Open and Shut in Soho


Some sad news to end the year: The other day, desperately cruising Broadway in Soho in search of last-minute holiday gifts (yes, we, like you, relinquish our high-toned plans for unique, one-of-a-kind presents and succumb to the pathetic lure of Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret in the end), we passed a vast empty storefront with a “For Rent” sign in the window.

It couldn’t be true, but it was: K Trimming was gone.

For decades, K had been the place where young designers and neighborhood craftspeople bought their ribbons and laces and buckles and beads. It was the kind of store where we finally found a non-shiny grosgrain ribbon for a vintage watch when we’d just about given up hope (it must have been in the spool since the Second World War); where you would bring the buttons you wanted up to the counter and ask the price and the Hasidic guy behind the counter would say something ridiculous like seven cents each.

Now this last link to a former Soho, when Broadway around Canal Street hosted many fabric stores, is gone. And what will replace it? For a clue, look directly across the street, where the new downtown Bloomingdale’s, housed in the old Canal Jeans, stands glossy and imperious, laughing its mirthless laugh at the few remaining old stores desperate to survive.

Still, when one retail door closes, another opens. A week after we learn about K we find out that Bathing Ape, the cooler-than-thou Tokyo ur-skater emporium, has opened on Greene Street. So off we go to their incredibly sleek premises, where the window holds a revolving display of sneakers. (A confession: We do not speak the arcane argot of sneakers. We suspect these examples, with their clashing patent-leather color schemes and star appliqués, are highly desirable.)

The interior is blazingly white, and the rack offers such items as hoodies decorated with tiny apes who look disconcertingly like Paul Frank’s Julius and cost $275, and white totes with multi-colored insignia clearly inspired by Murakami’s Louis Vuitton patterns. (Is LV suing Bathing Ape too, just the way they sued—and lost!—against Dooney & Burke?)

Surely there are people in this town who will do anything for a Bathing Ape sweatshirt with a three-figure price tag, and that’s fine with us—anyone who’s bought as much dumb overpriced stuff over the years as we have is in no position to pass judgment. But for our part, as far as Japanese imports are concerned, we much prefer Beard Papa, the cream puff store on Astor Place, where consumer goods meant to be consumed are in the $1 range.