Once the home of hardcore punks and poets, the East Village and the Lower East Side have (albeit slowly) evolved into mini retail meccas for everything edgy, indie, and off the radar. Quirky, personalized boutiques have set up shop in areas that were once riddled with abandoned tenements and sketchy corners, bringing a touch of swank to one of the city's previously grittier hoods. Usually found nestled between cozy eateries and dive bars, each shop on our hit-list boasts not only unique wares and goods but a retail experience you're not likely to find anywhere else.
Pas de Deux, 328 East 11th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenue); 212-475-0075.
After the success of Odin, Eddy Chai and Paul Birardi's so-cool-it-almost-hurts men's store on East 11th Street, the duo decided to see if their magic touch applied to womenswear. It did, and voila, we now have their sister store Pas De Deux right next-door. This magical little shop, styled after a Parisian boudoir, feels a world apart from its East Village environs, but it stocks all the goods a savvy New York girl craves, like like Rag & Bone, Karen Walker, and Commes des Garçons.
One of the newest kids on the block, the sustainably astute Rogan Gregory opened his second New York outpost to great fanfare in 2008, and understandably so. The gothic interior is both stark and dramatic, a fitting counterpart to the designer's sleek utilitarian men's and women's lines. And although the all-black store may seem intimidating at first, a helpful staff will make picking out that perfect pair of denim a total breeze.
The fashion-obsessed often speak about Pixie Market in reverential tones, in part because of its amazing website, which regularly sells out of the many indie designer pieces it stocks. The brick-and-mortar store deserves just as much adulation, with its steady rotation of affordable and unique pieces, which Gaelle and Magda, the store owners, source from all over the world. On any given day, one may stumble upon dresses from Stolen Girlfriends Club, shoes by Maud or printed T-shirts from Mary Meyer. And with most pieces hovering below $200, it's easy to see why this is one of the jewels in the LES crown.
Doyle and Doyle, 189 Orchard Street (between East Houston and Stanton streets), 212-677-9991; www.doyledoyle.com
We sure do have a weakness for shiny, pretty things, but we really have to keep our magpie tendencies in check when we enter Doyle & Doyle, arguably Manhattan's most beloved antique and vintage jewelry store. The minimal boutique, which is run by sisters Elizabeth and Pamela Doyle, is stocked with a well-curated, affordable selection of baubles that make for excellent gifts. And for those who are so inclined, the store also boasts some of the most stunning and well-priced engagement rings around.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh, 123 Norfolk Street (between Delancey and Rivington streets), 212-673-6405; www.maryamnassirzadeh.com
It's no big secret that we're big fans of Maryam Nassir Zadeh, and with good reason. The owners, Maryam and her fiancé Udar Kak, both come from an arts background, and it shows in their gallery-like space. Here, fashion-forward pieces from the likes of Jeremy Laing, Three as Four, and Ohne Titel mingle with incredible art objects and limited-edition prints, all of which will delight any shopper looking for something out of the ordinary and truly exquisite.
Project No. 8, 138 Division Street (between Orchard & Ludlow streets); 212-925-5599; www.projectno8.com
You could say that partners Brian Janusiak and Elizabeth Beer are project-oriented. The multi-tasking Brooklynites have collaborated on a variety of artistic endeavors, culminating in their aptly named boutique, Project No. 8—their eighth collaboration. The shop offers a wide range of international and local designers, including Boudicca (London), Tucker (New York), and Anuschka Hoevener (Berlin). Naturally, their thought process extends to the design of the store, which, among other things, takes advantage of its South-facing position to reap the most of the natural light and heat.
Since its opening in 2007, this elegant Parisian-style store has been wooing the style set with great success, and with good reason--not only are the owners, Soni and Cindy Huang, incredibly gracious and friendly, their small boutique boasts a covetable selection of Hanii Y, Alice Ritter, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel and the sisters' own line, Soni & Cindy. And if their wares aren't enough to put a smile on your face, their adorable French bulldog, Louis Bastian, will warm the heart of even the stoniest hipster.
Narnia, 161 Rivington Street (near Clinton Street); 212-979-0661
True to its name, this vintage store is something of a magical wonderland, filled with interesting pieces at every turn. Though small, the store boasts a wealth of high quality, well-priced vintage, and shoppers can expect to find goodies from the likes of Ungaro, Missoni, and Gucci during any visit. For those who are less adept at navigating vintage shops, a warm and friendly staff is always on hand here to assist in the hunt for that perfect one-of-a-kind dress or jacket.
This prep-with-an-edge store, which is inspired by early country clubs, showcases eclectic classics for men and women, from designers like Common Projects, Rachel Comey, Fred Perry, and the shop's own line. And if you can't make it down to the store, you can enjoy Gargyle just as easily with their excellent online venue. Ready to tee off, anyone?
Honey In The Rough, 161 Rivington Street (between Clinton and Suffolk streets), 212-228-6415; www.honeyintherough.com
Though tiny, this LES fave boasts a nicely hand-picked selection of equally sophisticated and girlish wares. Owner Ashley Hanosh has an eye for the most interesting frocks from Mociun, Emma Cook, and Alexandre Herchcovitch, making this little slip of a place a go-to for anyone in need of the perfect party dress. And to cater to all your party needs, the store also provides eyebrow waxes, eyelash applications, and makeup services.
Narnia photo by Ashley Jahncke; Suite Orchard photo by Lianna Tarantin.