Steve Allen (2008)

Shopping & Primping

New Yorker for 40 years

What do you think makes your store unique and a perennial favorite of downtown New Yorkers?
I don't chase after trends, I look for things that are special and designed with integrity. I follow designers I am interested in and try to edit their collection so that it suits the store.

What's the most popular item?
The Steven Alan [button-down] shirts.

Who are some of your favorite New York designers?
Engineered Garments does some interesting things—they're fastidious about researching old garments, and they create pieces that have originality and integrity. And Rogues Gallery—they use whimsical prints, a lot of it nautical. I like it because it's not too "clean."

Any advice for upstarts?
I think young designers should focus on building items that they'll come to be known for, as opposed to focusing on designing a collection. Pay attention to fit and quality. Don't start selling until you are ready, and have proper financial backing. It's often difficult to get a second chance.

What are some of your favorite places to shop in the city?
I buy a lot of food stuff, so Dipaolo's, Fairway, Russ & Daughters. Vintage clothing for women: 6 on Center Street is a good one. I rarely shop for clothes outside my store. Sometimes I do go to Barneys.

What time period or place in New York had the best fashion?
I think the '70s. It really felt American rustic, sort of natural. People were so casual. It was like a more sophisticated hippie generation. They were becoming more mature, so the designs were more developed than they were in the '60s.

What do you think are the best and worst clothing trends of late?
The movement away from tight-fitting, overtly sexy clothing—I think this is a good thing. The trend I am not feeling any longer is the " '80s glam" thing.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Go to spas. In the city, I like going for massages, a steam sauna—sometimes 10th Street Baths, sometimes Great Jones Spa.

Describe a perfect New York day.
I'd go to the movies—I like small theaters like the Film Forum and the Paris Theater. Film Forum has a great mix of old classics and new cinema—they also have the best popcorn. I tend to think it would also involve some sort of culinary adventure—going to eat at Il Buco, Honmura An, Omen. Honmura An has incredible soba noodles, and Omen has great udon. I also like house parties. I don't often throw them, but I was just recently at a dinner party in the West Village. It was a great mix of people . . . and there were parlor games, which made things interesting.

What's your favorite neighborhood in the city?
There are many neighborhoods I like for different things, but one in particular is Sutton Place for the architecture.

What's the best thing about New York?
The variety of people and the attitude of the people living here—they're creative, open to change, smart, not pretentious. This is obviously just one group of people—there are a lot of pretentious New Yorkers.

What would make it better?
More regulations for air, water, bicycle lanes, noise. Better subways. They're grinding. The subways—you don't notice it, but it's in your consciousness, as far as the noise.

You're having a fantasy dinner—who are the three other designers you would like to sit down with?
Ralph Lauren—as a kid, he was inspirational. He created a world and did it very well. Paul Smith. Someone in technical outerwear—because it's something I don't understand that much. I'm fascinated by construction.

What would make New York Fashion Week better?
More interesting televised shows about it.

What's the best thing about it?
When it's over.


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