique 202 Nicole Farhi before perusing Farhi’s laid-back attire and equally mellow homewares. Two blocks south on Ninth Avenue, you’ll cross West 14th Street, brimming with unique stores such as Henry Beguelin, that has developed a cult following for its hippie-chic leather goods. On the same street, early Meatpacking pioneer Jeffrey Kalinsky opened the mini department store Jeffrey in the 1990s and since then it has been adored for its well-edited collection of haute couture and fabulous shoes. Newcomers including beloved Israeli designer Yigal Azrouël and Brazilian createur Carlos Miele have also set up shop on this strip.
Greenwich Village, with its calmer, more manageable feel, quaint buildings and cobblestone streets, offers a great respite from Manhattan’s tall buildings and bustling crowds. Streets are lined with boutique-style offshoots of major labels like Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Lulu Guinness and Cynthia Rowley, alongside independently owned shops.
Satisfy your wanderlust in the travel department of Takashimaya New York
The new High Line public park on Manhattan’s west side is already much loved
At Mick Margo, an artful clothing boutique named after the proprietor’s British dandy grandfather, Nadine Ferber has a well-curated selection of womenswear, mostly from emerging designers in New York and Paris. Sunshine & Shadow silk dresses, Alexander Wang coats, and Devotte shoes share the space with Cacharel separates, Isabel Marant wispy tees and Karen Walker sunglasses. Further east, in the more central Village (as opposed to the West Village), alongside New York’s cobblestone Bond Street, two newly opened stores have accrued a considerable number of downtown followers. At Oak, an offshoot of Brooklyn’s best-kept secret, owners Jeff Madalena and Louis Terline opted to fuse their men and women’s store into one airy loft-like space, brimming with indie New York labels like Unis, Anna Corinna and Vena Cava, alongside more established labels, including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Rick Owens. Just a few blocks away at the minimalist Debut New York, promising new womenswear designers are given a platform in a gallery-like setting where each label has its own rack. The boutique carries limited items from a roster of around 20 clothing, jewellery, footwear and handbag designers, many in their first or second seasons.
In Nolita, the neighbourhood just north of Little Italy, boutiques still feel like boutiques, and the name on the shop’s awning is often the name of the person serving you. On Elizabeth Street, just bordering Chinatown, designer Emma Fletcher’s old-fashioned dress shop, Lyell, carries her beautifully tailored and elegantly feminine line of dresses and blouses, as well as a fine-spun collection of vintage clothes, shoes and jewellery. A few blocks north at Barker Black, English bench-made men’s shoes are the thing to bring home for the beau. On the same street, Emmett McCarthy’s EMc2 is home to matching dresses and coats in his classic aesthetic and bold prints. Across the street, custom-made men’s shirts are the draw at Seize sur Vingt, where leather binders are filled with colourful Egyptian-cotton samples; while a few doors down, two huge orange doors open into the world of Tory Burch. It was here that the designer launched her famously logoed sportswear and accessories almost six years ago.
Shoe store Edon Manor has the feel of an English home
Street cool in SoHo
On Mott Street, shoe designers Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison’s Sigerson Morrison brand is a cult label among New York’s most fashionable. The main label is sold in a larger Nolita space on Prince Street, and its original boutique is devoted to its secondary collection, Belle by Sigerson Morrison. Stop in, too, on fashion reseller Resurrection, where you can browse a collection of mint pieces dating back to the 1960s, including Chanel and Hermès. Ask nicely, and owners Katy Rodriguez and Mark Haddaway may be willing to pull out more gems (like a Pierre Cardin umbrella or Gucci handbag) from their well-stocked basement.
Charming boutiques continue further east in the once-gritty Lower East Side. The newly opened Eva is the revival of Stephanie Pappas’ sleek boutique carrying avant-garde and independent designers. It also doubles as a gallery showcasing local artists. At Maryam Nasir Zadeh, owners Maryam and her fiancé Udar Kak took their diverse talents and heritage (she is a Parsons-trained designer from Iran and he is an art director from India) and yielded a thoroughly unique shop, both in design and inventory. Labels like Vena Cava, A.P.C. and Rachel Comey hang alongside hand-frayed T-shirt dresses from Raquel Allegra and vintage Navajo ponchos, all within a stark white-washed brick and concrete space.
Lastly, New York is a pedestrian-friendly city, so give your feet a real treat with a trip to Tribeca boutique Edon Manor. Proprietor Davinia Wang plucks her favourite shoes and accessories off the runways of Paris and into the dreamy shop, named after her family’s estate near Oxford, England. The jewellery box of a shop stocks limited runs of items by designers such as Derek Lam, Azzedine Alaïa, Sergio Rossi and Givenchy.
After all the shopping and sightseeing, a glass of champers is in order; and with views of Central Park and the city skyline, Mandarin Oriental, New York’s 35th-floor Lobby Lounge is the perfect place to end the day.