Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large
Between Christmas and New Year, I decamped to New York for a week where we (eight members of my family, aged 2-78) did lots of the standard tourist stuff, saw a few great exhibitions including Matisse at The Met and generally soaked up the festive atmosphere. I filled up my half-empty suitcase with J Crew and Anthropologie bargains. It was great fun, but mostly the kind of things which any of you going to NY will know to do anyway. One excursion which I am so happy I insisted on doing was to Williamsburg. I didn't drag everyone there, just my brother and my Dad- not a prime candidate for loving any kind of hipster activity, but he did manage to find himself a good shirt in a vintage store. Williamsburg is often compared to East London's Shoreditch or Dalston in that it's a once run down area which is now achingly hip but is not so gentrified that you can't tell how it once was, indeed that's part of the charm. It's also been made a teeny bit more famous by Girls which will probably put Williamsburg on the tourist map in the same way SATC did the East Village.
Admittedly we went on New Year's Eve so probably got a slightly subdued version of the real deal- lots of places were closed. We got off the subway at Bedford Avenue after getting a super-quick L-line from Manhattan then walked west to look out across the river, which is a really incredible view. A sure sign the area is still on the up is the contrast of little wooden clad houses which mostly line lots of the streets, with huge loft conversions lining the river front. The one we saw at 184 Kent Avenue even had its very own bijou coffee shop at the bottom of the building. We ventured further into town in search of morning coffee and found a veritable hipster paradise complete with a ratio of at least one Mac per person.
Call me cliché but I quite wanted to be one of those annoying people who could say, "Oh this fabulous vase/ dress/ piece of jewellery? I just got it in a junk shop in Brooklyn". In fact, I'd already been to the Hells Kitchen Flea Market (massively downscaled because of Christmas) the day before in pursuit of such purchases and discovered there is plenty of genuinely beautiful and weird stuff to be had. In this vein, we dropped in to two equally awesome thrift shops on our travels- one I cannot find the name of anywhere but is a stone's throw from Bedford Avenue subway station (not the Salvation Army store), the other was Junk on 9th Street between Bedford and Driggs. You could spend hours upon hours sifting through the ridiculous, like school spelling bee certificates from the 70s, the kitsch, like little Bambi statues, and the fabulous, like formerly glorious chandeliers. If I ever have a house to furnish, I'll be back.
|If only this fitted in my suitcase...|
In terms of vintage fashion, the junk shops do have rails of stuff at the back and around the sides which is super, super cheap but perhaps not the kind of thing you are going to deem a really glamourous addition to your wardrobe. The specifically vintage fashion stores were much better, but in the words of one girl I spoke to in the coffee place, "ridiculously overpriced". Her definitive list of the best in the area we were in went like this:
3. Buffalo Exchange- though this was much more a kind of nearly-new place and the menswear seemed much better than women's but definitely still worth a trawl.
I also found Monk which is right next door to Buffalo Exchange and had the best selection I saw all day. I got some fluffy, sparkly jumpers for $20 each, still being in a festive mood at the time obviously. Brooklyn Charm was another lovely little find, full of trinkets and chains and beads for making your own jewellery, as well as a few lovely (but quite cheap-y) pieces to wear straight away- I stocked up on rings.
Finally, we had a delicious lunch at Trix, with stunning stained glass windows and lots of jolly staff preparing for their NYE party. The boys got mussels and frites while I went for fish and grits- all fresh and tasty. Even though it was bitingly cold and windy, we walked up to Williamsburg Bridge and crossed back to Manhattan that way. The views, graffiti and general oddities- a smoking Santa asking for tips?- made it one of the highlights of our trip.