The recession may have slowed the growth of Harlem’s retail scene, but upscale boutiques, grooming emporiums and the neighborhood’s first designer consignment spot have taken root. Our guide to the best shops in Harlem points you to our local favorites. It’s also worth checking out authentic African bazaar, Harlem Shabazz Harlem Market. When shopping fatigue sets in, retire to one of the many bars or grab a bite.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Harlem, New York
West Africa native and Harlem resident Bernard Oyama ditched his banking career to open his first Soho boutique in 2003. The classy menswear store has since relocated uptown, where the suits are immaculately displayed against an orange wall and wood floors. Take a nod from R&B star Ne-Yo (who has been known to frequent the shop) by picking up colorful cotton button-down tops with B. Oyama signature collars, which are two and a quarter inches higher than typical ones ($125–$175). Nine-to-five types will gravitate toward striped suspenders ($85–$125), printed silk ties ($105–$135) and colorful ascots ($85). Ladies can get in on the action with made-to-order shirts ($110–$150), dresses ($130–$180) and suits ($550), available in bright, femme prints. If you need a little extra help getting dressed, Oyama himself and a team of stylists will come to your home or office and offer outfitting tips ($50 per hour).
This natural hair- and skin-care line has gone from a neighborhood secret to one of the leading natural beauty companies in the country, with celebs like Brad Pitt lusting after its products. With its soothing white brick walls and divine mélange of fragrances both sweet and subtle, the flagship store in Harlem is an aromatic oasis. Indulge your senses and pick up the brand’s signature handmade soap ($2) in the popular almond-cookie scent, the Ecstasy Shea Souffle moisturizing lotion ($13–$30)and the yummy SweetHoneyDip ChocolateBrownSugah scrub ($34). If time permits, treat yourself to a Rose Petal Ritual mani and pedi ($53) at the in-store Backroom Spa, which focuses solely on hands and feet.
The lack of decor at this tiny thrift shop allows shoppers to focus on the vast mix of consignment duds (expect anything from an 1840s wedding gown to silver-sequined hot pants). It requires some digging on your part, but hidden steals may include a Zac Posen leather shoulder bag ($200), a rope belt ($30) and a cheeky everybody loves a nerdy boy tee ($16). The racks stuffed with prairie dresses ($28–$250) and designer scarves (such as a Christian Dior style for $95) displayed around the store are worth an hour of sifting, but beware of tears and holes. Scan the always-present 50-percent-off rack for cheap jeans and tanks ($8–$12).
Check out Harlem women’s go-to spot for homemade, organic, West African–inspired beauty products. The walls of the tile-floored, well-lit space are lined with dark wood cubbies displaying Nigerian owner Sade Tyler’s goods, including vitamin C SPF 15 day lotion ($48), African brown body oil made with cocoa beans ($20), cucumber- and pomegranate-scented body creams ($25), and salt scrubs ($25). A glass counter showcases makeup made with red and orange undertones to match the skin of African-American women, including foundation powder ($25–$30) and eye shadow ($25–$35). Ladies can also grab color-customized kits that include foundation, eye shadow, lipgloss, eyeliner and mascara ($75–$110). You can even get your paws polished at a small nail-tech station ($15–$55), or book a service with the shop’s aesthetician, who does vitamin C peels ($110), firming facials ($75) and hot-stone massages (60 minutes, $100) in a back spa room.
Don’t let the racks of pricey Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester threads fool you: Swing doesn’t cater just to those with large bank accounts. Prepare to drop anywhere from $6 for a statue of Hindu deity Ganesh to $2,000 for antique furniture imported from London; you can hit mid-range price points, too, with Sphatika bath and body products, and ready-to-wear clothing and home decor from all corners of the world. This inviting boutique is designed to feel like the fictional home of owner and world traveler Helena Greene—which will become even more apparent when you sit down in the communal area to enjoy a complimentary cup of French tea.
Harlem gets its first designer reseller with this boutique hawking contemporary apparel ($30–$800) and accessories ($80–$1,200) from high-end brands such as Chanel and Alexander Wang at up to 60 percent off retail prices. The spacious spot features black-and-white walls, marble floors, a black chandelier and crisp white clothing racks packed with designer fare. We spotted a silk Diane von Furstenberg blouse ($40), a lightweight Missoni sweater ($150), a Stella McCartney linen dress ($300) and a Proenza Schouler PS1 tote ($800). For guys, we found a Ralph by Ralph Lauren button-down shirt ($60), a never-worn pair of Balmain jeans ($700) and Lanvin cuffed sneakers ($500). Make an appointment to sell your goods, and receive 60 percent of the retail price in store credit or 50 percent in cash.