Much Ado on Madison

by Barbara Hodes and NYC Private Shopping Tour Photographed by Barbara Hodes
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

New Yorkers often bemoan the many empty store fronts all over the city. Designers have discovered the allure of upper Madison Avenue, and have opened boutiques that appeal to neighborhood residents as well visitors. Here are a few of them.

Do you crave luxury minimalism with an artistic aesthetic? Then stop into KES (1184 Madison Avenue). Lia Kes offers clothing and accessories from her own collection along with a selection of pieces from cutting edge international designers. Her fall collection was presented in collaboration with artist Miriam Cabessa, who did a live action line painting for the show. Kes’s offerings are made in New York, and she focuses on sustainability by organically dying and creating patterns that are one of a kind. These pieces are meticulously made with the best fabrics. The juxtaposition of silk and leather feels empowering and edgy. The fact that the store offers a unique sophisticated look at a very contemporary price point makes it a must shop.


If maximalism is more your style, visit Sachin & Babi (1200 Madison Avenue). This lifestyle brand is owned and designed by the Indian couple, who make stand-out occasion dressing at affordable prices that can be customized for you. Their family-owned and run factory in Mumbai uses fabrics from Italy and Spain, as well as India, and creates beautifully embellished pieces realized by the second generation local craftspeople who have worked for the company for decades. In addition to the clothing, explore the accessories and jewelry made to complement the clothes, and their range of exotic home accessories. Tucked about the store are amusing pieces that the owners find on their travels. Because Sachin & Babi is a family owned company, they are able to offer their wares at a great value, and they are committed to supporting education in India. Each item that is purchased helps fund an Indian child’s education. A store you need to explore.

Missing Paris or seeking to channel your inner Bardot or Birkin? Enter Saint James (41 East 78 Street) and inhale the Gallic atmosphere among the authentic Breton classics. The timeless clothes are all made in the village of St. James, established in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. The village has changed since then, but you can visit the factory and learn how the craft of making the clothes has stayed true to the local tradition. Originally made for the seafaring Bretons, the traditional jerseys became the official uniform of the French Navy over a century ago. Jean Paul Gaultier made the simple stripe his top signature years ago. That said, the chic borrowed-from-the-boys offerings of women’s tee’s, sweaters, dresses and accessories are also available for men and children. Want a real beret or nautical pea coat? Classic yet romantically chic, these stripes won’t let you down.

Does the California vibe speaks to you? Want to lounge about in exotic kimonos in silk or velvet, printed and embroidered, using mad mixed media techniques? Take a look at Johnny Was (1070 Madison Avenue). Their New York store is full of globally inspired clothes for the modern gypsy. Peasant shirts, jackets, dresses as well as blankets and pillows ooze modern vintage. The Los Angeles based company uses velvets, silk, rayon and cotton for year-round comfort. Whether the garments are made in America or in other countries that create custom-crafted embroideries, you will enjoy the cozy, boho mood. Add hats, scarves and jewelry for your unique look. Since the items are hand done, each one has its own personality. The store is colorfully decorated with vintage and modern touches.

Fall is here, and the Scottish brand Brora (1204 Madison Avenue) wants to help you up your cozy quotient–colorfully. The collections for men, women and children are cashmere based. The cashmere is sustainably and ethically sourced in Mongolia. The best fibers are brought to Scotland, where they are spun and dyed, and garments are created by hand and machine, using skills passed down through generations of crafts people. There are skirts, blouses and jackets in addition to the knitwear. The Danish use the term hygge which basically means nice, cozy and safe. The term fits the Brora aesthetic. Cuddle up with cashmere ponchos, hand warmers, socks and hats. The company is privately owned, and one of the few proudly Made in Britain brands producing cashmere. You can also find garments in lambswool and merino, as well as Brit-centric accessories. The children’s clothes are especially appealing and are perfect for gifting. The kids will love the videos that explain how the garments are made, and you might too.



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