You might think that Madison Avenue is washed or boring. Isn’t that where you go with your grandma after spending the morning at the Met? Well a Gossip Girl reboot is officially happening and like Serena and Blair rising from the ashes, Madison Avenue is cool again too. In particular, the stretch of Madison between the high-sixties and mid-eighties has become a haven for trendy contemporary brands.
Whether you came to this part of town because you’ve been living in New York for five years but had never been to the Guggenheim and figured you should probably do some culture or something or because your mom came to town and said she’d take you shopping and this is the only area she knows, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see stores from brands you never would have associated with this famous street. While spending a day in Soho can mean wading through the throngs of tourists while waiting for two hours to eat brunch with the entire millennial population of New York, a day on Madison Avenue can be a much more serene experience. Have brunch at Saint Ambroeus, spend a few hours at one of the many museums, make your way up the street and pop into some of the stores and then finish off the day with a drink at Bemmelman’s or the Mark or dinner in the courtyard at Flora Bar.
GUIDE: MADISON AVENUE (UPPER EAST SIDE)
FLOWER BY EDIE PARKER
Flower by Edie Parker is the first high-end fashion brand to really dive headfirst into the world of marijuana. While most of the stores in this guide are concentrated in the seventies and eighties, we made an exception for Edie Parker as it’s such a fun and unique store. The collection offers a colorful, playful line of cannabis related collectables including everything from glass pipes in the shapes of various fruits (grapes, limes, etc) to rolling paper to stash boxes with a leaf motif. Stop by to start your day off on ~high~ note.
(Read our review of Flower by Edie Parker here).
The RealReal is the largest online resale marketplace for luxury goods. They recently opened a store on the Upper East Side where you can shop a selection of their merchandise and bring in your own items for consignment. The store offers a well curated selection of their luxury products across apparel, handbags, shoes, jewelry / watches and furniture. The curation of products is very clearly geared to the Madison Avenue crowd (if you have any doubts about where you are, the diamond display in the center of the room is a helpful reminder).
(Read our review of The RealReal here).
Pro tip: The RealReal is right next door to Laduree so stop by for some fancy French macaroons before moving on.
Clearly luxury resale is a popular concept on the Upper East Side. Fashionphile doesn’t have quite the same hype or scale as The RealReal (although that may change after an investment from Neiman Marcus). The store on Madison is somewhat hidden on the second floor of a building so keep your eyes out for the sign or you may miss it. You’ll be forgiven if you mistakenly think you walked into a doctors office (complete with a candy jar on the desk and printed handouts at the concierge), we did too. But if you know you are in the market for a luxury resale bag it’s definitely worth checking out the selection of Prada, Gucci and Chanel, among others.
You came to the Upper East Side to feel like a certain type of New Yorker. Make that happen for yourself with a trip to Ralph Lauren. Before even looking at the clothes, sit down for a very civilized cup of coffee at Ralph’s. While the women’s mansion is beautiful but not particularly approachable and the kid’s store feels like any other, the men’s store stands out for its ability to fuse old luxury with an approachable vibe. Spending time in the Ralph Lauren men's mansion on Madison Avenue is like going back to school in what makes for a great retail experience. Every once in a while it is a relief to slow down, walk into a store and feel utterly transported to another world.
(Read our review of Ralph Lauren Men's Mansion here).
STUBBS & WOOTTON
Maybe you recently made the move from your starter apartment downtown to the Upper East Side and you’ve asked yourself what you need to do in order to fit in around here. First, you need to know what Eli’s and its offshoots are. Second, you need to have an opinion about the Q train. And third, you probably need to buy a pair of Stubbs & Woottons. For the uninitiated, Stubbs & Wootton sells handmade slippers in velvet and linen with quirky embroidered designs. While the brand got its start in Palm Beach, it has found a welcome home as a wardrobe staple on the Upper East Side.
Tucked away among the many clothing stores on Madison Avenue, there are a surprising number of fragrance brands in the area including Atelier Cologne, Creed and Bond No 9, but perhaps most memorable is Diptyque. The French brand’s scents are unique and timeless in their own right so don’t be surprised if you find yourself still smelling candles on your own fifteen minutes after entering the store. As you may expect from a brand born in Paris, the store feels utterly chic and classy but yes, as you might imagine, it is definitely expensive.
While you might associate digital native brands with Soho, La Ligne decided to take their French stripes uptown for their first retail location. The brand has a large Instagram presence and that same aesthetic is evident in the store, from the mirror with inspirational phrases to the pink selfie-mirror in the dressing room. Stop by to check out their french inspired sweaters and dresses next time you are in the mood to spice up your basics.
If we had to choose a yearbook superlative for Veronica Beard, it would be “most likely to be living on the Upper East Side with two kids and a high powered job”. Sound familiar? Well we probably just described not just the store but also its Upper East Side clientele. The store itself is stylish and sophisticated, yet approachable and the sales associates are friendly and relatable. While the brand is famous for its Dickeys (zippable inserts that attach to a blazer and allow you to change up the style from leather to tweed and everything in between), the store carries a full collection of women's wear and is a great place to add to your regular shopping rotation.
While La Ligne and Veronica Beard are the standouts among the American contemporary brands on Madison, the area has become quite the shopping destination for a number of brands you probably already know and love. If you came to Madison Avenue to do some damage, stop by Vince, Nili Lotan, Rebecca Taylor, Theory and James Perse, among others to make the most of your shopping excursion.
The new Monica Vinander store is a welcome addition to the neighborhood with its fun mix of high-low jewelry. This British brand is loved by celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Kate Winslet and the Duchess of Cambridge yet feels accessible to anyone who encounters the brand. Next time you are looking for a great gift (or to treat yourself!) stop by Monica Vinader to make somebody very happy.
ba&sh has taken France by storm and we are thankful they’ve brought their fun printed dresses, skirts and blouses to NYC. Every time you walk in you realize they have exactly what you were looking for (or now are convinced you need). The apparel is a bit of everything, girly, simple, sophisticated and fun. Apart from really great merchandise, the store associates are high energy which just adds to the experience.
ba&sh is not the only great European contemporary brand on the block. Other great stores include Sandro, Maje, Zadig & Voltaire, IRO and Vilberquin. Once you've stocked up on European essentials, complete the look by heading over to trendy Euro sneaker brand Golden Goose.
NESPRESSOUpper East Side | 935 Madison Ave. | Nespresso
There are coffee shops, there's Starbucks and then there’s Nespresso. The Nespresso shop is the coffee shop of your dreams, with high ceilings, giant plant walls and big windows bringing in natural light. The coffee machines are placed throughout the store like works of art and the smell of fresh coffee fills the air. The best kept secret though is the downstairs. It’s quiet and roomy and you’ll forget you are in New York City as you sip your coffee in peace in a plush seat surrounded by greenery.
When you think of sustainable design you probably think of brown sacks and dull colors. What you probably don’t think of is a stunning oak, marble and glass luxury boutique that will probably make you wish you lived inside. Gabriela Hearst is unquestionably a luxury ready-to-wear brand so you will probably do more window shopping then actual shopping here, but the store is just absolutely too beautiful to pass by. This is the new luxury - clothing and accessories made at the highest quality without sacrificing on sustainability - and it permeates every aspect of the store from the floor, to the fixtures to the merchandise they house.
Most children’s stores feel a bit like you just walked into the middle of a nursery rhyme and can’t get out. Everafter flips that paradigm on its head. If the clothes weren’t in child sizes you probably wouldn’t even know this was a store for kids. Everafter is the kid’s version of The Westside and the same Instagram aesthetic runs through the store. The store carries the latest and coolest clothing for kids but beware bringing your children inside because you may never be able to get them to leave.
OLIVE & BETTE'S
You might walk into Olive & Bette’s and take the slogan “Built by Girls” literally and assume its a store only for tweens and teens. While teenagers certainly wouldn’t feel out of place here, it would be a mistake to overlook the store even as an adult. For over two decades Olive & Bette’s has been stocking women’s clothing from many of the latest brands. While not as sleek as its newer neighbor, The Westside, Olive & Bette’s is still a sure bet (and maybe a bit more approachable) for floral dresses, black denim and fun t-shirts.
If we didn’t think it was worth it, we wouldn’t tell you to come all the way up to 86th street. But it is worth it, so we will. The Westside is a boutique made for the Instagram fashion-set. The edit is highly curated with a focus on up and coming designers and brands that you may have only seen online. This is the place you come to try on clothes and accessories from labels you may be familiar with from Instagram. If you’ve been feeling a bit bored by the options at traditional department stores, stop by the Westside to feel invigorated by the sense of discovery. Just watch your wallet because you’ll probably want everything in sight, and trust us, it ain’t cheap.
(Read our review of The Westside here).
Pro tip: Even more contemporary cool brands are coming soon to Madison Avenue. Stay tuned for the opening of Lafayette 148 and Zimmerman!
If you don't already, follow us on Instagram @theretailsafari as we make our way through the retail landscape in NYC and beyond.