Shopping in New York! It conjures up images of Carrie Bradshaw accidentally buying five pairs of shoes at Manolo Blahnik and Audrey Hepburn peering through the window at Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue. But what most people don’t realise is that it can be quite an adjustment shopping in New York when most of us Aussies are used to everything being readily available in a mall or central CBD. All of the best little boutiques of New York are spread over several blocks and in different neighbourhoods but that also makes shopping in nyc one of the best ways to discover the city. Be sure to pack those Adidas Yeezy Boost 350s for a stylish yet comfy marathon shopping experience, you’re going to need them.
After spending the past four years writing about fashion and retail in New York and having pounded the pavement each month looking for new stores to discover, I think it’s safe to say I have a pretty solid grasp of all things nyc retail. So I thought why not share some of that knowledge with those looking to discover the real New York shopping scene minus the big clothing chains that are easy enough to find and that feature on every other shopping guide.
I decided to focus this guide solely on Manhattan with an emphasis on Soho however the other boroughs of New York also host some of the best shopping in the city from fabulous weekend flea markets in Harlem to the niche independent boutiques of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The main shopping areas of Manhattan are Soho, the Meatpacking District, Bleeker St in Greenwich Village, Flatiron, the Lower East Side, Madison Ave from 78th to 58th St and then Fifth Ave from 58th to 48th St. It’s also worth noting that many brands have stores in a couple of different locations. Your best bet is to hit up Soho for a mix of everything and then Madison Ave for luxury clothing and Fifth Ave for luxury accessories where most brands like Louis Vuitton and Versace have their flagship stores.
Most of the stores in Flatiron and the Meatpacking District have sister stores in Soho, so that’s why this guide will also focus on the area of Soho. However Soho does get very busy so set out early, most stores open at 10am so get there and fuel up on coffee in one of the cafes dotted around the nearby Nolita area. For an Aussie coffee there’s Ruby’s on Mulberry St, a cute Australian run cafe that can give you a little taste of home.
Essential New York
Barneys New York
Barneys’ Madison Avenue store is an institution in New York, however the new downtown location opened up in February 2016, and is a must see for the colossal centrally-located spiral staircase.
101 7th Ave (South Central Park)
Architect Michael Newman is in the process of redesigning the main floor as a series of salons which you could be the first to see. The men’s store is on one side of Fifth Avenue while the women’s is on the other, naturally they both need their own buildings to house all of that luxury. The windows alone are also a beautiful museum-worthy viewing experience. No one does a store window like Bergdorfs.
745 Fifth Ave (South Central Park)
Saks Fifth Avenue
It’s all in the name isn’t it, Fifth Avenue. Another New York luxury stalwart.
611 Fifth Ave (Midtown)
A true New Yorker the Macy’s Herald Square store has been around since 1902 when it was the first store with a modern-day escalator. The wooden escalator is still in operation today and rightly so given the 11 levels that make up the department store.
151 W 34th St (Herald Square)
The original Lexington Ave location is a mammoth store taking up a whole nyc block however a smaller more manageable version also exists in Soho.
59th St and Lexington Ave (Midtown) + 504 Broadway (Soho)
Cool Multi-Brand Concept Stores
When you’re checking out the west side’s stunning above ground High Line park, stop in at one of the coolest retail concept stores along the way. It’s a space that has been designed like a magazine and changes in the same way that an art gallery does every few months. Previous themes have included Color, Making Things, Love, and Made in America.
144 Tenth Ave (Chelsea)
Dover Street Market
The is the store that all other high-end alternative boutiques measure themselves against. Think custom Prada (yes, you read that right), Commes Des Garcons, Nike collaborations and emerging designers. This is another store that closes and reorganizing its seven floors every six months.
160 Lexington Ave (Murray Hill)
A store by the too-cool-for-school kids behind VFiles that features artist and sometimes technology collaborations with kooky up-and-coming design talent.
12 Mercer St (Soho)
Totokaelo is one of the newest boutiques added to the hip Soho neighbourhood to much fan-fare when it first opened. Its triple-height ceilings, a private dressing room, an exclusive men’s basement, and two outdoor spaces are what makes the space incredible and that’s not even talking about the clothes and accessories. We’re talking Dries van Noten, The Row, and Rick Owens. Need I say more?
54 Crosby St (Soho)
This has been a longtime favourite store of New York sneakerheads and streetwear purveyors however the more recent addition of a women’s store across the street from the Noho flagship has taken the store to grand new heights.
644 Broadway (NoHo)
This is THE original cool downtown multi-brand youth culture store. First started back in 2002 by a pair of friends on what once was a quiet Soho street, has since grown to be one of the most recognised boutiques across the globe for its consistent artist and designer collaborations. Past collabs have included Calvin Klein, Chloë Sevigny, Rihanna, Tevas, Maison Margiela and even The Muppets.
35 Howard St (Soho)
Homewares and Furniture
A one-stop-shop kitchen wares shop for everything edgy, unique and a little bit off-kilter to make your kitchen a real talking point.
889 Broadway (Flatiron)
ABC Carpet & Home
This is the ultimate home goods store and one of my favourite places in Manhattan. This is where all of the top interior, set and store concept designers go to shop or simply to get inspired. It’s a little bit pricey but still a great stop for some fabulous window shopping.
888 Broadway (Flatiron)
A colourful contemporary furniture and homewares store inspired by the 1960s mod culture. Jonathan’s store was first set up in 1998 and has included all sorts of design references since then, including mid-century modern, Brancusi and pop artwork.
53 Greene St (Soho)
A high end gallery/furniture store, also selling original art and homewares with a modern contemporary twist.
37 Orchard St (Soho)
Touted as the Japanese version of Ikea. That’s all you need to know to be sold really isn’t it.
475 Fifth Ave (Soho)
Consignment and Thrift
What goes around comes around
This is where the celebrities go to shop vintage. This store makes every single vintage/consignment best of list for a reason, it has an enormous selection of like-new designer pieces for guys and girls. The range also includes high-end bags and jewelry, including a whole lot of Chanel.
351 W Broadway (Soho)
While this store is a great first stop on any thrift store hunt in New York, if you can get to the Williamsburg location, it’s about five times larger and is the best thrift/consignment store in the city. Almost half my wardrobe over the last four years has come from Beacons. I’m talking a vintage sheer watercolour print maxi from the 70s that I wore to an Ann Arbour garden wedding, a brand new J.Crew Collection dress worn to the New York City Ballet and the best worn-to-death soft t-shirts that are super cheap.
10 W 13th St + 74 Guernsey St (Union Square + Williamsburg)
Buffalo Exchange is a buy, sell and trade thrift store first started in 1974 in Tucson , Arizona with nyc locations that include Boerum Hill, Williamsburg, Chelsea, and Astoria. One of New York’s staple thrift stores.
332 E 11th St (East Village)
One of New York’s biggest and best affordable consignment stores stocking clean, in-season designer and contemporary labels. You can find everything here like Miu Miu coats, Lanvin dresses, Chanel wallets and Fendi key chains.
15 Bleeker St (NoHo)
Creatures of Comfort
A downtown cool-kid staple store. Labels like Common Projects, Venessa Arizaga, Mansur Gavriel, and Acne sitting alongside the house line.
205 Mulberry St
The ultimate cool urban surfer dude’s retreat. Bonus points for having a coffee shop inside the store and for being located on the beautiful cobblestone Crosby St.
31 Crosby St
American Two Shot
This next generation Opening Ceremony look-a-like is similarly run by a pair of best friends. Here’s another store that just gets how great having an in-store coffee shop is for the overall experience. The merchandise is mostly independent designers like Samantha Pleet and Rachel Antonoff with some vintage peppered in, plus a house line that’s aptly called, Clothes.
135 Grand St
Assembly New York
An alternative contemporary store stocking its own in-house men’s and women’s clothing next to brands like Pari Desai, Eckhaus Latta and Shaina Mote.
170 Ludlow St
Maryam Nassir Zadeh
This is every fashion editor in New York’s favourite store for edgy up-and-coming cult labels next to the store’s in-house label. The footwear is especially cool and other brands include Acne Studios, Apiece Apart, Eckhaus Latta, Jacquemus, JW Anderson and Linda Farrow.
123 Norfolk St
The wunderkind designer’s flagship store is a great spot to pick up something to blend in with the cool downtown crowd or to just marvel at the rotating artist collaborations that take place in the store’s foyer.
103 Grand St
The queen of effortless and cool French je ne sais quoi, has a minimal yet warm and inviting store filled with bleached wooden structures that demand to be gazed at.
469 Broome St
Nike Lab 21M
If Nike’s flagship five levels of Niketown in Midtown is too much too handle, this boutique Nike concept store is a more niche downtown version that only showcases the freshest limited edition products for guys.
21 Mercer St
The next best thing to come out of Canada after the Canadian suit was Aritzia. Great quality and an awesome selection of the best in-season high-end denim like J Brand, next to the brand’s solid in-house label.
The modern urban hippie. If Bluesfest, Woodford Folk Festival and Splendour In The Grass had a joint women’s clothing store, this would be it.
99 Spring St
Sort of like an upmarket American version of Country Road. Think modern prep.
99 Prince St (womenswear)+ 484 Broadway (menswear)
A good stop for quality women’s denim and leather goods. Also owned by J.Crew so still a little bit preppy with a utilitarian twist, a New York girl’s weekend uniform.
One of the most stunning boutiques in New York from a store merchandising perspective, it’s well worth stopping in here just to gawk. However I can’t guarantee you will walk out empty handed despite the steeper price tags of some of the clothing there’s plenty of other lifestyle tchotchkes to take home.
Artists & Fleas
Fort Greene Flea
Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market