SoHo Well Spent

Navigate the downtown shopping scene with this pick of designer digs

SoHo is home to sundry chic restaurants, posh hotels, and nightlife hotspots, yet visitors and Manhattanites alike flock to the charming chunk of Manhattan below Houston and above Canal for one thing: shopping. What were once derelict industrial spaces now house storefronts from luxury fashion houses, up-and-comers, and every clothing category in between. Where to start? Here are four of our favorites.

In a bright, spacious storefront that beckons with cool beats and a young, smiling staff, C. Wonder is a dream brand for lovers of all things Americana. Despite the store’s locale, boyfriend-chic button-downs and chunky knits are about the closest things to downtown looks here; the style is clean, put-together, and coordinated, like the store itself. Colors of navy, magenta, Kelly green, and white keep everything from ballet flats and tunics to table settings and cruiser bikes with glossy globe helmets cohesive, making C. Wonder a comprehensive lifestyle shop rather than a jumble of retro-looking objects. Dressing rooms with customizable light and music settings keep customers coming back to try on more; an in-house monogram station lets them personalize the items they want to be truly theirs. (Spring St. nr. Crosby St.)

Despite its Canadian base, French Connection sartorially embodies the New York state-of-mind that is both youthful in energy and mature in taste. On the quieter, western side of SoHo off the crowded path of Broadway, the brand holds court in a simple space floored with honey-colored wood and filled with natural light from the rounded windows. Epitomizing day-to-night, clothes here run the line between timeless and trendy but do so with elegant ease: a simple navy sheath emblazoned with silver embroidery, dark denim with a well-placed hint of distress, relaxed-fit sport jackets, graphic tees that could easily be donned by either sex. (W. Broadway at Prince St.)

Israeli designer Elie Tahari’s fashions are sharp, decisive, intelligent—like his customers, and like his store. Clad in white brick on the outside and industrial-chic white walls inside, the minimalist space gives full attention to the clothes. At any given time, the collection is limited, yet that doesn’t mean it’s easy to choose from any of the silk, linen, and spun cotton staples. Renowned for the precision of his suits for men and women both, Elie’s customers often drop in for a wardrobe addition to have them feeling sharp for an upcoming big meeting, though party dresses, statement handbags, and cargo jackets keep things from being all serious business. (W. Broadway nr. Spring St.)

For the decidedly modern man, John Varvatos is the designer du jour. Known to take more than a teaspoon of inspiration from rock and roll, such as casting the likes of Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper in ad campaigns and opening one of his other boutiques in the former CBGB space on Bowery, Varvatos isn’t afraid to take risks. Neither are his dapper clients who come to add an edge to their look, be it some playfully wrinkled seersucker pants, vintage band tees to peek through thin-lapel jackets, a statement bracelet, a handsome pair of slacks. But his designs most on-demand? Shoes. Polished leather, worn-in suede, laced to mid-calf, or buckled at the ankle, Varvatos’ footwear has a following as dedicated as those of the stars he dresses. (Spring St. at Greene St.)

(Photo Credit: C.Wonder)