Despite the daily congestion, the L-train is considered the most fashion-forward route in the city, and for good reason--get off at the first few stops outside Manhattan and you'll find yourself at cool-kid central. Once a refuge for artists who turned warehouses into loft spaces and young'ins who couldn't bear to part with their queen-size beds, North Williamsburg and Greenpoint are now home to some of the city's best boutiques and design destinations.
The shops in this neighborhood reflect the unique spaces where they're housed, be they former machine shops, warehouses, or homes, and have a distinctively high-low Brooklyn flavor. Whether near main arteries like Bedford Avenue or tucked away between row houses and factories, these shops (and their hard-to-find-elsewhere goods) are well worth a crowded ride on the L.
Many a Williamsburg shopping excursion starts at Oak's glass-front garage on North 8th Street, just a block from the Bedford L stop. It-kids flock to Jeff Madalena and Louis Terline's recently expanded store for its carefully curated stock of men's and women's clothes, shoes, and accessories from hip and edgy labels like Acne, Surface to Air, Rick Owens drkshdw, Alexander Wang, Kaylee Tankus, and Oak's own line of on-trend pieces. The killer denim selection and range of shoes, not to mention A.OK, a shop-in-shop of clothes at lower price points, make a visit to the Brooklyn Oak essential.
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One of Williamsburg's most pleasant shopping experiences, Bird's spacious and welcoming, LEED-certified third location on Grand Street is the place to go for pretty frocks by the likes of Tsumori Chimato, Bodkin, Lauren Moffatt, and Isabel Marant. Owner Jen Mankins also stocks higher-end, of-the-moment designers (Thakoon, Yigal Azrouël), a great selection of Brooklyn-based labels (Loeffler Randall, Vena Cava), and housewares and gifts like Tamar Mogendorff's fabric art. The small but well-edited men's section includes clothes from Hermanos Estebecorena, A.P.C., and Shipley & Halmos. With it's exposed brick, warm wood, and high-design sensibility, Bird is Brooklyn through and through.
If you're pining for a patch of green in the concrete jungle, Sprout Home has exactly what you need—even if you don't buy anything. The shop's verdant wares (houseplants, mainly, but a great selection of cut blooms as well) are displayed on shelves and in a space out back, as well as a selection of clever housewares and furniture. The real highlight, though, is the ultra-knowledgable staff, headed up by Tassy Zimmerman. Even if you can't keep cacti alive, they'll set you up with low-maintenance plants perfect for the shoebox-apartment-dweller. And for those of you fortunate enough to have a backyard, there's a garden consulting service, too.
The 'burg is overrun with vintage shops, but Malin Landaeus stands out in the crowd. Owner Malin set up her store to feel as homey as a living room, and its racks of fun vintage invite you to play dress-up as soon as you step inside. The shop's long been an R29 fave, and is the only in-person place to find Erica Weiner's entire jewelry line. With Malin's recently-opened, appointment-only archive just down the street, the store is one of the only vintage shops you'll want (or need) to hit up.
You'll feel like you're shopping in a pinup's 1950s boudoir at Old Hollywood, the Greenpoint shop started by former Catbird buyer Tiffany Porter. Clothing swings mid-century, with vintage pieces being sold alongside new, but one look inside and this will become your go-to spot for unique and well-priced accessories. Vintage baubles mingle with jewels by indie labels like Digby & Iona and This Charming Man, and Sybil Domond's embellished collar necklaces are sure to earn a spot on your gift-list this year.
Candice Waldron's pitch-perfect shop, smack-dab on Bedford Avenue, sells a superbly edited selection of feminine duds, shoes, and accessories. Sven clogs and Dieppa Restrepo brogues join frocks by Lover, Karen Walker, Mociun, YMC, and Sonia by Sonia Rykiel. Oh, and you know those perfectly summery Bensimon shoes? This is one of the only places you'll find them.
Known almost as much for its reasonably priced selection of shoes as for its uber-friendly, never-forgets-a-face salesman Rob Bryn, this smallish store off Bedford is right on the North Sixth shopping corridor. Stocking a selection of on-trend men's and women's shoes (Hunter wellies, clogs, brogues) as well as the exclusive Jeffrey Campbell for Shoe Market line—named after 'burg streets like Driggs—Shoe Market hits the spot for instant-gratification purchases to make your feet happy.
This quaint and cool shop is a Greenpoint go-to for unique and affordable women's clothes from brands like Rojas, Spiewak, and Canadian re-furb label Preloved. Vintage frocks mingle with brand-new duds on the racks, while Cheap Monday skinny jeans, shoes, and bright bags hold court near bits and baubles like Alter's signature, upside-down hanger necklace. And guys, don't fret—owners Tommy Cole and Roy Caires run a menswear shop—Alter 109—just across the way.
The Future Perfect is a must-visit on any trip to the 'burg—and it might just be the best design store in the city. Owner Dave Alhadeff was a pioneer of the Williamsburg scene, stocking goods from Brooklyn artists like Jason Miller (you've totally seen his Superordinate Antler Lamps around). The store's two levels feel like a slightly more comfortable showroom, nixing the pretentious, gallery-like feel of some high-design shops. For whimsical furniture, lighting fixtures, housewares, and jewelry, the Future Perfect is, um, perfect.
There are now two In God We Trust locations in Brooklyn; the original occupies an itty-bitty space on Wythe Street in Williamsburg and the newest, owner Shana Tabor's fourth, recently opened in a massive 3,000-square-foot space on Greenpoint Avenue. The shop's general store-meets-curiosity shop vibe reflects the classic vintage style of the women's and men's clothes sold there. Pretty-young-things from the fashion set come here for the In God We Trust line, tough-to-find D.S. Durga fragrances, and Tabor's famed hand-etched necklaces with pithy phrases like "Kiss Me Where I Pee."