It was >2 years ago that I was last in New York (just before flying to Milan), and while much is familiar, there are always new concepts and refreshed façades to experience. This is one of the reasons it’s never a boring place for visitors (or even residents, I would guess).
After many years and visits, starting in high school, my preferred way to enjoy New York is solo. During the day, anyway. While the city hustles and bustles, I relish just floating and observing.
I split my 6-night stay between Evan in Williamsburg (Thu-Fri), Jose and Simon in Connecticut (Sat-Sun), and Lauren in Bed-Stuy (Mon-Tues). It was a lot of transit, but also allowed me to see a range of neighborhoods. I never realized the impressive beauty of the brownstone rowhouses in Lauren’s neighborhood. Or quite grasped the bougie flavor of Williamsburg, which might as well be Soho fifteen years ago.
And despite its rural, remote location, staying in Jose’s c.1790 brick farm house in Gaylordsville for the weekend was pure relaxation, in the way only a spacious guest suite, feathery quiet five acres, and inky black overnight darkness can…
But I really came to New York to do research—on brands, retailers, formats, designs, and either things I would like to see brought to the Tampa market (maybe by me?) or places I could see myself fitting if I moved.
While I am 30, have a reasonable resume under my belt, and a clear interest in fashion, retail, and style, I have never fully committed to moving to be where the action happens. Something about the intensity (density, cost) of the city keeps me away.
That is also called fear, which I have held a lot of in my life, mostly about internal doubts, not external forces. AND, the curse of the Piscean mind, which is infamously torn between emotions and logic.
Nevertheless, I have not found any one thing I really live for in Tampa (or Milan), so New York is still on the table. This was an opportunity for me to refresh my feelings about it.
By nature of being a gay male, making friends and connections in the industry is relatively easy too. There are a few alumni of Bocconi in the city, one of whom I met at her brand’s store in Soho for a chat, and I just happened to swipe across a handful of fashion professionals on Tinder.
Being polite and friendly, seeking out unique labels and pop-up stores, and asking questions while out and about is another way to gain knowledge and familiarity.
One insight I had on this trip, with regard to style products and serendipity: very little is novel, especially if you’re a close follower of fashion. I made a point to map out ahead of time the areas and stores I wanted to visit. Many places I imagined would be impressive were actually bland product-wise, like Barney’s Downtown location, Brookfield Place (new mall development near the World Trade Center), and Todd Snyder (men’s haberdasher on Madison Square Park).
Brands like Common Projects (sneakers) and Byredo (niche fragrance) are ubiquitous, but perhaps that is the nature of cities like New York, which consume and digest newness with vigor.
There were however some people and places I was pleasantly impressed by…
- Paul Smith • a designer brand that cuts across the prevailing trends to forge a consistent, playful, high-quality path
- Vaughn at Céline • though it is only relevant to women, Céline (part of LVMH) is the anti-Louis Vuitton and Fendi. The store environment is serene…a neutral-lovers paradise. Gorgeous product and gentle, attentive staff.
- Hoorsenbuhs jewelry • a bit rock n’ roll for me personally, but the brand makes beautiful fine jewelry from $250 into the five figures. Something different!
- Honeybrains (for lunch) • get the daily catch bowl…wilted kale, spiced sweet potato, peanut crumbles, salmon (or sea bass or something else), with a fantastic lemon dressing
- Harney & Sons tea shop • while quality tea availability will never reach the peak saturation of coffee, this is a must if you love fresh tea beverages or tins of interesting tea at reasonable prices. Available locally at The Paper Seahorse.
- Maria Mendoza at Bottega Veneta Madison • ultra ultra friendly and helpful, hugged me on my way out!
- Bloomingdale’s Men’s Store • carries sweet-spot brands like Allsaints, which are stylish but not too pricey, along with trendier brands like Issey Miyake and Helmut Lang, all in a non-pretentious setting
- No. 7 Sub in the Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel (for lunch) • get the super food bowl…grapefruit chia chicken, pickled blueberries, cucumber salad over a warm base of brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth
- MoMA’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?“ exhibit • a fascinating look at the archetypes of everyday fashion we take as given
- Cartier 5th Avenue Mansion rare jewels from the archive • mostly purchase by the Vanderbilt family over the years…truly exquisite artistry and sparkly beauty (on now through October 29)
- Louis at WANT Apothecary • carries Want Les Essentiels in addition to Jil Sander, Cédric Charlier, and Acne Studios
- Eataly (for lunch or buying any number of delicious snacks, gourmet foods, groceries) • my god, what a fabulous place full of fabulous products. I could spend a lot of time and money there…
- Cha Cha Matcha • for lovers of this green, grassy concoction straight from Japan
Litchfield County, Connecticut
- Arethusa Al Tavolo (for dinner) in Bantam, CT • farm-to-table restaurant with impeccable service, attached to a legacy dairy operation that makes wonderful cheeses, ice creams, butter…
- Plain Goods in New Preston, CT • the taste level in this store!!! I was impressed (and rarely am). They carry brands like Aspesi, Monocle, Aēsop, Massimo Alba, their own private label made in Italy, and a ton of well-curated vintage items
My New York Spots custom Google map.