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Best shops on the Lower East Side for fashion, vintage and more

The former tenements are now stuffed with fashionable boutiques, but which are the best shops in the neighborhood?

The old center of the rag trade used to be associated with discount stores. These days, you’ll find some of the best shops in the city for new designers and vintage on the Lower East Side. The pushcarts are long gone, but there are still some old-school food purveyors, including smoked-fish specialist Russ & Daughters and the vendors of Essex Street Market. Also be sure to check out the seasonal Hester Street Fair, which is among the city's best flea markets.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Lower East Side

Alife Rivington Club

Critics' pick

It’s easy to miss this small but well-appointed unmarked shop, which has been dishing out street-inspired menswear since 2001. Ring the buzzer for access to solid, long-sleeved button-ups ($110) with a small, embroidered red heart and yellow lightning bolt on the front collar, and classic cardigans ($118) with front pockets and the brand name running vertically down the left-front side. Vibrant screen-printed logo tees ($35) have solid or camo lettering, while others bear phrases (“Life i$ money”) or simple images, like a rocks glass and the word whiskey. As for outerwear, offerings include collared, button-up camo jackets and two-tone varsity jackets with a script Alife logo on the chest ($185 each). The store doesn’t stock other brands, with the exception of Krink markers and ink ($8–$11) for its street-graffiti-writing clientele. Immediately next door with a separate entrance is Alife’s footwear shop, which is modeled after a retro gentlemen’s club and carries Alife-brand kicks, alongside other labels like Nike and Adidas. The main attraction is various Alife collabo shoes, including all-white leather Nike Air Force 1s from 2009 ($225) with tonal imprinted star shapes. Hard-to-find sneaks include extremely limited-release 2003 Air Force 2s designed by New York graffiti legend Espo, with see-through toes and have knots written on the back heel panel ($600). For a summer look, opt for two-tone canvas-and-leather boat shoes by Pointers ($80).

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Lower East Side

Bluestockings

This self-proclaimed “radical” bookstore and café hosts readings and discussions on health, race, class and sexuality, featuring stellar writers such as graphic novelist Alison Bechdel and Christian-right watchdog Michelle Goldberg.

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Lower East Side

THECAST

Owner Chuck Guarino traded his (literally) underground location for a weathered sliver of a storefront on Orchard Street, but the new shop maintains the neogothic vibe. At the core of the unabashedly masculine collection is the trinity of well-cut denim, superior leather jackets based on classic motorcycle styles, and the artful T-shirts that launched the label in 2004. This spring the ladies get their own line, Aloha from Hell, covering similar ground.

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Lower East Side

Doyle & Doyle

Whether your taste is Art Deco or Nouveau, Victorian or Edwardian, gemologist sisters Pam and Elizabeth Doyle, who specialize in estate and antique jewelry, will have that one-of-a-kind item you’re looking for, including engagement and eternity rings. The artfully displayed pieces within wall-mounted, wooden-framed cases are just a fraction of what they have in stock.

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Lower East Side

The Dressing Room

Critics' pick

It’s hard not to love a spot that combines our two favorite pastimes—drinking and shopping—and that’s exactly what this Lower East Side bar-boutique does. On the street level of the two-floor emporium (which stays open late to encourage boozing and browsing), you’ll find a co-op boutique for emerging local designers. Among the brief but varied collection of men’s and women’s clothing, highlights include Alissa Chapman corset dresses ($245), Out of Print graphic tees ($28), and uniquely gorgeous Heather Benjamin agate rings ($175–$285). The top floor is where you’ll also find the charming dark oak bar, where a hip, young crowd orders bottled Brooklyn Lager ($5), wine by the glass ($8–$9) and specialty cocktails ($10–$12) such as the gin-and-OJ drink Sundress ($12), and takes in classic movies projected on the back wall of the bar’s cozy, pillow-laden nook. If you’d rather drop dough on designer duds than your bar tab, check out the basement level clothing exchange, which features a maze of secondhand and vintage pieces at seriously good prices. We recently uncovered an on-trend tie-front silk blouse ($16), recent-season Calypso shift dress ($22) and just-like-new Marc by Marc Jacobs striped tunic ($32).

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Lower East Side

Economy Candy

Since 1932 Economy Candy has been selling sweets, including the entire line of Joyva products, on the LES.

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Lower East Side

Edith Machinist

An impeccable assemblange of leather bags, shoes and boots is the main draw here, but you’ll also find a whittled-down collection of clothes, including a men’s section.

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Lower East Side

End of Century

When selecting the name for their Lower East Side boutique, friends Chantal Chadwick and Lara Hodulick wanted to convey a period of new beginnings. End of Century, from the French term fin de siècle, seemed like a natural fit for a store that showcases local up-and-coming artists and designers trying to burst onto the scene. Putting their respective college educations in design, fashion and art to work, the duo has curated what they hope will be a full sensory shopping experience. The softly lit, off-the-beaten-path store houses a unique assortment of jewelry, accessories, home goods, and men’s and women’s clothing. Highlights include Samantha Pleet mud silk jackets ($350), Wrkroom men’s solid-colored henleys ($80), Yumiko Kuga ceramic bowls ($166) and Martine Ali rose gold-dipped ammunition cuffs ($540). End of Century is also part rotating gallery, featuring the work of friends and other creative people who inspire its owners, like Polish artist and Greenpoint native Martina Szcz, whose digital photo collages of National Geographic nature images ($50–$300) are on display this month. In an effort to keep the shop’s look fresh, nearly everything is for sale, from the mid-century chandelier ($1,200) to an industrial metal desk ($890).

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Lower East Side

Epaulet

Critics' pick

This Brooklyn clothing boutique brought its mostly men’s indie wares to Manhattan by setting up shop on the always-in-vogue Lower East Side. The minimal aesthetic of the warm, open space, with its hardwood floors and unadorned, cream-colored walls, complements the ruggedly classic, well-made menswear and small selection of simple ladies’ looks, all of which hang on six rolling racks. You’ll find Epaulet’s house collections, designed by owners Adele Berne and Mike Kuhle, including merino-wool V-neck sweaters made in Italy ($150) and slim-fit wool trousers ($185). Guys can also take home Bailey of Hollywood newsboy caps ($55), Johnston’s lamb’s wool scarves ($50–$60) and skinny hand-sewn silk ties ($60). The store’s exclusive, limited-edition items are another highlight, specifically Alden’s wing-tip boots ($465) and Wm. J Mills & Co. canvas briefcases ($140). Girlfriends, don’t feel left out: There’s one very well-edited rack dedicated to female fashions, such as Gant long, cable-knit cardigans ($295) and Schott cropped leather motorcycle jackets ($385).

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Lower East Side

Honey in the Rough

Looking for something sweet and charming? Hit this cozy, ultrafemme boutique. Owner Ashley Hanosh fills the well-worn spot with an excellently edited lineup of local indie labels including Mociun and Samantha Pleet, as well as international up-and-comers like Ivana Helsinki and Tsumori Chisato, alongside a carefully selected assemblage of organic apothecary items and uncommon baubles. Some lines are exclusive to the shop, such as Japanese-Parisian designer Yukie Deuxpoints’s Art Nouveau–inspired jewelry.

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Lower East Side
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