New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: Shopping In The City

The last few weeks of the summer are upon us yet work week Manhattan is not its usual late summer ghost town. By contrast, NYC’s shopping avenues seem full of energy during these “lazy, crazy, hazy days.” Some of the activity can be pinned on an influx of tourism, however it appears that many locals have stayed en ville rather than decamping to the Hamptons, Europe or other parts unknown. What’s the point, really, when we have the best of everything, especially shopping right here! Accordingly, I have compiled a short list of a few interesting boutiques that are off the beaten path and may be foreign even to those who live here. After all, there’s always someplace new to discover in this city, even if it’s in your backyard.

The Cynthia Rowley store at 43 East 78th Street (off of Madison) is one such “backyard delight.” As someone who lives in the ‘hood I was astonished to realize that I had never ventured into this adorable boutique before, however I see how one could easily miss it. The store’s entrance is set back from 78th Street with tree branches curving around an arched walkway giving the feeling that you’ve stumbled onto a secret garden. On the ground floor is the actual store which currently features Ms. Rowley’s neoprene-like dresses, pants and tops along with other offerings such as a chambray peasant tunic from her spring/summer line, all on sale. The feel of the neoprene is not your usual somewhat rigid fabric; rather it’s surprisingly soft and comfortable to wear. The sales associate duly warned me of its habit forming properties. I also admired a tray of rings and proceeded to get one stuck on my heat-induced swollen knuckle, hence my foray upstairs to run my hand under cold water.

Cynthia Rowley’s Curious Candy
Photo: Laurel Marcus

As if the store itself wasn’t enough cute in its Alice in Wonderland fashion, just wait til you get up a flight– you may think you’ve gone to the Mad Hatter’s tea party when, in actuality, you’ve just entered Curious Candy. A long center table and chairs are flanked by candy dispenser covered walls and more sweet treats than anyone’s sugar tooth could possibly shake a piece of dental floss at. The space is perfect for kid’s birthday parties but has also marked the spot, (appropriately enough) for “Sweet Sixteens” and other more adult happenings. It’s worth taking a peek just for the kitschy adorable-ness factor.

Astro Gallery’s back room
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Another store which can take you on a flight of fancy, this time of the natural history/geological kind, is the Astro Gallery of Gems at 417 Fifth Avenue between 37th and 38th Streets. I had originally visited the store a few months ago for a cocktail party featuring: a rare gem as the guest of honor  Since then I had the opportunity to go back for a guided tour by owner Dennis Tanjeloff. Needless to say it was fascinating; I even brought along my 20-year-old son who enjoyed it immensely.

Astro Gallery
Photo: Laurel Marcus

The gigantic store houses museum quality gems in their natural state, crystals and fossils from archeological digs at all price points, as well as jewelry and decorative items such as shells, coral, sponges and the like that would be great to display in a beach house (hostess or housewarming gift, anyone?). There’s something in the gallery to interest everyone from an extensive collection of shark teeth of varying sizes and ages, to beautiful malachite boxes, petrified wood tabletops and even a full bear skeleton. Pieces are brought in from Europe, Asia and the U.S. and collectors everywhere are familiar with the treasures that can be found here. What’s more, the store ships worldwide and will deal with any and all customs issues in case that’s a concern. Make sure you check out the back room where cases of the most pricey and rare of all the collectible gemological specimens are displayed.

Eve Bari store
Photo: Laurel Marcus

If shopping were a hockey tournament, then this third store would be the hat trick. Nothing could be more fitting since Eve Bari, 205 W. 57th Street (between 6th and 7th Aves) is an accessories boutique predominately known for its hats. I like to come here at least once a season (although TBH, I probably frequent the place a lot more often than that), to scope out the great selection of lids and fascinators. I have yet to leave this store without purchasing several unique items.

Hats Off to Eve Bari
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Prices are quite reasonable while the sales associates are friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful in guiding you to the hat that most suits your personality and lifestyle. I always get compliments on the various head wear that I’ve picked up there and since I’ve been growing out my hair I am resorting to them more often than not. I find that hats are great for looking both pulled together and mysterious. Of late, I have been favoring more big brimmed hats to shield myself from the sun, however you will find every kind of brim style here.

Monika Chiang Coat at Roundabout

My last two stores get an honorable mention and are both on the UES. I’ve written about Roundabout New & Resale Couture in several previous articles. Make sure you ask for Patrick who is a great brand ambassador for the Madison Avenue and 83rd Street store. As of yesterday, (Wednesday, August 12) the boutique is now featuring its fall/winter merchandise. You can find everything from Chanel suits and handbags, to Alexander McQueen moto booties, to Gucci furs plus lots more, all in barely or never worn condition. It’s rare that I don’t fall in love with something here which is why I restrict my visits. Prices are generally not ridiculous and are in line for what an item should be. There is an additional Roundabout on East 72nd Street, however I prefer this newer, slightly uptown location.

Lanvin necklace
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Finally, there’s Chuckies Shoes, also with two UES locations, one on 75th and Lex, the other on 85th and Madison. They both carry a curated array of high-end designer shoes, handbags, scarves and jewelry including this Lanvin necklace at the 1169 Madison Avenue store.  Right now there is a sale on spring/summer sandals and sneakers while new fall/winter shoes and boots are here and more are arriving every day.

If you do go late summer shopping, make sure you stay hydrated. In this heat it wouldn’t take much to literally shop til you drop.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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