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Late last year, International Playground popped up on Orchard Street. The temporary shop—a retail/wholesale collective of underground, international fashion—must have been a success. Two weeks ago their permanent shop grand-opened (though they've technically been there for six weeks) in a different space on Stanton Street, joining a list of recent Lower East Side openings notable for stocking the types of gear you can't buy just anywhere: Ernest Alexander accessories, Yarimaki tees, and a litany of New York and Northern European hipster-fashion you read about on blogs but rarely see in shops.
Crisp and white, with a full living wall of tropical foliage and moss separating the sales floor from the showroom, the space lets the clothing do the talking. Which is a wise move, since the stock is largely colorful, covered in print, and pretty chatty.
Take Yarimaki: Print-crazy, unisex tees and tights printed in video game pills, demented school children, and weaponry (shirts are $62) by a Hungarian graphic designer/visionary/crazy person. They share a rack with vaguely tribal, black and white printed womenswear by Andrea Crews. We loved her cropped barracuda jackets; they come complete with a series of button-off accoutrement because when it's raining you need a hood and when you're channeling Victorian England via Vivienne Westwood you need a ruffle collar (available with matching pants starting at $400). And you can't miss Daniel Palillo's tag team take on both '90s hip hop and '90s goth. There are monster-sized unisex tee shirts decorated in metal studded skulls (starting around $90) and yin and yang festooned caftans ($315).
Less crazy, still great: International Playground is New York's exclusive home for Carlos Campos's tweaked-classic men's shirting ($145) and a series of edgy/wearable womenswear. We loved Vibe Johansson's olive leather bolero ($694); Wackerhaus's tunics plated in giant sequins ($407); and wood-grain printed sleeveless silk shifts by H. Fredriksson ($270).
Ernest Alexander's series of accessories include smart, solid canvas totes and overnighters ($140 to $470), stand-out belts made from a combination of printed waxed canvas and sumptuous leather ($85), and spring-hued seersucker ties (starting around $80). The dandiest pieces in the shop, it's no surprise the designer also does work for Paul Smith. Other accessories include a pile of Fjällräven backpacks (minis are $115) broken up by Crews's printed and perfect fannypacks ($87).
Some of it might sound a bit hard to wear. And, yeah, it's not for everybody. But it's mostly accessible, and founders and friends John Pizzolato and Virginia Craddock are clearly excited by and devoted to their stock. You can often find them manning the sales floor in off-the-rack wares, helping maybe-wary shoppers get over their skepticism.
· International Playground's Orchard Street Pop-Up [Racked NY]
· International Playground [Official Site]