If you wanted to bankrupt yourself in just one day, all you’d need to do is go shopping in NYC. The city is home to both high-end department stores—frequented by as many locals as tourists—and small independent boutiques with cult neighborhood followings. Where you choose to swipe your credit card depends, obviously, on your budget, but just because you can’t afford a Givenchy handbag doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a look, right? Many of the city’s chicest stores are worth a visit if only to browse the glitzy racks and take in the artistic window displays. Whether you’re in the market for vintage finds or chic homewares, these stores should be on any New York City shopping list.
This SoHo concept store is the resident cool kid of downtown Manhattan—and the place to go for a curated selection of next-generation designer goods. Expect to pick up floaty dresses by bohemian-chic designer Ulla Johnson, fine bracelets and necklaces by Greek jeweler Ileana Makri, and home goods (including eye-popping backgammon sets) by Hector Saxe.
When New York City socialite Claire Distenfeld opened her fashion, accessories, and jewelry gallery in a townhouse off Madison Avenue a few years back, she was lauded for being a millennial who chose the traditional brick-and-mortar route. Though her store obviously sells online, a visit to the flagship—popular among Upper East Siders and downtown fashionistas as much for its curated selection of established designers (including Giambattista Valli and Carolina Herrera) as for its exclusive offerings from lesser-known (but no-less-upscale) labels like Rocio and Mateo—is an experience worth having.
It’s hard to even call Bergdorf’s a department store—it’s more like fashion wonderland. Expect to be transported before you even walk through the door: the experience starts with the windows, in which seasonal displays transform high-end clothing with magical realism. The fantasy continues as you browse handbags by the likes of Nancy Gonzalez, Givenchy, and Chanel on the ground floor before making your way up one story to shoe heaven or two floors to the designer collections (where store-in-store concepts like curated section on vacation attire are often featured). Post-shopping, head to the Kelly Wearstler–designed seventh-floor restaurant for the fanciest Caesar salad you’ll ever eat.
If you’re the type of shopper who frequently finds a piece of clothing or object you love, but can’t picture working it into your wardrobe or home, this is the store for you. Set in a third-floor loft, the Apartment by the Line is experiential shopping—everything is laid out as if it were someone’s home, affording you the opportunity to see the lived-in potential of its clothing, accessories, beauty products, homewares, and art.
Have you ever needed to buy a birthday or housewarming present for someone who has everything and is impossible to shop for? Our solution: head to the MoMA Design Store. Like the exhibits it keeps, this museum gift shop sells all amounts of quirky kitchenware, prints, books, jewelry, furniture, and office supplies with a commitment to cutting-edge design and eye-pleasing aesthetics. On the hunt for an oak-wood piano from Japan? VR headsets? A lamp shaped like a fanned-out book? It's all here.
When it debuted in 2009, Bird helped put Brooklyn on the map as an international shopping destination. Now, with four Brooklyn locations (and one in Culver City, California), Bird is an established go-to for both womenswear (a mix of street-cool labels and wearable basics) and menswear (button-downs and sweaters by the likes of A.P.C. and Paul Smith). The brand also sells unique accessories (like throws stitched from Indian saris) and lavender-oatmeal soap from Red Hook-based soap-maker Saipua. But this is Brooklyn, after all, so you can also expect eco-conscious items like trousers from Zero + Maria Cornejo made with sustainably sourced woven twill.
Celebrity stylists head to this vintage mecca when they’re hunting for one-of-a-kind looks for red carpet events, but you'll find just as many regular fashionistas here shopping for special-occasion looks. Don't be afraid to ask for help browsing the racks: the encyclopedic salespeople know the provenance of each gown, shoe, and accessory and will often unearth rare treasures—like a 1960s Chanel 2.55 handbag, upon which the modern reissue is based—if you tell them what you’re looking for.
RELATED: The Best Vintage Stores in the U.S.
Whether you’re in the market for well-priced Japanese bath linens, jewelry by L.A.-based designer Annie Costello Brown, or adorable children’s clothing, this sleek Nolita shop is filled with unique finds. Owners Fiona Thomas and Allison Sires hand-select all the pieces, many of which are sourced locally, and are often found mulling around the store—as is their Norwich Terrier, Ivy.
Barneys recently expanded its footprint in New York City, adding a second Chelsea location to complement its Midtown flagship. The shopping experience at both locations is similar—airy, open floor plans allow you to leisurely weave your way through displays—but the selections are a bit different. Downtown skews younger and hipper, with labels like the Row, Saint Laurent, and Vetements spread out across four floors. Midtown, meanwhile, stocks epic selections of haute jewelry, shoes, and accessories alongside all the high-end designers you’d expect from an NYC department store. (If you can, shop during the holidays when their seasonal sales offer steep promotions.)
Shoes and ice cream may sound like a wonky combination, but once you visit this downtown streetwear store, you’ll wonder why more places don’t do it. Cross the threshold and you'll be confronted with a sky-high installation of white sneakers (Instagram potential, people). As you wind your way through the low-lit rooms, you’ll find an extensive selection of exclusive shoes and sportswear; shop here and you certainly won’t be wearing the same things as everyone else. While many of the special-edition Nike and Adidas kicks will set you back hundreds of dollars, there are shoes at a range of prices; just ask the enthusiastic staff.
This seven-floor concept store sells a curated selection of high-end clothing and street wear in a gallery-like space. Designers are invited to create their own displays for a kind of store-in-store experience that takes the shopper into their world and engages them with the clothes. If money were no object, we’d grab Alaïa knit dresses, Rick Owens leather jackets, and wearable art by Comme des Garçons.