Taking a time out from fashion in NY

By Janetta Mackay

The Big Apple has myriad temptations for time away from Fashion Week events.

1. It's Fashion Week in New York and everyone is wearing flats, unless they are a fashion victim or ringed by photographers as they step out of their limo at a show.

2. On the streets it is all about staying cool and dry. Early autumn temperatures hitting 30C, humidity and the odd downpour mean canny New York women are still wearing stylish shirt dresses accessorised with umbrellas and sandals, the latter curiously changed out with quite a few pairs of Hunter's wellies to negotiate suddenly sodden sidewalks. Men look snappy in tailored shorts, loafers and clipped beards.

3. The window display at Barneys on the corner of Madison Avenue and 61st St is a paean to shoes. Watch the Barneys 500, in which six beautifully engineered designs whizz about on a multilevel Meccano race track. Go for gold, Jimmy Choo! The next-door window has an installation called "Swimming with the Louboutins", in which live goldfish negotiate their way round matching coral-coloured stilettos in a giant tank.

4. The New York Times' lead story is yet another saga in the seemingly endless presidential election race. The Daily News gets grittier - a deli worker accidentally shot dead by police while fleeing a botched hold-up in the Bronx.

5. On the hit list of places to eat are those serving East European food. Kafana, a Serbian restaurant in the once downtrodden, now slowly yuppie-fying Alphabet City, was named by Newsweek as one of the 101 best places in the world to try. Pierogies are proving popular fare in a number of casual eateries. East Village 24-hour diner with a difference Veselka serves the dumplings Ukranian-style. You'll also find blintzes and salmon latke at the corner site it first set up on in 1954 (at East 9th St and Second Avenue) and at a new Bowery location.

6. Gin-based cocktails are making a comeback but, yes, they still serve cosmopolitans and, for Fashion Week, the popular Dream bar came up with the Kate Moss Cosmo and the Bundchen Brisk. Or try a grown-up dirty martini, the classic mix laced with olive juice that is a favourite of makeup artist and company founder Bobbi Brown.

7. The must-see exhibition opening next week at the Metropolitan Museum is Regarding Warhol: 60 artists, 50 years, which assesses his influence on contemporary art through his own and other multimedia work. Or go dotty at the Yayoi Kusama show at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, only until the end of this month

8. The show people are still talking about is Sleep No More, an immersive theatre experience at the McKittrick Hotel, which a New York friend who has been four times describes as Shakespeare meets Alfred Hitchcock, meets Stanley Kubrick, meets David Lynch. It's an encounter exercise played out on many levels. You can get a drink after you emerge.

9. Clearance stores are flogging off the last of the summer brights as winter wear takes a darker turn. Look out for leather, studded detailing and embellishment. Chain stores are still loving leopard, but the real find is quality cashmere at Uniqlo, with the Japanese store's global flagship on Fifth Avenue awash in a rainbow of colourful men's and women's sweaters and cardigans for under US$100 ($123).

Manhattan is justly famous for its clearance sales and consignment stores. An informed source tells us the New York City Opera thrift shop is the place to go for cast-off designer glad rags.

For stylish gifts, the museum and art gallery shops excel. MoMa has de-institutionalised the experience, with its standalone Design Store (92 Spring St, Soho) featuring design classics, museum exclusives, books plus cheaper knick-knacks for young and old. (We do recommend a stroll through the collections at West 53rd St as well).

10. Down off the main drag of high street and designer brands, the backstreets of Soho are more boutique. Try the uber-cool Mondrian Soho hotel, with Opening Ceremony and Jil Sander around the corner and Broadway an easy walk away to check out Prada's architectural statement store or a Dean & Deluca donut.

And Elizabeth St between Spring St and East Houston has a collection of independent designer stores and noted eateries, including Cafe Habana and Public, run by Kiwis.

- NZ Herald

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