Buttons and Bows:
Text by Kathy YL Chan
From haute couture to discounts at designer sample sales, there’s a shopping adventure for each day of the week, and the most memorable experiences are to be had at unique only-in-NYC gems. But how does a first-time visitor navigate the dizzying world of NYC shopping? How do you find those gems if you can’t even find 5th Avenue? Ask Lynne O’Neill, a local girl turned top NYC fashion show producer. Lynne produces shows for big industry names: Vivienne Tam, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Hervé Léger and others. She’s a fashion show consultant for the television show Gossip Girl. You might recognize her as the fashion coordinator played by Margaret Cho in the famous Sex and the City episode where Carrie falls on the runway. Yes, that character was based on Lynne! She’s been in fashion since the early 1980s and is a guide to NYC shopping nonpareil.
When Lynne’s in the mood for serious shopping, she heads for the corner of 10th Avenue and 22nd Street. Beneath an old auto repair sign offering “Heavenly Body Works” is the entrance to a sleek tunnel made of aluminum that came from an English shipyard. Walk through and open the glass doors to Comme des Garçons, a sacred fashion ground. There’s so much to love: arresting blacks and whites, killer accessories, far-out and otherworldly clothing proportions. Lynne’s latest score: a black bucket bag, a light but sturdy number that can stand up on its own. When Lynne’s checking out bags, she says, she always does the “file test”: She drops in a file folder to see whether it fits. If it does, perfect—that bag qualifies to become the latest addition to her collection.
Next, cab it to ABC Carpet & Home, a six-floor must-see experience full of unique finds from all over the world. “Here,” says Lynne, “shopping is theater.” ABC offers a mind-boggling selection of home products, furniture, jewelry and antiques. The main floor is akin to a bazaar. Inside you’ll find stores within the store, including a Gary Graham women’s wear boutique full of gorgeous fabrics that wear with ease. (Lynne directed a presentation of Graham’s collection during New York Fashion Week in spring 2011 and notes him as a great, under-the-radar discovery.) Après shopping, dip one floor down to check out ABC Kitchen’s locavore-oriented menu: chili and basil heirloom tomatoes, raw diver scallops and market grapes, and the salted caramel ice cream sundae.
Across the street from ABC is Fishs Eddy, the go-to American dishware store for many a New Yorker. Lynne became a fan of Fishs Eddy (the name comes from a small town in upstate New York) shortly after it opened in 1986. “It’s like shopping in a barn full of Americana old and new,” she says. She’s partial to iconic NY-themed dishware patterns like the 212 New York Skyline and The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
When Lynne wants a little dose of home, she heads downtown to Saturdays Surf, located on quaint and cobblestoned Crosby Street in SoHo. Here you can buy a surfboard while drinking cappuccino from the coffee bar. The partners produce Saturdays NYC, a line of casual menswear, board shorts included. They also carry accessories, grooming products, surfing books and art. The outdoor lanai at the back, where wetsuits are often hanging out to dry, is a meeting place for the hip downtown crowd. Lynne recalls how on a spring day she spotted one of the owners, Morgan Collett, walking in SoHo, surfboard under his arm; he’d just gotten off the subway from Rockaway Beach after a day of surfing. Who says you can’t merge surf and city life?
If you’re going to Opening Ceremony—which Lynne says you should—the original location on Howard Street is the one to visit. You’ll walk into a well-edited clothing selection from emerging and established designers such as Vena Cava, Alexander Wang and Rodarte—it’s like Barneys or Bergdorf’s for the younger crowd. Opening Ceremony offers constantly changing retail concepts; its 2011 collaboration with Reyn Spooner for a new take on Island wear might be of particular interest to locals.
From Opening Ceremony it’s a twominute walk to Pearl River, a Chinese emporium that went from two small stores in Chinatown to a multi-level building in SoHo. A serious riot of color with a little bit of everything: furniture, clothing, fabric, slippers, books, snacks, tea, cookware, lanterns and Buddhas. The staff tries to be helpful, but they don’t speak much English; it’s the real deal. Lynne shops at Pearl for the beaded house slippers, men’s Mao jackets and quirky and unusual gifts for under $10.
The best reward for a successful shopping adventure is something sweet.Empire Cake on 8th Avenue is Lynne’s favorite bakery in the city. Gourmet takes on classic American snack cakes are the highlights (think fancy Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs). The red velvet snack cake stuffed with whipped cream cheese is addicting, but save room for the liliko‘i (passion fruit) and lemon cream cakes. And don’t pass on the Swiss roll, a moist chocolate cake rolled with whipped cream and silky ganache. “I never understood the Swiss roll until now,” says Lynne. “You don’t have to go to any other bakery. But hurry because they run out!”
Comme des Garçons
520 West 22nd Street, (212) 604-9200
ABC Carpet & Home
888 Broadway, (212) 473-3000
889 Broadway, (212) 420-9020
31 Crosby Street, (212) 966-7875
35 Howard Street, (212) 219-2688
477 Broadway, (212) 431-4770
112 8th Avenue, (212) 242-5858