by Lisa Stasiulewicz While the crystal chandelier, antique furniture, and sunny courtyard are a welcome respite from the stark industrial spaces of the Meatpacking District, it's the impossible-to-find labels that lure savvy shoppers to Elizabeth Charles. Owner Elizabeth Charles stocks only Australian and New Zealand-based designers, some of which aren't available anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. She travels Down Under twice yearly, looking for "pieces that are different and unique but not weird." The resulting stock—from more established brands such as Jason Brunston and Zambesi, to underground up-and-comers like Camilla and Marc, and Lover—is a vibrant mix of statement pieces and updated classics.
Originally housed in the West Village, Charles relocated to the shop's current locale a year and a half ago, simply because, "this neighborhood has the right vibe," says Charles. "[It's] high-end and beautiful, but a little cutting edge. Plus, my customers all come here to shop, anyway." The space evokes the subtle feel of an English boudoir, with oversized, gold-filigree-trimmed mirrors and decadent velvet curtains lining the dressing rooms.
Clients are encouraged to sip fresh-brewed coffee (from Australian beans, of course) and make themselves comfy in one of the plush 18th-century French chairs. Although Charles keeps the atmosphere laid back, she tries to focus on special pieces rather than casual looks. An exception may be Karen Walker's high-waisted jeans, which are flying off the shelves and onto the bottoms of the likes of Kate Hudson—but not your department-store shopping neighbors.
Elizabeth Charles, 639 1/2 Hudson Street, 212-243-3201
Having discovered a hotbed of design talent Down Under, store owner Elizabeth Charles has created an exclusive haven for the big and lesser-known names of Australia and New Zealand.