Lower Looks

Down on the Lower East Side are some of the city’s top boutiques

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Down on the Lower East Side, design couldn’t be higher than at these three boutiques, which vend wares with styles and brands difficult to find anywhere else (and especially above Houston Street).

If there’s anything that’s a stamp of approval for a menswear store, it’s the blessing of Scott Schuman (better known as the Sartorialist), who is an avid fan of Freemans Sporting Club. Like an indie version of a Savile Row shopfront, Freemans specializes in custom suiting and handmade wares. The Keith McNally-designed shop (who also designed restaurants Pastis and Balthazar) looks as beautifully aged as a Lower East Side institution, and it dresses its customers with the same sense of old-fashioned class; a classic barbershop on-site with men getting razor-cut beards only compounds the effect. The made-to-measure suits are the shop’s specialty and certain to be perfect, but there are also lines of tees and sweaters, shorts and chinos, often made in New York City under Freeman’s house brand or created specifically for Freemans by another small American menswear designer. Rest assured, these are clothes that will be worn time and time again. (Rivington St. nr. Bowery)

The name of Orchard Street’s By Robert James sums up the store’s philosophy: straightforward, timeless menswear authored by designer Robert James. With an FIT degree under his built, James began his own line to contribute to the growth of local business and environmentally conscious practices, and judging by his intelligible designs, his customer is equally self-aware, driven, and practical. Heavy denims are easily worn by modern Don Drapers to the office, paired with an antique-floral button-up or perhaps one in gingham under a fitted sports coat. Price points here are above, say, J. Crew, but the fact that casual shirts are only priced a hair above tees attests to the quality of the fabric and making that goes into each piece. While men who like to stick to basics will be fine shopping here, those who like to dress with an edge may enjoy exploring here more; how about a cognac leather motorcycle jacket on top of that shirt and tie, or a long, cabernet trench? And those graphic tees how do they manage to look so much better than those from the 1990s? (Orchard St. nr. Grand St.)

Like a smaller, cozier Opening Ceremony or Dover Street Market, Maryam Nassir Zadeh carries all of those institutional artisan brands and next-generation designers, but rather than hanging them in a multiple-story space, they’re instead splayed lovingly on old wooden furniture set in a sunny, white-washed brick shop. The couple who runs the store Maryam Nassir Zadeh herself and Udar Kak look around the globe for their stock: to St. Tropez for K. Jacques leather sandals, to Lagos for Maki Oh contemporary womeswear. Most customers will recognize some of the brands-Carven, Jil Sander, Acne Studios, and J.W. Anderson; few will recognize the more obscure hip-in-Paris bag brand TL-180 and Munich-based jewelry label Saskia Diez, for example which makes them all the more appealing. Zadeh’s own line, which she began in 2013, is arguably mélange of them all and the epitome of what the store stands for: smart and elegant while slightly off-kilter. (Norfolk St. at Rivington St.)

(Photo Credit: Uday Kak)