The Cheap Detective


“The face towels are only $8,” the guy behind the counter at CATH KIDSTON says faintly. It’s our first visit to the newly opened London-based Kidston shop at 201 Mulberry Street and, as usual, while we are wild about the merch, we are distinctly less enthusiastic about the prices.

The store is famous for its prints—mostly old-fashioned florals but also sailboats, polka dots, and even cowpokes, all with a sunny, homey 1930s flavor—a cheerful Depression-era fantasy minus breadlines and Nazis. There are only a few of what could broadly be termed fashion items—dotted aprons for $55, flower-patterned terry robes for $175—since the shop specializes in housewares, and retrograde ones at that. Along with ironing-board covers, tea towels, and oilcloth shopping bags, there are little sacks shaped like toddlers’ dresses and meant for carrying clothespins, those wooden things people used to clip to wet garments before the invention of the clothes dryer.

We’re at the new Cath Kidston as part of our biannual tour of Nolita stores—biannual because, if you haven’t guessed, we are hounds for July and January sales. To that end, we stop in at JOHN FLUEVOG (250 Mulberry Street), where the round-toed, thick-soled shoes (many set on rather strange corrugated-rubber platforms, a Fluevog trademark) have been marked down. Now a pair of pink strappy sandals, whose platforms give them a hip-hop-granny air, is $69, down from $119; black-and-white lace-up brogues with an art deco zigzag pattern are $65.

Up the block at LILITH (227 Mulberry Street), two racks of the shop’s deliberately baggy, meant-to-be-layered French clothes have been marked down to encouraging levels. A chiffon top with a pattern of little cartoon dogs wearing what look like UPS uniforms and delivering bouquets (you don’t see this every day) is now $81; matching pull-on pants are $108. A smocked blue cotton skirt that is quite likable despite its strong maternity-hospital vibe is $58.

Lots of people have good things to say about the FIND OUTLET (229 Mott Street), and we ourselves once uncovered a green velvet Preen skirt here for $60 (plus, they’re much nicer than the people at the Preen store in London, but that’s another story). The chalkboard outside promises Stella McCartney and Miu Miu, and though we don’t see those labels during our flyby, we do find an Anna Molinari tank top whose checked tablecloth pattern features superimposed roses (come to think of it, it could have hailed from Cath Kidston) that is unfortunately marked down from $368 to a still relatively hefty $184. A better bargain is the brown cotton drawstring pants, now $59 from $220, by Paul & Joe, the French company whose now shuttered flagship was once on Bond Street (oh, the cruel ways of fashion).

There’s a sign in the window of SIGERSON MORRISON (242 Mott Street) to the effect that their signature flip-flops have been reduced; inside, a guy tells us a bit sourly that the sandals in question, rubber kitten-heeled thongs in such shades as acid green, turquoise, and raspberry, have been discontinued because “it took us two years to develop them and now everybody’s copied us.” In any case, they are now $42.50 and appealing as ever.

Not to belabor a point, but might they be good shoes to wear at all those anti-Republican demonstrations we are so looking forward to? How we long to feel the Central Park grass between our toes, if only the city would give us a rally permit, we’re thinking as we wander over to DAILY 235 (235 Elizabeth Street), a knickknack store where we have previously admired the Battling Bush punching bag. It would be fun to sock George in the jaw, but the bag doesn’t fit in with our home decor. Luckily, the shop also sells something more discreet called George W. Bush Coasterisms: $10 sets of four tin coasters featuring pics of the prez and a variety of words to live by straight from his lips, including “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” And you keep saying the commander in chief doesn’t know anything.