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December 08, 2008

Affordable, Unique Shops and Labels: What Are Your Favorites?

Dia: Beacon
"Wizard," one of my favorite
Charlotte Pinson characters.

by Mollie Chen

This holiday season, I am trying to be more thoughtful about how I spend money, which means hunting for one-of-a-kind items from independent companies instead of springing on haute designer goods. This past weekend I found some treasures at the Handmade Holiday Craft Fair at Brooklyn's Third Ward and Fort Greene's weekly Brooklyn Flea. Don't let the "craft" and "flea" fool you: At these events it's more vintage-inspired jewelry and quirky tote bags than crocheted tea cozies and macramé necklaces.

I'm also seeking out up-and-coming designers. Just the other night, I wandered into artist Charlotte Pinson's show at Albertine in the West Village. The 25-year-old Houston native didn't go to art school, per se, but she does have an impeccable eye and a whimsical painting style. Her "canvases" are T-shirts, dresses, and scarves, which she hand paints with dreamy scenes that are fantastical--some of them downright bizarre--but still wearable. (Pinson also recently created a capsule collection with lingerie and loungewear brand Lola Haze.) I picked up a stormy slate gray and cobalt scarf and am thinking of ordering a custom-made T-shirt for my little sister . . . if she's good, that is.

The show inspired me: I now have a running list of favorite independent shops in New York (Albertine's got a top spot, of course). For vintage and offbeat cookbooks I love the wonderful and overstuffed Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks; for affordable silk dresses and tops I swear by Yumi Kim; and for vintage dresses, boots, and bags it has to be the Lower East Side's Edith Machinist. What are the special shops in your hometowns? Or what are gems people can't miss when they travel? Please share your favorites with us!

Further reading:
* Charlotte Pinson's Web site
* A Brooklyn Flea Kind of Sunday
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide


Boston has tons of cute one-of-a-kind shops. In the South End I love Turtle, Vessel, and Motely. Motley even has garden gnomes! If you're in S. Boston, Habit is a great shop to check out.

There are so many amazing neighborhood shops in Chicago. In Bucktown/Wicker Park, I'll definitely be checking out Eskell for unique vintage gifts and delicious smelling candles. I also like Stitch for interesting home items and hard-to-find accessories. In Lincoln Park, I like Art Effect for cute, fairly inexpensive trinkets/stocking stuffers. And in Evanston, I absolutely LOVE Factory Vintage--you can find some true gems there!

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