The owner grew up playing, and later working, in his parent’s hat store as a young boy. Today, he sells a wide selection of contemporary men’s and women’s hats made by many different milliners. One hundred year old J.J. Hat Center on Fifth Avenue is a parent company to Pork Pie Hatters, so the two boutiques share a lot of the same amazing inventory. Besides pork pies, they sell berets made in France, winter hats, caps, fedoras, rain hats and more.
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.
The warmly painted walls inside Veselka envelop the room in folky florals and traditional Ukrainian symbols. Hanging from the ceiling are glowing milk glass globes that seem to replace the sun or moon depending on the time of day — and it could be any time at all, as Veselka is open for twenty-four hours, seven days a week, serving a smorgasbord of pierogis, bowls of borscht, and other expertly prepared comfort foods — Ukrainian and otherwise. Wlodymyr Darmochwal planted roots for Veselka when, as one of the founders of the neighborhood Plast organization (akin to the Ukrainian boy scouts, teaching survival skills and Ukrainian language), he was asked to create a weekend study program for the boys. In response, he opened a five-and-dime style counter at the corner of East 9th Street and Second Avenue where the boys could buy paper clips, cigarettes, lighters, and, notably, bowls of borscht and other basic Ukrainian foods. The business expanded into another storefront on East 9th Street a decade later. After Wlodymyr’s passing in 1972, it was taken over by his stepson, Tom Birchard, who was later joined by his son, Jason. Today, having worked at the restaurant since he was a teenager, Jason has “done every single job possible here except cook the borscht. ”When Jason joined the team, one of his first projects was to find out, “How late can we stay open? ” It turns out the answer was “all night. ” As Tom and Jason once again prepare to expand the restaurant into an adjoining storefront on 9th Street, they are eager to continue serving the next generation the kind of traditional Ukrainian food that Wlodymyr would have had at his counter more than sixty years ago.
Shahrzad Ghajar, founder of the gift shop Spooksvilla + friends, takes curation to another level. She meets with each of the artists represented in the store and personally chooses every piece showcased on the walls and shelves. Shahrzad, herself, is a talented artist, and many of her designs are featured in the shop. By focusing on the artists, Spooksvilla ensures that everything for sale - from apparel to wall art - is one-of-a-kind. “We like to be representative of original people doing original things— be it art, products, charms or any other kind of cool item, " said Ethan Velez, manager of Spooksvilla. Despite the fact that multiple artists contribute to Spooksvilla, the store is not a hodgepodge of styles. Rather, the art is united in its bold, whimsical designs. A favorite is the label on the bottle of the rose bath salts - a piece of art in itself. A woman with purple skin and purple hair rides a pink dragon, holding, of course, roses.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
The essence of Duo is in its name; it is two things at once. It is dulled colors and clean lines, minimalist in feel but simultaneously filled with warmth and softness. Both young and old, vibrant and calm, it is modern and fresh but brings to mind memories of simpler times: of handwritten letters, cozy Sunday afternoons and soft breezes over the wide open fields of northern Minnesota, the owners’ home state. Conflicting and complementing all at once, Duo is the product of two minds at work. Sisters Wendy and LaRae Kangas have created a perfect little fashion oasis that fits right in with the small town vibes of Manhattan’s East Village. Growing up, Wendy and LaRae pestered each other and fought over clothes, as siblings will do, but in 2008 they decided to open up a shop together. Today, they work with dealers and emerging independent designers throughout the country and pick all their clothing, accessories and home goods by hand, combining masculine and feminine styles with modern silhouettes and vintage traces to curate a timeless collection of quality, classic pieces. “It’s a very personal process, ” they told me, “and we put a lot of love into our shop and our collections. ” Nothing at Duo is mass-produced, and most of their merchandise is recycled. The sisters pour their hearts into the shop and work hard to stay true to themselves while keeping an eye toward the future, expanding their business into the world of e-commerce and social media. “It’s important to stay current and give the customers what they want, ” they said. They love what they do, and working with family makes it even more fun, according to the sisters. “It makes work smooth when you don’t have to verbalize what you’re thinking, ” they told me, “We just know what each other is thinking and it makes choosing products and daily operations much easier. ”Duo is a celebration of creative spirit. It is clear that the sisters revel in the one-of-a-kind individuality of each and every one of their customers who come to them looking for pieces that will express their own unique style. When explaining what they love about their work, they said, “It’s great to make a customer feel better when they walk out the door. ”