One of the funnest things I’ve gotten to do recently was spend a day in the Garment District with Jeff Cafone, picking out fabric for my new jacket collection. We spent hours digging through thousands of rolls propped on walls and tables, pawing through every fabric known to man. Leathers, velvets, cottons, silks, satins. Crimsons, turquoises, citrons, greys, stripes, jacquards, fringes, and more pompoms than a craft hoarder’s garage. Although we were on a mission to find fabrics and only visited the showrooms that gave the Garment District its reputation as the best place in the US to find textiles, I noticed while we walked around that there was more to the neighborhood than I had imagined. There were some great boutiques I passed, as well as some cool bars, restaurants and hotels, so I went back the other day to check them out.
I started with lunch at the Refinery Rooftop, a super chill restaurant atop the Refinery Hotel which features a retractable glass roof and indoor seating, as well as an outdoor terrace with a spectacular skyline view. I had heard from friends that the cocktail list was extraordinary, and while it was a little early in the day to start drinking, I had my eye on the Espresso Martini (Absolut Vanilla, Kahlúa, Trademark Cold Brew Coffee, egg white) and the Perfect Pear (Grey Goose Le Poire, St. Germain, Pear purée, pinch of cinnamon). Any visit to NYC should include cocktails on a rooftop, or you’re missing out on one of the best experiences the city has to offer. It’s just so very Gotham to watch the sun set and the skyline light up from high above the crowded city, and the Refinery Rooftop is one of the best places to capture that.
If you’re looking for a more intimate spot reminiscent of the tiny yet exquisite hotel bars in Europe, check out Winnie’s Jazz Bar, also in the Refinery Hotel. With a bar stocked with the best top shelf liquors and live jazz performances, this small space is a hidden gem of refinement. It’s the kind of place you just wander into when you want to grab a mid-day beer or cocktail hour whiskey, the kind of place you can just sit back and relax when you need a quiet reprieve from the craziness of NYC streets.
While downstairs at the Refinery Hotel, I happened upon a very cool pop-up store for Quero Shoes, a men’s and women’s brand of handmade shoes from Spain. This is not your average grab-and-go shoe store. True to the Garment District’s heritage of offering near infinite options to match a design vision, Quero’s shoes are completely customized to your specifications. You start with choosing a style (the Hudson Monkstraps and Chelsea boots are my personal favorites), and then you can customize everything from the color and finish of the toe, vamp, quarter and rear strip to the sole material and cap toe details. You won’t be walking out of the store with a pair of shoes, as it takes 4-6 weeks for your custom pair to be handmade to your exact specifications, but you also won’t be tossing them away in a few months. Men’s shoes start at $185, which is not ridiculously expensive for custom shoes. And how cool is it to tell your friends that on your last trip to NYC, you designed a pair of shoes yourself and are waiting for them to come in from Spain?
One of the biggest surprises I found while walking through the Garment District was a bit of Paris, the MacarOn Café. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so disappointed by the macaron offerings in the States that I had pretty much given up on finding one that even remotely tasted like the ones I would buy in Paris. I thought twice before entering because, well, there’s no greater reminder that I’m not home in Paris than a bad macaron (and a bad croissant and a bad baguette). Luckily I gave this wonderful café a chance and ordered one each of my favorite flavors: pistachio, raspberry, Nutella and espresso. They were sheer perfection, as good if not better than any macarons I have had in Paris. This was a true find in not only the Garment District but in all of the US.
The next time you’re in NYC (or even if you live there), take some time to check out the Garment District. My many thanks to the Garment District Alliance for partnering on this post and introducing me to its many vendors.
Photography by Emilio Alexander