Vintage mirrors run up and down the walls, only sometimes making contact with eye level. In lieu of shelving are half-painted wooden ladders, props, and benches of all different makes; and hooks that attach to either walls or mirrors. The handmade headwear rests on every available surface. The whimsical and welcoming arrangement is attributable to the architectural background of owner Lynn Paik.
Lynn first fell into the practice of hat making when she took night courses at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). She loved working with her hands and soon turned the hobby into a profession. “The situation presented itself,” Lynn expounded. A delay in the shipment of products from overseas for her other design work left her time to pursue a provoking retail listing on craigslist. With great landlords and a location in the East Village, Lynn’s former neighborhood, it was the perfect fit.
From a panama straw hat with a flattering brim to a black cap of structural significance, the designer’s collection features great diversity. One piece even doubles as a cloche and a turban, depending on how it is worn. “There are too many choices,” Lynn said as she tried on some of her unique, wearable creations, “I go with the flow and the hats just sort of happen... the market is so unpredictable.” Balancing commercial and creative aesthetic, she hopes to eventually branch out into wholesale. For now, Lynn spends a good deal of her time working in the back studio of her homey retail store with her affectionate dog, Mika.
Looking out onto the street from inside the confines of the little storefront window, long necked silhouettes and busts wrapped in black lace stared at the ground. Amelia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, told me that she could almost imagine them glancing up from beneath the brims of their hats with a coy smile, could almost hear them whispering and enticing her to enter. Originally from England, East Village Hats owner Julia Knox’s background is in clothing design and the English Language. Eight years ago, after living all over the world teaching English as a foreign language, she moved to New York to continue her work in fashion design. One day, however, she decided to take a millinery class and has been hooked on hats ever since. Julia’s professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) introduced her to Barbara Feinman, who had owned her shop since the late 1990s, but was looking to retire and pass the business along to somebody else. In 2011, Julia became that somebody. In 2016, the lease was up on the old shop, Barbara Feinman Millinery, so Julia made the move just a few doors down from the original storefront to her present location on East 7th, and renamed the shop East Village Hats. It was important to stay close to the original boutique, Julia explained, because “one block can be a million miles in New York. ”When Amelia inquired about how business was, Julia confidently replied, “They sell like hotcakes. ” Amelia then paused with her questions as she observed Julia trimming a man’s fedora with a green and white striped ribbon. Julia then continued on, telling Amelia a bit about the hat making process. First, the hats are formed on wooden blocks. Then they are sewn with a 130 year-old sewing machine, which used to be operated by a treadle, but now has a motor for modern efficiency. At that moment, an older woman walked in and began to look around. Julia asked her politely if she could help her find something, to which the woman replied in a soft Irish accent: “You have some lovely blocks here. ” She pointed to the wooden hat molds lining the brick wall. Amelia listened as they began to discuss all manner of hat things... hats in the United Kingdom versus hats in the United States, the hats at the royal wedding of Kate and William, how Princess Diana rarely wore hats. It was wonderful for Amelia to simply observe and listen. Later, Julia revealed to Amelia that she has been hosting hat making classes in her small shop. “This little workbench is the center of our universe, ” she said, motioning to the bench in front of her, whose drawers seemed to be filled to the brim with lace and feathers and ribbons. She went on to say how the bench rolls out into the middle of the room to make the entire shop a classroom. These classes range from workshops on making fascinators, a dainty head piece she described as “decorative bits of nothing, ” to more serious classes for people in the fashion business, to which she brings teachers from here and abroad to share their art. People do not necessarily need to have experience. “We spend three hours, we drink wine. It’s a lot of fun. ”The community interaction Julia has fostered is a feature specific to the new location; so, she said, is their restoration and repairs. Now, in addition to making custom-made and ready-to-wear hats with a modern minimalist aesthetic and touches of vintage, she often receives beautiful old hats whose owners are looking to restore them to their former glory. With a smile on her face, she told me about an old collapsible top hat that she was recently given. She describe how modern felts and materials are nothing like the fine, smooth felts with which old hats were made. “Recently, I heard about some old felts just sitting in a warehouse in the Garment District. ” Laughing a bit to herself, she added, “I went and cleaned them out! ” Just then, an older man and his wife walked in to pick up the fedora that Julia had been trimming during our conversation. They walked up to the workbench with big smiles on their faces as Julia greeted them. She handed over the green and white trimmed straw hat to the man, who immediately put it on. “You look very smart, ” she announced to him. One might think that in the technological, mass-produced modern age, handmade hats would not be in fashion. However, this is simply not the case, according to Julia. She finds that people are becoming increasingly weary of “fast fashion. ” They appreciate, instead, to see the kind of care that goes into the products made at East Village Hats and to meet the person who made them. Chains simply cannot offer the range of sizes that independent fashion businesses can. Nor can they provide the kind of custom work that Julia offers with her hats. “Hats are making a kind of renaissance, and I can stand by my product. It is designed to last a lifetime. ”
In the 1980’s, St. Marks Place was where the Goths, Punks, and Rockers hung out. Search and Destroy is a relic of this eccentric past. With naked toy babies and skeletons piled up in the front display window, the store is intriguing at first sight. A step through the door reveals mutilated animals and dummies, a larger mound of plastic infants, and loads of second hand clothing – studded leather, flannel, band t-shirts, boots, tutus and decorated gas masks. Not in a buying mood? Wading through the masses of clothing and checking out the funky clientele will be a memorable experience.
Trash and Vaudeville is actually two stores – Vaudeville, full of colorful, ornamented clothing pieces, is a more kitsch environment, while Trash “is one of the seminal punk and goth stores of NYC. ” Founded in 1975 by Ray Goodman, Trash and Vaudeville began adorning Rockers, Mods, Punks, Goths, and Rockabillies – “everyday working class heroes who just wanted to walk and dress on the wild side. ” Today, the store continues to cater to a similar audience, dressing rock stars, such as Lady Gaga, counter culturists, as well as the average New Yorker and tourist. Besides the bright colors, feather boas, and rubber dresses, the store’s character is derived from the people working here – most notably, Jimmy Webb. He is the epitome of rock n’ roll and an era gone by - wearing tight pants that hug his body, a leather studded vest, metal bracelets that coil up his arm, and a shag haircut that shields his eyes. Jimmy's tough appearance is marked with the gentlest of souls. He tells us that he loves Iggy Pop, that he wants to be a “little piece of a great big thing happening, ” but most importantly that he loves this store. In fact he is completely devoted to it. As he bops from left to right, Jimmy cannot help but charm every visitor... and he treats each of them with the utmost kindness, whether it be a star who walks in, a music lover, or someone who is simply exploring - like us. While the store is aesthetically memorable, Jimmy makes it much more noteworthy. A few years after our interview with Jimmy, Trash and Vaudeville moved from its longstanding home on St Marks to a location on 7th Street. However, the spirit, punk vibe, and killer style (not to mention Jimmy! ) followed the store. We have left up our photographs of the St. Marks store as an homage to the location that started it all. Can't get enough? See more of our interview with Jimmy here.
This bright and colorful West Village thrift shop is just one of the many businesses run by Housing Works, one of New York's highly regarded non-profits. Housing Works was founded in 1990 by members of ACT UP, an AIDS activist group that is dedicated to fighting the joint issues of homelessness and the AIDS epidemic. Their first thrift shop opened in Chelsea in 1992 and thirteen more have opened throughout the city since then, as well as a bookstore café in SoHo. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the social stigma associated with those living with the virus or simply being LGBTQ+ resulted in thousands of individuals being denied the foundation of a stable living: housing. Whether it was from familial rejection or housing discrimination, more and more HIV positive people found themselves on the streets, and poverty, queerness, and AIDS soon became intrinsically linked. Recognizing this often neglected connection, the founders of Housing Works sought to create an organization that addressed this crisis. The non-profit is committed to ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts. Luke, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, sat down with the 10th Street store manager, Lauren Guttenplan, to discuss the community atmosphere forged in their shop. She mentioned, “Community feels very central to the mission. We’re not too far from Christopher Street and Stonewall, so many of our customers and volunteers have lost someone or have a personal connection to the cause. They like to know that the money they’re spending is going to help towards something good. ” Guttenplan also noted that many of their regular customers come in as frequently as once or twice a day, and that the staff, the majority of whom are volunteers, often know customers’ names. Some patrons will even make a point to shop on a day where they know when a particular volunteer is working. Guttenplan credits much of the success of the operation to the devotion of the volunteers, whom she describes as “the face of the store. ” The shopping experience is truly unlike many other in that there are opportunities for customers to become volunteers or get involved in local activism and protests. With a retail background and a degree in social work, Lauren finds Housing Works to be a perfect blend of her passions. The organization provides the unique opportunity to run a business and actually make a difference. She appreciates that with programs like job training, it is particularly satisfying to witness the impact of her work first hand. Because all of the merchandise sold in the stores is donated, each of the Housing Works shops also serves as a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood. The West Village shop, with plenty of natural lighting and exposed brick, features not only fun and unique clothing selections, but also many household items, including kitchen items, home décor, and even furniture. The store hosts a number of events, the biggest of which are the Best of Fall and Best of Spring sales.
What started out as a couple of ice cream trucks in 2008, has since become a beloved collection of shops throughout Brooklyn and New York City. Van Leeuwen offers delicious fresh milk ice cream and vegan options made with only “coconut and cashew milk, raw cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil, and organic sugar cane. ” These artisanal ice cream makers are extremely concerned with the quality of their product and the source of their ingredients - their vanilla flavor comes from organic bourban and Tahitian vanilla orchids, and their chocolate from a family-run French company concerned with quality and free trade practices, Michele Cluizel Chocolate. Van Leeuwen also offers sophisticated flavors like ginger, sweet sticky black rice, earl grey tea, Ceylon cinnamon, and salted caramel with buffalo trace bourbon. This is a must try ice cream spot for vegans, dairy-lovers, and everyone else.
When I walked into Clash City Tattoos, Baz was hunched over his station, completing a tattoo sketch. The space popped with bold red walls, brightly colored ink bottles, and large tattoo designs. One could not miss the almost human-sized bass in the corner if they tried – “some friends just like to come in and play the bass, ” Baz told me as he shrugged his shoulders. Music influences much more of this tattoo shop’s ideology than I could have anticipated. Named after Baz’s favorite band, the space encapsulates the idea that just as The Clash could play such a range of genres, so too could Baz’s tattoos encompass all kinds of people. “Lawyers and rockstars alike listen to The Clash, ” he elaborated, “and I want my tattoos to unite my customers, just as a single beat can unite different listeners. ”Baz first visited the United States in 1991 while working on a cruise ship and was immediately drawn to everything American – particularly the music, cars, and TV shows. Working in a comic bookstore, he was captivated by posters for Iron Man, Planet of the Apes, and an assortment of cartoon superheroes. He claimed it was the “solid black lines, bold colors, and clear forms” of comic art that lent it a unique and sophisticated artistic quality. Moreover, his mother’s admiration for surrealist painter Salvador Dali offered him an early penchant for the freedom of abstract art anchored in bold lines – the ideal forms for tattoo art. Clients coming into Clash City Tattoos have usually heard about the store and like to visit with an idea of what they want inked. While Baz and his team are exceptionally friendly, asserting that their store “is a place that you won’t have to be afraid to walk into, ” they are also honest with clients about which designs work and which simply do not. Equipped with a creative bent, the team mostly designs custom tattoos using clients’ ideas. However, when someone comes in asking for a "full bible verse on their little finger" or an arrangement of “a heart with four names in it, two wings on either side, and a crown on top in the size of a fist, ” the team knows when to say “this isn’t working; let’s fine-tune. ” What is more, they pay exceptionally close attention to each client’s pain tolerance. While some can manage three hours of inking in a go, others (like Baz’s wife, he laughs) only last ten minutes. I asked Baz about the most challenging tattoo he was tasked with designing. When the bass player of globally-renowned British band Muse, Chris, asked for a tattoo of his son’s name, Buster, in Disney font, Baz started thinking of ways to make the design more complex and unique. A few days later, Chris and Baz were hanging out with a group of friends, when Chris recounted a story about Buster. The young boy was playing with his toys at home when he ran straight into the corner of an table and cut his forehead. But he continued with his play as usual until Chris’ wife noticed a large gash on his head and rushed him to the hospital. Buster was unfazed. The story inspired Baz to draw up the tattoo that now decorates Chris’ right forearm – a smirking cartoon kid with boxing gloves over the name “Buster” in striking black font. Chris loved it. Looking at Baz’s journey thus far, it is easy to see how he has settled into a characteristic set of themes and motifs. Through space backgrounds, gypsy girls, cartoon superheroes, and more, Baz eventually reached a signature design – “pin-up girls with stuff in their hair, ” as he amusedly called it. I was thrilled to see his gorgeous side profiles of girls with complex forms – ships, octopuses, and more – wrapped in the locks of their hair. Baz’s artistic genius spans a wide range of imagery, fixed into his defining black lines and bold forms.
I had heard about these baths for years, believe it or not, from my grandmother who lived nearby on Avenue A as a child. Needless to say, I was eager to have a look inside this spa that has been around since 1892. Upon entering, clients are given a key to the locker room, then told to take some towels and select a sauna... be it a Russian one that has a rock filled oven or an electrically heated redwood sauna. In addition, there is an aromatherapy room, a steam room and a Turkish room complete with cold showers. Other amenities include an ice-cold pool, a Swedish shower with cold-water jets, a sun deck, and a small cafe that serves an authentic Russian menu. Some on the list of treatments include a Swedish/Russian massage, Thai/Sports massage, the Platza Oak Leaf Treatment that involves being whacked with a bundle of soapy oak leaves and oil, or a Dead Sea Salt Scrub. Although I did not chose to venture past my guided tour of the baths, I did experience an old world, warm community with many foreign speaking clients.
With its sharp corner spine, perpendicular window displays, and eye-catching red accents, the façade of Three Lives and Co. resembles an enticing book cover. Inside, caramel-colored shelves, a cozy patterned carpet, and warm lamps surround an assortment of handpicked reads. As the current owner, Toby Cox, put it, “just open the door and it’s a jewel box. ”Three Lives, which takes its name from the Gertrude Stein novel, was opened in 1978 by Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder, and Helene Webb. Originally located on Seventh Avenue, the shop moved to the corner of 10th Street and Waverly in 1983. It has since remained a “small neighborhood bookstore, ” while the neighborhood has grown “to sort of become the world. ”Toby first stumbled upon the store on a visit from his home state of Rhode Island, where he sold books for ten years after graduating from Brown University. He was so in awe of the little shop that he sung its praises in the local Providence newsletter. Nine months later, he moved to New York to work as a book publisher, and for the next three years, he frequented Three Lives to “revel in the store. ”Then, “it all came together in a magical way. ” Toby asked Jill if she was interested in having him as an additional partner; Jill countered by offering Toby the business. In early 2001, Toby took over the store. Toby sees Three Lives as much more than a store selling books. To him, it is a vibrant community center — a place to “step off what’s going on outside those red doors, relax, unwind, have an easy chat with a staff member, and let go of all the pressure. ”