“The best part about shopping here is getting lost in the streets and stepping into any store that catches your eye,” says Brandy Joy Smith, a fashion stylist for advertising and editorial photo shoots for whom shopping is literally a full-time job.
“New York has a sense of discovery built into its flavor,” says Alex Sweterlitsch, who consults for brands like Gucci and Coach, and dresses celebrities and models for fashion stories.
But move fast: That must-have item you spotted in a window or inside a cool pop-up today might be gone tomorrow. “New York is constantly changing,” says Smith. “The style here is so innovative. Even the most extreme forms of self-expression are welcome.”
And while traditional retail is hurting, nothing beats the experience of browsing the racks, feeling the clothes, and trying them on in an expertly-curated store, says Sweterlitsch: “People crave that in-person contact.”
We polled designers and stylists on their favorite neighborhoods to browse and stores to shop.
Best all-around: Soho
The high-low mix of big luxury brands, indie boutiques, and spontaneous street fashion makes Soho a favorite destination.
This neighborhood is mobbed by tourists year-round for a reason: The concentrated high-low mix of indie boutiques, covetable street fashion and department stores are a shopper’s paradise. “Everything you’d want or can possibly imagine exists here,” says Smith.
Emerging designers: Lower East Side
The Lower East Side is “grungy and trendy at the same time,” says stylist Brandy Joy Smith.
Up until the 1970s, shoppers flocked to Orchard Street on the Lower East Side for heavily discounted brand names. Today, the neighborhood comprises art galleries, trendy restaurants and bars and small underground boutiques — but still retains its gritty art-punk ethos. “The vibe of the neighborhood is a big part of the Lower East Side’s charm factor,” says Smith. “It’s grungy and trendy at the same time. And it doesn’t try too hard. There’s a mix of upscale, vintage and boutique pieces in a non-fussy atmosphere. ”
Luxury: Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue draws both locals and tourists, with proximity to desirable stores and venerable museums.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The famous shopping stretch of Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side is home to high-end labels like Chanel, Tom Ford, and Burberry; fine jewelry from Cartier, Chopard and Graff; and shoes by Roger Vivier and Jimmy Choo. And even if most shoppers can’t pop in and buy, these stores are so stylized that gazing at the window displays is akin to spending time at an art gallery.
“Madison Avenue still holds it down for luxury brands,” says Sweterlitsch, who lives in the neighborhood and calls it quieter and more relaxed than downtown. “I never feel rushed or crowded when I shop there. Plus, when you reach retail fatigue, Central Park or a museum is always nearby to enjoy.”
Indie Hip: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg has been mainstreamed with some bigger brand stores, but hipster indie finds are still a big draw.
Smith often takes a slow stroll in the area for people-watching: “Dressing in Williamsburg is slightly different than how people dress in Manhattan,” she says. “It’s a touch laid back and a touch trendy. There are also countless clean beauty and wellness stores that will make you feel good.”
Local fave: West Village
Greenwich Village is European in feel, and home to some of the quaintest shops in the city, says stylist William Graper.
“The West Village is home to some of the quaintest shops in New York City,” says Graper, who declares this neighborhood the most pleasant shopping experience in the city because of its tree-lined streets, welcoming shopkeepers and less people and traffic compared to other neighborhoods. “Something about shopping in the West Village feels organic — you see something in the window and pop in to find out more,” he adds. “It’s less of a destination shopping spot and more European in its casual feel.”
For downtown cool: Opening Ceremony
For all-day inspiration: Dover Street Market
On the outside, it looks like a classical temple, easily mistaken for a bank or a staid office building. Inside, the architecture is a riot of color, texture and patterns and outsider art. White recommends grabbing a coffee or a snack at Rose Bakery downstairs and spending a few hours taking in the visual displays and the new collections.
For French style: L’Appartment Sézane New York
For scouting new talent: Sincerely Tommy
For Gifting: A/D/O
A/D/O Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is a hidden jewel for gifts.
Merchandise rotates in conjunction with the creative space’s calendar. On any given day, you might pick up a line of limited-edition sweatshirts designed in collaboration with up-and-coming brands, bleached denim clothing and accessories by LikeMindedObjects or handmade accessories from local designers.
Best shops by category
Unique finds: IF Soho
The shop was founded in 1978, and sibling-owners Jeannette Bird, Johnny Farah and Soha Farah claim they were the first in the city to sell designers like John Paul Gaultier, Maison Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Marc Jacobs.
Coolest chain: Sandro
With six locations in New York, this French brand is the Goldilocks of clothes: Not too expensive, not too cheap and not too overexposed. (You won’t show up to a party wearing the same outfit as another guest.) It’s just right. “When I want to grab something a little more retro, fun, and cool, I look to Sandro,” says Smith. “They nail mixing classic silhouette pieces with fun, unexpected designs, prints or shapes.”
Most affordable: & Other Stories
And you can recycle your old clothing to score a discount.
Emerging designers: Kirna Zabête
Longstanding Soho boutique Kirna Zabete celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a special capsule collection.
Kira Luxon Photo
Punk rock fantasy: Trash & Vaudeville
Millennial minimalism: Bird
Shoppers looking for more low-key vibes would do well to head to Brooklyn, where both boutiques and vintage shops abound.
Best suits: Suit Supply
Even though it inhabits the middle zone of suit pricing (starting at $359 and with pricier options for made-to-measure), Sweterlitsch says the suits are made exceptionally well.
Local designers: In God We Trust
Sustainable chic: Reformation
Hip beachwear: Pilgrim Surf + Supply
Edgy eveningwear: Landeros New York
Men’s streetwear: Noah
Opened by the former creative director of Supreme, Soho shop Noah specializes in elevated streetwear.
Courtesy of Noah
His goal: To create clothes that are built to last. Noah recently added another section of well-priced elevated streetwear to its shop, and White often stops by to take in the store’s “good vibes and interior design” and to chat with the hip sales associates about new merchandise.
For do-gooders: Urban Zen
A percentage of sales sold go back to the Urban Zen foundation, which supports charitable initiatives to empower children, educate and improve healthcare around the world.
Unique accessories: Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Manhattan shoppers who reach retail fatigue can head to Central Park for a break.
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Estate jewelry: Doyle & Doyle
Trending sneakers: Extra Butter
Notice-me eyewear: Linda Farrow
What Goes Around Comes Around vintage stocks expertly curated denim.
What Goes Around Comes Around
The RealReal, with several locations across the city, offers a supremely edited selection of apparel and accessories.