Downtown Chic

Fashionistas can look good without big labels

On the streets of Tribeca and SoHo, she’s a force to be reckoned with: powerful, sexy, unique. Armani, Prada and Gucci have their place uptown, but the downtown fashionista doesn’t need big designer labels to validate her identity. She is creative and edgy in her style. She’ll wear a corselet and cargo pants and team it with a pair of one-of-a-kind shoes created by an artist in a side street studio. She is her own personal stylist. There are no rules, except to defy the standard black-on-black uniform sold on Fifth Avenue. This is her look, and this is where she shops.


Layering of skirts over pants, lots of interesting details, textures and pockets are all part of the downtown style. Only here can women get away with sporting a multilayered dominatrix/road-warrior look in broad daylight. Multiple belts, chains that drip down the leg of cargo pants and boots that lace up midcalf come together in a sexy ensemble from Israeli designer Sigal Dekel — a look that screams “tough broad.”

For the more daring dresser, Tribeca-based Steven Alan offers denim skirts so teeny, they barely touch the bottom of a bikini pantyline. Simple flats and a tight T complement this barely-there, very cool look.

Hold that visual and consider A Uno‘s line of playful full-length, tight-waisted frocks that take retro chic to new extremes, reaching back a century or so. Believe it or not, some even call for a bustle. In the same shop, rock-star hipsters can find vintage men’s jackets “deconstructed” by local artist Epperson. He finds coats in thrift stores, chops them up, then adorns the garments with bold color stitching.


After dark, the freeform mix and match gets even sexier and more colorful. At Rosebud, an elaborate antique tapestry jacket combines with a risque black taffeta skirt that has revealing all-over horizontal slits. This elegant skirt can be worn with a vibrantly colored slip or, for the very daring, no slip at all (very SoHo).

Fashion meets art in Zoolook‘s line of couture evening and bridal gowns. Designer Shine Lee decorates her hand-painted silk dresses with jewelry wire — an unexpected accent for these floaty, feminine creations. “People are really hungry for something new,” says designer-artist Lee. “That’s why I like SoHo. We can try really crazy things.”

Detour lets any woman dress like an X-rated Barbie doll in its one-of-a-kind corselets. These multicolored confections are whipped up from silks and fine mesh, then garnished with embroidery, beads, rhinestones and crystals — stunning with a pair of jeans. The shop also offers fun, sexy dresses for what shop owner Eva Aberman calls “a touch of funky.”


Downtown rebels can find arty handbag alternatives at Deco Jewels — including a beehive-shaped Lucite handbag from the 1950s, complete with tiny bees carved in its lid, or another tote modeled after a fishing tackle box. The store’s selection of vintage rhinestone costume jewelry is every bit as original.

At Disrespectacles, classic frames get a funky downtown treatment. Edgy shapes, including one whose graceful upsweep hits the wearer mid-forehead, and fetching color combos (green and peach, anybody?) are guaranteed to stay en vogue for at least a couple of years.


A 25-year-old SoHo tradition, Peter Fox caters to that selective client who doesn’t want to wear what everybody else is wearing. Turn-of-the-century with a modern twist, Fox’s updated granny boots and Mary Janes may not be Manolo Blahniks, but they’re known in the world of showbiz. Kate Winslet wore them in “Titanic,” as did Uma Thurman in “The Producers” and Jennifer Connelly in “A Beautiful Mind.”