Upper East Side girls get credit cards when they’re 11, talk on bedazzled cell phones at the nail salon, and never, ever have to go to work. Downtown girls tend to have little in common with them. Recently, though, a number of allegedly hip boutiques have cropped up in the 60s and 70s on the posher side of the park. Could it be the hipification of the UES? We endured a lot of shoving on the 6 train to investigate.
1036 Lexington Ave
Open since 2003, this store could be considered the pioneer of hipness in the neighborhood, unless you count Diesel, on 59th and Lex, which was a destination for denim connoisseurs long before designer jeans swept the nation. (Diesel now has two stores downtown, and has, ironically perhaps, ceased to be cool). Incidentally, Cantaloup’s tagline is “Denim Destination.” Besides the jeans, which are currently all on sale and seem a tad over-embellished (for a downtown girl’s taste, anyway) there are luxurious casual items like a brown cashmere tunic/dress for $310. But almost everything else there points to something we’ve long suspected: fancy girls are immune to the changing seasons. They wear flimsy, cleavage-flaunting sleeveless tops and strappy heels all year round. Fueling this conspiracy theory is a suspiciously tan salesgirl.
220 East 60th
Jump is located in an upscale version of a strip mall, which includes an antiques store and a fancy tailor shop. As you enter, a man comes over and says, “Welcome,” which you may not be used to, but just try to play it cool. When you touch a fur cape, the man will appear from nowhere and announce, “Knitted rabbit. Cute.” Right now, everything is on sale, and the tags are marked with different colors to indicate the percentage you should subtract, if you are capable of doing math in your head. For example, a Heatherette dress, which comes with a tag explaining that the imperfections make it special, was $385, but has been reduced by 30%, making it, um, about $268 now. Another Heatherette frock (also with its own unique flaws) comes with extra sequins so your maid can repair the thing after you dance the night away in Mykonos.
265 East 78th
Three-month-old Beneath is refreshingly relaxed, with hardly a glimmer of rhinestone to be found in the tiny space. Sixty-eight dollars for a thermal T-shirt seems silly, but familiar brands like Michael Stars, Free People, and Lauren Moffat are inoffensive. The lingerie selection is sexy and girly but simple and modern too. But the best finds are some surprisingly downtownish clutches by Kim White ($128), made from carpet. The owner said, “I wanted to find a unique clutch that didn’t cost $500,” and she has succeeded.
Pookie & Sebastian
1488 2nd Ave
This cutesy, bright pink store, named after two Yorkshire Terriers who fell in love (he from uptown, she from Soho), gives off an icky Intermix vibe, with a generous sprinkle of Scoop (also available in the 10021 area). There is a lot of hardware on light brown leather belts, and the halter dresses attest to an outsized fondness for rouching. But I moved past all that and found some extremely pretty tops, clearly inspired by lingerie. Granted, they were upwards of $80 for a tiny piece of fabric and some drapey lace, but let’s give credit where credit is due.