If January stands for fresh starts and new resolutions, December is officially the month to splurge and spoil yourself—from indulging in excusable quantities of eggnog to adding yourself to your Christmas shopping list. You have the whole next year to be good, so why not spend this month enjoying the city to its fullest? After all, New York has never looked better than when the shop windows are gilded in glittering designs, the sounds of bells of all kinds fill the streets, and revelers and tourists alike take to the ice rinks to celebrate the season. Of all the holiday activities, none is more central to New Yorkers than shopping, so we have compiled the ultimate neighborhood guide, whether you’re looking for windows to show your in-laws, are in dire need of a party outfit, or looking to get just one more gift. Here’s to December, New York, in all its shopping glory!
It doesn’t get much more American than Herald Square, home to Macy’s, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the heart of New York consumer culture. Despite this distinctively American heritage, Herald Square has been reinventing itself for decades, keeping up with the increasingly international tastes of the thousands of shoppers that patron it each day. As a result, today’s Herald Square harkens designs from Tokyo and Paris, as well as classic American brands, all in undeniably “larger than life” American fashion.
Uniqlo has taken off on the American shopping scene, managing to keep up against brands that monopolized the market for decades, thanks to its meticulous styling and unbelievably low price points. Founded around the Japanese qualities of longevity and simplicity, an innovative design process has produced everyday staples, perfected. The 64,000 square foot store has the impeccable cleanliness and organization Japan is known for, despite the lines around the block and millions of shoppers rummaging through the carefully-stacked sweater piles. One look at the price tag makes it worth the wait, as visitors walk away with bags filled with jeans under $10, dress shirts for even less, and a variety of other items to boot.
Levi’s is pretty much synonymous with American style, and you can’t walk five feet in New York without seeing a pair of blue jeans. However, the self-proclaimed blue jean inventors have had to adapt to changing times, as blue jeans have made way for more colorful counterparts, and women in particular have shed the once-staple bottoms for their more comfy counterpart, yoga pants. Unfazed, Levi’s has adapted their brand, “reinventing” the blue jean and re-earning their spot in the Herald Square fashion scene. Their “denim bar” and custom fitting techniques give them an edge on the market, and the sheer variety in the store makes it difficult to leave empty-handed.
Express doesn’t’ try to dress everyone, but they do promise fashionable, fun clothing for their target demographic—dressing 20-30 year olds for the office, happy hour, and the weekend. Not a bad decision in New York, where the young and fashionable are ubiquitous. Shoppers frequently leave positive reviews about the helpful staff. In the city that never sleeps, you can bet that the goods are being snapped up by fashion-hungry shoppers as fast as they are produced, leading to constant turnover, and continually great deals, including frequent markdowns off the sale rack to clear out inventory.
Despite Longchamp’s appearance on the American mass-market, the luxury brand hasn’t been diluted by quantity—each bag and accessory still carries the Parisian sophistication the brand is known for. Two levels host endless varieties of their leather-handled best-selling canvas bag, along with a beautiful assortment of other must-have accessories. Consider it a super-sized version of Paris shopping, or as the French would say, fashion “en masse.”
As early as the late 1800s, Fifth Avenue was confirmed as the elite neighborhood in New York City. The Waldorf Astoria, the Empire State Building, the St. Regis Hotel, the New York Public Library and countless other landmarks were all originally constructed along Fifth. Between 49th and 60th Sts., lined with prestigious department stores and flagship locations for the world’s most fashionable names, is the most expensive shopping row in the world. Though it may not be cheap, a trip down Fifth Avenue is certainly worth the experience.
Less than a half mile from the Empire State Building, Lord & Taylor’s flagship store has proudly stood since 1914 on Fifth Ave, which their advertisement at the time called “the very centre sphere of fashionable activity.” Indeed, Lord & Taylor is considered the oldest luxury department store in North America, and with only 50 full-line retail locations, their NYC flagship is especially worth a visit. Though their brands and store design carry the same sumptuousness as their competitors, the often-overlooked store is without the surging crowds of its more immediately remembered counterparts.
A little-known fact about Saks Fifth Avenue is that it is now actually a sister-store of sorts to Lord & Taylor, acquired by the same owner, Hudson’s Bay Company, in 2013. The original location was, and continues to be, some of the most prime real estate in all the city—a full-block avenue facing Rockefeller Center. Named for its famed location, the store’s offerings are similarly high-end and chic. Oh…did we mention the express elevator to their shoe department?
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” seems to be an adage familiar to Tissot, a Swiss watch company that opened a flagship boutique on Fifth Ave. last year—directly across from Rolex, and in the location previously occupied by Swatch. The store is hard to miss—a fully-operational giant Tissot clock face hangs above the door. With over 800 different watches on display, no other U.S. store has a larger display of the brand’s product.
Art connoisseurs and fashion freaks alike flock to Prada on 5th Avenue—the store is just as beautiful as the impeccably designed products it houses. Designed by Dutch modern architect Rem Koolhaas, the 23,000 square foot store occupies the former site of the Guggenheim Soho. The latest in mens and womens sportswear, couture, and accessories are all displayed via a huge wooden “wave” that goes between levels and is occasionally used as event seating. Come for the glass elevator, but stay for the shoes—they’re works of art themselves. Insider tip—even Prada hosts clearance sales at the end of the season (including in December!).
Shops at Columbus Circle
The Shops at Columbus Circle are deceptive—from the outside, it’s the usual hustle-and-bustle of the city streets, as the complex abuts Central Park, and houses a highly-trafficked subway stop and infamously confusing traffic circle outside. However, stepping into the building, shoppers are transported to a familiar shopping mall—except this one has concentrated crowd-favorite brands all in one place, at the heart of Manhattan. Forget window-shopping—this is serious shopping, New York style.
Armani Exchange was created as Giorgio Armani’s nod to the next generation, created in line with his codes of style but accessible and wearable to the hip, upcoming New York youth. In this vein, his modern sensibility vibes perfectly with the allure of Columbus Circle—stylish, classy, and with one finger on the pulse of the city.
Luxury brand Etienne Aigner‘s winter collection feels both snuggly and stylish, combining luxe details like shearling and faux fur with deep rich colors and seasonal must-haves. They’ve integrated their iconic horseshoe logo into many of the leather offerings, including handbags, and shoes, for a unique detail. Though a relative staple on the scene, Etienne Aigner continues to update their designs, fabrics, and collection to keep it feeling fresh.
Robert Graham’s motto, “out with the old, in with the bold,” rings true for many of New York’s hip counter-culture youth. The brand’s version of this rebellion is in bold mixed prints, unapologetically loud colors, and a marketing campaign that appeals to the carefree jetsetter. Redefining American eclectic, the womens and menswear lines are fun, vibrant, and fresh.
Preppy, refined, and quiet, L.K. Bennett is a label that reflects its British heritage and famous wearers like Kate Middleton, but without the pricetag one might associate with royalty. Her original famous shoes are available, along with handbags, jewelry, accessories and womenswear, ready to outfit the chic side of the city. In powder pink and cream, you might imagine the store as a super-sized version of the Duchess’ closet (and maybe now yours too!)
Long-considered one of the poshest neighborhoods in the city, SoHo almost requires that retailers either step-up, or make way for the next hottest thing. Despite soaring rent prices, SoHo hasn’t fully given over to the international mega-retailers, instead housing the highest concentration of independently-owned boutiques and mini-retailers in the city. Though they be but small, these carefully curated shops are constantly on the hunt for products and lines that will keep their visitors—both neighborhood occupants and out-of-towners—coming back to see what’s new.
Helen Ficolora‘s delicate pendants and glittering gold and silver designs are subtle, but special. For personalized gifts and custom jewelry, Helen Ficalora has cornered the market with her variety of designs and knack for creating everyday jewelry that is seriously upscale. While other designers have hopped on the “charm-ing” craze, the selection and deliberate style have maintained their magic. Her signature pink packaging might be the newest gifting craze since Tiffany blue boxes! Insider tip: you can peruse your options online before heading in store, and you can request a price list via email, so you’re prepared before you see it in person.
Helmut Lang captures SoHo’s spirit perfectly with clothing that is on-trend and of-the-moment, yet versatile and basic enough to last. Plus, they’ve nailed the seasonal market, with structured boots and super-soft sweaters in the fall, and timeless light pieces in the spring. In almost exclusively black, white, and beige, the slightly androgynous collection captures that essentially New York style.
Victorinox is synonymous with quality– for the kinds of people who call watches “timepieces” and who value the craftsmanship of their purchase almost as much as the aesthetic appearance. The quality of the shop itself is also impressive—as staff slip you little squares ofSwiss chocolate, peruse their massive array of products from watches (er…timepieces), Swiss Army knives, apparel, and luggage.
One step into Jil Sander’s SoHo flagship will make you realize that shopping there is not another exercise in mindless sale-mongering. The minimalist aesthetic—bare walls, elegant marble slabs, and austere lighting complement the sleek design of suits and the luxurious scent of hand-crafted leather. Investment pieces, these designs aren’t easy on the wallet, but their beauty and quality is sure to catch eyes in a city of discerning onlookers.
Rising high above Wall Street, Brookfield Place echoes the expensive feel of the rest of the Financial District. As shopping centers go, this one is more of an experience than its run-of-the-mill counterparts, with vaulted glass windows, towering palms, and often breathtaking art exhibits. As a result, the stores it houses are encouraged to follow suit, offering not only window displays on par with their habitat, but high-end luxury items within.
Judith & Charles not only promises fashion for the modern women, but designs she can count on. Founded by a charming Frenchman and a talented young American, the clothing is tailored in Canada with the mission of making sure that once a woman knows her size, the collection will consistently fit. By taking the extra time and care to refine and develop the collection, Judith & Charles hopes to engender confidence and empowerment in its wearer—a fitting mission for a store located within the neighborhood of male-dominated Wall Street.
While Hermès has long offered perfume in its luxury collection, the recent addition of an Hermès Parfumerie concept store in Brookfield Place marks a significant development for the 178 year-old fashion house. The first-ever parfumerie for the luxury brand features holiday gifts like silks and accessories paired with fine fragrances and candles, making both shopping and gifting a true sensory experience. Both the popular Le Bain line of bath fragrances and Le Parfum de la Maison line are available, beautifully framed by furniture designed by French designer Ramy Fischler.
Salvatore Ferragamo’s 4,200 square foot shop located in the Winter Garden not only houses clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women, but channels the luxurious Italian style that the brand is known for. No stranger to architecture, Ferragamo has designed interiors for some of the world’s most spectacular buildings in Dubai. The addition of Ferragamo at Brookfield Place was considered a significant turning point for the shopping center—a signal that upscale retailers were not only interested in the real estate, but could make a significant income from opening there.
Burberry is no stranger to the American luxury retail scene—the brand’s signature plaid and even its scents have become staples in the city. Their seventh Manhattan location at Brookfield Place joins the other high end stores in the Winter Garden, and houses both mens and womens apparel, accessories, and more.