Manhattan Sideways made one of the most wonderful discoveries, nestled amongst the brownstones on West 21st Street and almost unnoticeable to the typical passerby. “I’m the princess that lives behind the castle gate, ” Andra Gabrielle, the eponymous founder of the hidden clothing shop exclaimed as we stepped inside her secluded workspace. This introduction merely hinted at her passion for fashion, her one-of-a-kind exquisite pieces of clothing and, most importantly, what an extraordinary human being she is. As a self-taught woman, Andra credits her success to her ancestral knowledge, which allowed her to pick up the trade of printing through books and teachers that lent themselves to her cause along the way. Andra shared with us that she had done some research about her past and found that she had an aunt who lived in Chelsea in 1849. She was known for her needlework and beautiful christening gowns. This discovery sparked a fashion revelation for Andra. Today, she gives credit to her nineteenth century family member for passing on the skills of the trade. Inspiration constantly surrounds Andra, specifically in the forms of Japanese art and kimonos. During a visit to England's Victoria and Albert Museum, an exhibit kindled a deep reverence for Japanese culture within Andra. She continues to draw heavily from the power of Japanese symbolism. “The Japanese art swept away the Victorian era. That’s the emergence of modern image, ” Andra said. As a young child, Andra told us that she was quite shy. She would play under a rhododendron bush and dress her twig dolls in flowers. Many years later, she made her mark in the fashion industry while working for the lingerie department at Barney’s. "They didn’t have a women’s store before, so there was no standard that I had to fit into. " Her lingerie was featured in Vogue and in many movies. The walls of her quaint shop are lined with Andra’s creations, “I never stop making things - that’s my nature, " Andra admitted. While these pieces were not completed with a particular individual in mind, Andra cherishes the story that each one symbolizes. When one of the Manhattan team members inquired about purchasing an astoundingly beautiful top and scarf combination, Andra politely informed her that she was not yet ready to part with them. Other inspiration for her designs comes from working directly with her customers, as she believes that clothing should be created for the individual. “We already know who we are and what works on us. I can give five women the same shirt and they’ll all like it for five different reasons. ” Andra elaborated, “Colors change because we change. Everything about the garment says something. ” For example, pine needles on a kimono would represent an old, happily married person, because pine needles always fall in twos. Andra told us that she made a dress for a woman who was getting married to the love of her life, so Andra put her “love dedication” to the woman’s husband in the hemline of the wedding dress. “I am this anomaly. I want to make clothes with respect. It’s a privilege to be able to do this with my life, as I continue to meet people who can teach me. ”
In keeping with the original nautical theme from the 1960′s, each room in the hotel has a porthole window and is decorated with teak wood. In 2014, the hotel’s restaurant La Bottega closed to make room for La Sirena by Mario Batali. The Cabanas, open in the spring and summer, is on the rooftop and offers a welcome reprieve from the city streets when the weather permits.
No matter what time of day we have stopped by Grey Dog, the restaurant is pulsing, but in a quiet, relaxed sort of way. Despite the lines to order food from the menu on the chalkboard and the crowded tables, everyone is calm and content. Apparently, this has been the vibe since two brothers opened their first restaurant back in 1996 on Carmine Street. Today they have expanded to four different locations, each one incredibly successful. The formula seems to be quite simple – a chill atmosphere, easy-going but efficient staff, a menu that covers all of the basics with a bit of a flair, hefty portions and, most importantly, everything tastes great. Beginning early in the morning, there are pancakes, French toast, eggs, homemade granola and coffee being served. As the day progresses, lots of sandwiches, salads and other creative dishes are available for lunch and dinner. Without a doubt, if I lived nearby, I would also become a regular.
Trendy and filled with beautiful people, the Dream Hotel has created quite an aura around it. Sitting in the lobby is certainly entertaining at any hour of the day, but in the evening the action really kicks in. There is a DJ in the lounge area right off the lobby and not far from the entrance is Bodega Negra, with a Mexican menu. Also attached to the hotel is a restaurant called Fishbowl, with a 5000 gallon fish tank behind the bar. On the rooftop, the PHD Club tends to play top 40's music, and downstairs is the Electric Room, which is described as a rock club.
I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.