Colorful, fashionable, and just plain quirky is the best way to describe the shoes at Strut. The array is perfect for fashion-conscious females, with an emphasis on Jeffrey Campbell's family-owned line of shoes. Worn by fashionistas around the globe, 14th Street is fortunate to have the largest selection of Jeffrey Campbells in the city.
Walking into Shop Untitled, which features exquisite clothing, chunky crystal necklaces, fierce leather boots, and gloves galore, is like walking into a fashion wonderland. Along the walls there are long black coats with leather spines, a full body piece that looks like something a ninja might wear, and effortlessly hip hooded shirts. “We don’t buy safe things,” Kevin Kelly said to me, “They end up on the sales rack. We do risky things. They’ll sell the first day.”Manhattan Sideways had the chance to sit down and talk with Kevin and Gapu Suri who have been partners in the shop since 1983. Kevin informed us that the store was originally located across the street until 2009, when it moved to its current location. After relocating, people thought they were the new kids on the block. “New Yorkers don’t turn around,” Kevin jokingly said, but then explained that he and Gapu chose to stay in the neighborhood because of their loyal clientele. Young women who shopped here years ago are now mothers who bring their daughters to browse in this haven of chic clothes.As we perused the wares, we learned that Shop Untitled is a place that changes with the times, keeping up to date on all the newest trends - because it has always been for young people. Its racks are filled with the lines of up-and-coming designers. Gapu and Kevin do not carry the same things as other boutiques: they mostly feature smaller designers who prefer to be in a finely curated shop. They are proud that a number of the designers that they represent choose to work exclusively with Shop Untitled. “Customers like being surprised that they’ve never heard of someone,” Kevin said, adding that it makes them feel unique in a sea of familiar brands.Talking with Kevin and Gapu was a wonderful experience. They have strong convictions and take great pride in being a launching pad for new designers. “We love what we do – we wake up and love doing it,” Gapu exclaimed with a big smile on his face. Together, they run the store like a well-oiled machine. Gapu, who moved from India to go the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that he travels to Paris about four times a year to do the buying for the store. He does “tons and tons of research” to seek out new and fashion-forward designers. Kevin has not had any formal training in design, but definitely, as he says, has a “flair for it.” Decked out in cool, architectural clothing, their aesthetic is evident.The Manhattan Sideways team gave Kevin the impossible task of picking just three designers to highlight. He landed on two edgy, eco-conscious artists: Barbara I Gongini, who makes sure her fabrics and pieces are sustainably attained, and Demobaza with an “end of the world, beginning of the next world” vibe. To round it out, Kevin mentioned the House of Malakai, a company that makes very special face masks that caught the eye of Madonna herself. Rihanna even flew Malakai to New York for the Met ball. Gapu and Kevin have a lot of interaction with the music, film, TV, and theater crowd. Recently, a designer had work featured in The Hunger Games movies after a buyer for the film came by the store.The two men place a heavy emphasis on seeking out new talent. Gapu told us that he is always on the hunt for designers that are “raw and fresh.” These talented men and women enter into a strong legacy: Shop Untitled carried John Galliano’s and Alexander McQueen’s work straight out of school. In ending our conversation, Gapu announced emphatically that the clothing and accessories that Shop Untitled carries must have “a soul behind the creation.”
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.
Babycastles, randomly named in honor of a Japanese pastry, is a gallery and community venue for video game designers. However, according to Todd Anderson, one of the members of the Babycastles collective, Babycastles is about more than just gaming. It is an “incubator” of fresh artistic thought, a place to go with unconventional ideas to be welcomed by individuals who can see those concepts into fruition without red tape and hefty price tags.Using his own story as a case study, Todd told me about how he moved to New York from Chicago in order to pursue digital poetry, a relatively new genre that plays with the interaction between technology and language (for example, using a keyboard to control the delivery of a poem in the same way a conductor guides an orchestra). Todd turned to Babycastles, inquired about hosting a monthly poetry event, and was met with great support. He found a home for his art, and has been invested in Babycastles ever since.Sharing a building with Hack Manhattan, Babycastles hosts a wide variety of events for all ages including concerts, lectures, game launches, and even yoga. The Babycastles team curates exhibitions that spotlight independent video game designers and define their work in the larger context of fine arts. Oftentimes, custom game cabinets are built to accommodate the works on display.Game creators and other artists are invited to apply for the Babycastles residency program, which allows them to take advantage of the bright, sunlit co-working space and receive inspiration from an artistic community where they can freely test their latest ideas. For an application to the program, check the website; new members are admitted regularly.