Downtown Know-How

Where to shop in lower Manhattan’s cutest neighborhoodsVint & York

Before Elizabeth St. becomes a line of cannoli bakeries and family-style Italian eateries, its upper reaches are grounds for some of the best shopping in downtown, equal parts laid-back and chic with a mix of global brands and local one-offs. Here’s our pick of the pack.

As of last June, fans of Canadian apparel company Roots no longer have to purchase via “Add to Bag” online and hope for the best. In the new Nolita Roots store, chunky sweaters, varsity jackets, sweats bearing the ubiquitous beaver emblem, and leather goods ranging from tundra-ready boots to schoolboy bags are set in a space that feels something like a cross between a gallery and a lodge lobby, long and narrow with industrial lighting, worn woods, and whitewashed brick walls. By the register, walls are plastered with images and paraphernalia from the brand that dates back to 1973, primarily showing that classic comfort clothes such as these never go out of style. (Elizabeth St. nr. Prince St.)

Toms brings its ethical mindset to this part of the city in a gorgeous store that sells much more than just its ubiquitous slip-ons. Along with the rest of the shoe collection—espadrilles, sneakers, boots, sandals, wedges—is the brand’s collection of eyewear, bags, and a café with fair-trade coffee drinks (go for the vanilla coriander latte) and pastries from local bakeries, best enjoyed on the back patio with a book from the communal book shelves. But the best part about shopping here is that no matter what you purchase, you have a right to feel good about it, as every purchase here is met with a reciprocal charitable gift. Now having given more than 35 million pairs of shoes to children in more than 70 countries, Toms has branched out into other global initiatives such as efforts to provide eye care, clean water, and safer births. (Elizabeth St. nr. Houston St.)

For those who haven’t made eyewear a regular part of their wardrobe, Vint & York is out to change this. With statement frames inspired by the 1920s, the nascent New York-based brand has quickly attracted a celebrity clientele with its stylized frames that fit every face and fashion type. There are cat-eyes for the fabulous, rectangular for the bookish, aviators for the jet-setting. All come with UV coating and the opticals include prescription lenses, though those with perfect eyesight will be tempted to request clear glass and pretend. Those ordering from afar can upload their photo for a virtual try-on on V&Y’s website, though when in New York, a stop at their cozy storefront is well worth the visit. (Elizabeth nr. Houston St.)

On the southern outskirts of Nolita’s border, there are several can’t-miss stores that are often overlooked for their more iconic central SoHo counterparts. Make sure you use this insider knowledge to hit all the hotspots.

Scoop NYC’s southernmost Manhattan location packs enough style into one shop to stand up to the larger chains on the block. With an unrivaled selection of curated designer duds, from Helmut Lang to Marc Jacobs to DVF, stepping into Scoop is kind of like being in your dream closet. Offerings include essentials from layering tees to jeans, but also statement pieces like leather jackets, studded stilettos, and sparkly dresses. With enough of a variety to encourage you to come in for something you need, the store will also likely have you leaving with many things you didn’t know you’d have to have! (Broadway btwn Broome and Grand)

Wait outside the SoHo John Varvatos location for a few minutes, and you’ll see the hip and stylish set that frequents this designer stop. The following was drawn to the brand by beautifully-made menswear that is right on trend, and Varvatos has continued to re-define this aesthetic for years. Perhaps the most famous and longest-running of their collections are the leather jackets—supple yet structured and paired perfectly with slightly edgy denim and simple undershirts. For the ultimate experience, set up an appointment with their personal stylist, unique to each store and well-versed in everything the brand has to offer. (corner of Spring and Greene)

What sets Intermix apart is not its brands—though the retailer carries the fashion industry’s most sought-after labels like Frame Denim, Chloe, Rag & Bone, Sergio & Rossi and more. What makes the store unique is the inter-mixing of those brands into unexpected, but irresistible, outfits. In this way, the marketing and display of the clothing might make all the difference, because impatient shoppers have an advantage in this store, where looks are curated and pre-thought for you. For example, the sequin skirt that caught your eye on the way in might happen to be hanging next to a cotton collared shirt you would never have thought to pair it with. That, combined with a blend of emerging and long-established designers, will have you wanting to mix it up! (corner of Prince and Mercer)

You may associate J.Crew with fashion for the masses, and the retailer does dress much of the American population with its affordable looks. However, the J.Crew Men’s Shop feels more like you’ve stepped into a bespoke men’s tailor than a clothing store. The shop features a curated selection carefully pulled from the larger catalog to fit a more fashionable set—you’ll still find chinos, but next to some of the retailer’s more exclusive partnerships, like Barbour coats, New Balance sneakers, and silk ties. (corner of Broadway and Broome)

It’s no wonder that U.K. based designer Karen Millen chose SoHo for a store location, since it shares its name with a London neighborhood. What started in the 80s as a line of simple white shirts, the brand has expanded overseas and in breadth. The racks of the store hold separates perfect for work, or for drinks afterward, but the brand’s real highlight are its special occasion offerings. If you have a party to go to, it’s the perfect excuse to stop here first. (Broadway btwn Spring and Broome)

It’s no wonder that U.K. born Leon Max chose SoHo for a store location, since it shares its name with a London neighborhood. The Max Studio creator designs clothes so that women can “feel like a duchess but still go to the pub and feel comfortable.” Though his heritage may be British, his design sensibilities were formed right here in NYC, during his time at the Fashion Institute of Technology. As a result, the clothes have British sensibility, but the fun flair of an NYC party girl. (W. Broadway btwn Prince and Spring Sts.)

(Photo Credit: Vint & York)