Edgy Linen Edition

18critic_span-articleLargeFor most of his Critical Shopper tasks, newbie Jon Caramanica has kept pretty close to the middle of the road. Even though his few outings so far have run from Hermès to American Eagle Outfitters, he had not yet tiptoed over to the more adventurous side of men's fashion —until now. This week's Thursday Styles has him visiting Assembly New York and its nearby pop-up sibling The Key Shop which is featuring designer Robert Geller, apparently in desperate search of linen. Never mind that true linen season is still about twelve weeks away (never before Memorial Day!), a few warm days and everyone thinks it's July already.
Rather than heading for safer ground, Jon winds up at the more directional Assembly on Ludlow Street where we find him perusing the more challenging likes of Chronicles of Never, 0044 and Veronique Branquinho for Repetto. So he's been faking us out. While he would have you think he is shopping at Dave's New York for surplus and Red Wing Boots, he's really had his eye on —
a black shirt with a long rolling cotton scarf buttoned to the collar ($318). It’s removable, but only by a fool: the pairing is artful, the stiffness of the linen softened by the flow of the scarf and its flexibility. It can hang loose, almost reaching the knee, be wrapped around the neck in a hive, or flattened out and worn like a hood, the riskiest and most majestic choice.
Well that's the kind of look that might get you beat up at Dave's. Caraminica's been holding out on us. There's a more rarefied sensibility here than we had originally guessed. We'll be interested to see what happens if he makes his way to even more adventurous locales like Atelier, or possibly Rick Owens.
Critical Shopper | Assembly New York: Linen, Kindly and Cruel by Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Assembly New York 174 Ludlow Street between Houston and Stanton Streets
The Key Shop 129 Rivington Street between Essex and Norfolk Streets

Jeans On The L.E.S:

Self Edge Artisan Denim
Lands On Orchard Street

As reported, San Francisco denim boutique Self Edge opened its Lower East Side location on schedule last Friday right next door to Orchard Corset, and if you think New York has already seen the last word in jeans, then think again.
Anyone heading down to Orchard Street looking for a pair of comfortably washed and lovingly hand distressed dungarees should keep on walking down the street to Earnest Sewn for one of their (perfectly respectable) myriad washes. Self Edge is for hard-core denim aficionados, and by hard-core, we mean hard denim. The jeans here are raw and heavy, with their selvage side seams intact. We saw a pair by Iron Heart made from 23 oz. denim so stiff that the pants standing up by themselves was a foregone conclusion, much like some of the foundation garments at the store next door. Cardboard-like would be a fitting description, and we can only imagine with horror the chafing and abrasion that would accompany the extended breaking in period these pants might demand. This pair, however, was an extreme example of Self Edge's merchandise, most of which is much more easy to wear, but the fashion story here is basic and rugged. Though there are several jeans brands represented here including Flat Head and Sugar Cane, you probably haven't heard of any of them. They are mostly independent niche brands dedicated to preserving artisanal manufacturing techniques, and not contrived design, so the basic five-pocket style with minimal decorative stitching is the standard here. You'll have to bedazzle them on your own.
Of course, even without all the extra finishing processes, many of the jeans at Self Edge still hit the $300 mark and then some, but the store has more than just jeans including lots of shirts in typical vintage and western inspired stripes and checks, and a few shoe styles made for 3sixteen by cult bootmaker Quoddy. There is even a rack of belts in sturdy leather with heavy brass buckles waiting to be broken in along with your jeans, as well as a burgeoning private label line.
Dedicated to keeping the experience complete, Self Edge will be receiving a vintage chainstitching machine in the next few weeks to make all alterations consistent with the styles in the store.
As you may have figured, the concept here is 'break them in yourself", meaning wearing jeans unwashed for several months so that all the little whisker marks and worn patches that will appear after the first washing are made by your own body and activity instead of a machine somewhere. Sometimes it's hard to convince people that (as long as you wear underwear!) it's perfectly fine not to wash jeans very often as long as they are aired out regularly and don't get heavily soiled. The end result is better fitting jeans with distressing that matches (and flatters) your own body. Trust us, we were converted by our first pair of Nudies, and if that doesn't convince you, think of the environmental benefit of forgoing all the chemicals and wash cycles that go into creating the stacks of denim at Seven For All Mankind.
Self Edge 157 Orchard Street at Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Previously: Denim Forecast: San Francisco Jeans Experts Heading East?

MIke Albo Goes Shopping:

Bargain District Edition

24critic1.650 This week's Thursday styles has Critical Shopper Mike Albo taking on not just one store, but an entire hipsterized neighborhood as he explores what he has identified as "the summer’s stylish hot spot". BelDel is identified as the stretch of Orchard Street between Delancey and Canal Streets, begging the question: Is it really necessary to continually micro-subdivide our neighborhoods with little nicknames and contractions? Is 'Lower East Side' not descriptive enough?
Perhaps the area needs to be differentiated from the other four blocks of Orchard Street (not a particularly long thoroughfare in its entirety) whose historical significance continues to be demolished away with glassy new buildings.
Anyway, Mike shops his way through a series of independent boutiques ranging from the arcane denim nostalgist to the scrappy DIY designer to the avant-garde European menswear boutique, all of which are waaay more expensive than the kind of stores that originally made Orchard Street famous. They apparently are too expensive for Mike, too.

I tried a pair of Manchester denim shorts ($198). They fit snugly, with nicely narrow legs and rolled-up cuffs. From the waist down, I looked like the subject of a Helen Levitt photo. From the waist up, I looked like a pathetic freelance writer who couldn’t afford them.

Just like Orchard Street, one half of Mike is now clearly and definitively differentiated from the other.
Critical Shopper: A Neighborhood for Aspirations By Mike Albo (NYTimes) including:
Amoskeag XX 96 Orchard Street between Delancey and Broome Streets
Project No. 8b 38 Orchard Street at Hester Street
By Robert James 75 Orchard Street between Grand and Broome Streets

Mike Albo Goes Shopping:

Washing Away Green Guilt Edition

09critic.span In today's Critical Shopper column, MIke Albo crystallizes the challenge of maintaining environmental responsibility in the modern age:

When I do my whites at the laundromat, I mix my expensive Seventh Generation detergent with toxic but affordable Clorox bleach. I may as well just slap a puppy. I try so hard to be a good citizen of the planet, but I am a murderer of the earth in so many casual ways.

Have we not all been there?
We will even admit to occasionally being just too darn lazy to unfold the re-usable shopping bag stowed in our messenger bag at the grocery counter. And, let's face it, the barrage of green and environmentally conscious products thrown at us can sometimes make us wonder of it all isn't just a ply to get us to pay a few dollars more for toilet paper or hand soap —a few dollars most of us don't have to spare these days.
To that end, Mike has visited Green Depot's newest location on the Bowery for the Thursday Styles. We will admit to not having visited this place yet, mostly because the idea still makes us think of grungy 1970's era health food stores. We know we are wrong, but we can't help it. The Shophound is a fancypants. Duh.
Now, thanks to Mike's investigation, it is at the top of out "To visit" list, because we really do care, and we have found that the environmentally conscious products we do use are just as effective, if not more so than conventional ones (hello, Method dish soap). What we don't like is actual cleaning, but that's a different story. We have not yet been sold on the idea of countertop composting. There will be no $89.95 3-Tray Worm Factories for us, at least not yet. Perhaps this is because our available countertop space is roughly the size of our laptop screen, but, hey, baby steps.
Critical Shopper | Green Depot: An Environmental Cleanup in Every Aisle By Mike Albo (NYTimes)
Green Depot Live 222 Bowery between Prince & Spring Streets, Lower East Side

Today In Pop-Ups

Reebok Finds Its Moment

It's been a long struggle for Reebok to regain the cachet it held during its 1980s heyday. There was a moment back then, when the only way to exercise was an aerobics class, and the only thing to wear with your cobalt blue and black striped leotard and tights was a set of spanking white Reebok high-tops. The Shophound was obviously but a zygote at the time...but we've heard about it.
Since then, Reebok has slid down a rung or two in the Sneaker Pecking Order as Puma and Adidas ascended during the '90s while Nike seemed to release one classic collector's style after another. Adidas (now Reebok's corporate parent) in particular has been able to mine its considerable archives to take advantage of the seemingly endless '70s revival. As the inevitable '80s revival gathers steam, Reebok is taking a page from its Teutonic owner and reminding everyone of its Golden Moment with the Flash Pop-Up store strategically located on the hipster heavy Bowery.
Once inside, you can marvel at the way the folks at Reebok have meticulously recreated what appears to be the set of a Debbie Gibson video, or maybe one from Wang Chung. If Sheena Easton had appeared shimmying around a graphically painted corner in leg warmers and an asymmetrical hairdo, it wouldn't have been remotely surprising. As we walked in, the sound system was even pumping an updated cover of that mid '80s masterpiece, Sheila E.'s "The Glamorous Life".
Sadly, not very many others were enjoying the moment, and it's possible that this stretch of the Bowery near Broome Street was still home to a few too many of the fabled street's more typical denizens to attract the desired style conscious population. And by "more typical denizens" we mean drunken bums. Oh, sure -we're probably not supposed to use that terminology anymore, but, you know, if the inebriated stupor fits...
Anyway, damned if some of those shoes aren't starting to look good again. Unfortunately, there's only a few more days to enjoy this charming time warp which will close on Sunday, December 14th. If you miss it, be warned: the '80s are coming back, and Rebook is ready for 'em in all their neon glory.
Reebok Flash Pop-Up Through December 14, 169 Bowery between Delancey & Broome Streets, Lower East Side.

Pop-Up Du Jour:
Ananas On The Lower East Side

The pop-up shop is no longer the province of the corporate giant looking to launch a new product or grab some publicity before they enter a retail market.  On a smaller scale, independent accessory brand Ananas (which actually means pineapple, not banana, as we always seem to think) has taken over a spot at 52 Canal Street through July 15th. It's a charming but humble shop on an even humbler corner where the Lower East Side starts to morph into Chinatown.
While mostly showcasing the New York - made handbags and accessories, many created from natural materials sourced from the Philippines, the temporary boutique also includes dresses and jewelry from other designers, making it look like more of a long-term proposition than a mid-summer fling.
We're pretty sure that the bicycle sitting in the middle of the store wasn't part of the décor, but it is emblematic of the laid-back atmosphere one will find on a steamy summer sfternoon.
Wile it's a little bit removed from the Orchard Street boutique crawl, given how fast things are evolving down there, by mid-July, it could be right in the thick of things. It's also but a few blocks from Doughnut Plant (key lime donuts, newest flavor) so venture down there at your own risk.
Anana @ 52 52 Canal Street between Orchard & Ludlow Streets, Lower East Side/Chinatown

New Additons:
Mastihashop Brings The Greek Isles
To The Lower East Side

MastihashopWe were almost going to scold the newly opened Mastihashop on Orchard Street for propping their door open on a supremely muggy day, wasting precious air conditioning, until we walked in and discovered that they had no air conditioning at all, creating a different sort of problem.
Yes, it was a humid, but illuminating few moments we spent inside the tidy new shop as the benefits of mastiha (pronounced mahs-TEEKH-hah) were explained to us. The resin from trees found on the Greek island of Chios was, among other things, the first chewing gum. It can be purchased in its original form at the shop, though it is mostly used as an ingredient in an intriguing variety of items sold there ranging from pasta sauces to toothpaste and beauty and home products.
Mastiha, we are told, is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial substance with a pungent aroma that can translate into a bracing, ginger-ish flavor in foods, or it did in the cookie we tasted. Unfortunately, in chewing gum, the flavor lasted only the duration of couple of block's walk, but it was delightful while it lasted,and we are sure that we are still feeling its therapeutic effects as we type this.
Though small, Mastihashop carries a broad range of products, many under its own label, and almost all including the precious ingredient. Given the current fascination with natural and homeopathic remedies, we expect it to catch on, assuming the humidity breaks.
Part of a chain of ten stores, this is the first location outside of Greece. We would imagine that on Mykonos, or Chios, the Aegean breezes keep everyone comfortable, but unfortunately, those breezes do not quite reach to Orchard Street.
Mastihashop 145 Orchard Street between Stanton & Rivington Streets, Lower East Side

New Additions:
Assembly New York
Channels Its Neighborhood

What struck The Shophound about the recently opened men's store, Assembly New York, was how exceptionally well it mirrors the current state if its surrounding neighborhood.
The Lower East Side has been the subject of much hand-wringing (mostly justified) in recent years, as the area has been rapidly consumed by developers intent on erecting incongruous luxury high-rises among the historic tenements. The result is a jarring streetscape of gleaming new buildings alternating with lower, older structures in varying states of decrepitude.Assemblyexterior Orchard and Ludlow streets seem to be particularly stricken by this dichotomy which is strikingly reflected in Assembly's merchandise mix where pricey new men's garments mix on the racks with pricey "vintage" pieces in varying states of decrepitude.
The baseboards are lined with pre-owned footwear, most of which sells for much more than it did when new, and tissue thin, repurposed t-shirts dot the racks, some so dingy and worn that you wonder if Goodwill wouldn't have taken a pass on them. But, as they say, that's the style these days, and Assembly certainly has a stylish mix which has clearly been carefully curated. Those t-shirts drape oh so gracefully on a bony hipster frame.
As for the new stuff, it is as bright, sleek and shiny as the new condos down the block, featuring progressive labels like Corpus, YMC and more obscure ones like the Danish designer Henrik Vibskov. Music is provided by vinyl on a turntable, and diplay cases show selections of women's jewelry. The service is laid back as one would expect on Ludlow Street, so while eating lunch at the register is pretty much verboten in most stores, it isn't here.
Assembly has captured a moment in its neighborhood's evolution on an unusual level. It will be interesting to see if the store continues to evolve in tandem with its surroundings.
Assembly New York 174 Ludlow Street between Houston & Stanton Streets, Lower East Side

New York Nostalgia Moment: Keith Haring's 50th Birthday

Regular shoppers at the Bowery Whole Foods have been able to track the progress of a loving recreation of a Keith Haring mural at the corner of Bowery and Houston Street. Deitch Projects and the Keith Haring Foundation are sponsoring the artwork in honor of what would have been the artist's 50th birthday yesterday. Haring's appeal has proven to be remarkably durable since his untimely death nearly two decades ago, and his mural sized works mostly did not survive (although adventuresome art fans can find an original one preserved at a men's room in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on West 13th Street too explicitly erotic to picture here). The cheery scene pictured above was originally created in 1982, but faded shortly afterwards.
For anyone looking for a more permanent souvenir, UNIQLO has a new batch of  tee shirts featuring Haring's designs specifically to commemorate the occasion while supplies last.
UNIQLO 546 Broadway between Prince & Spring Streets, SoHo

Doughnut Plant, or How The Shophound Turned Into Homer Simpson


We actually made our way down to the Lower East Side to see the latest Alice Roi pop-up shop. Either we were too early or Alice was opening late, but the trip took us too close to Doughnut Plant, and like a crack-whore to...well...crack, we found our feet walking a few blocks north to Grand Street wholly independent of our better judgement.
Doughnutplantsign Doughnut Plant has been there a while, serving as the anti-Krispy Kreme. They are familiar to many for suppling their fresh, natural yeast or cake confections to Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, but nothing really compares to a fresh doughnut still warm from the oven with one of their seasonal glazes. That's their cruel little trick. Normally, we would be able to walk by safely knowing that we knew what was there and what it tasted like, but periodically they throw us a whole new set of flavors, the latest being a luscious meyer lemon. Naturally, we are unable to walk by without sampling the latest just to make sure that it is up to their usual standards.
What can we say? We feel a duty, and are thankful that we live far enough away to resist temptation.
Well, most of the time, anyway.
Doughnut Plant 379 Grand Street, Lower East Side