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Party host, performer, or model? There's really no way to qualify Sophia Lamar other than the queen of the downtown scene — and, lucky for us, our tour guide for one exciting Saturday. There's no one better to take us to the most rock-and-roll spots in villages both West and East than Lamar, who made her way performing from San Francisco to New York to become a star of the illustrious Club Kid set with Michael Alig.
Ever since, she's been a trailblazer and recording artist in the Electroclash scene, as well as general curator of cool below 14th Street. We consider Sophia's chosen stores and restaurants as a crash course in celebrating the original badass-ness of Manhattan.
Madame Matovu: 240 West 10th St
We start the day at our guide's favorite vintage store, Madame Matovu. "The owner [Rosemary Wettenhall] has excellent taste, and she has everything from vintage Saint Laurent to Norel," Sophia explains. The tiny West Village shop is stuffed to the brim, one of those treasure troves you step into and know you'll spend hours at without realizing a moment has passed — you'll be too busy draping furs over your shoulders, slipping into Prada pumps, and seeing how your wrist looks stacked with ornate bracelets.
The antique-filled walls, racks, and shelves of Madame Mavotu are like playing dress up for grown-ups, and offer the chance to seriously up the glam factor of your wardrobe, whether your budget is $25 or $2,500.
REBEL REBEL: 319 Bleecker St
Exploring the more glamorous-meets-gritty allure of the West Village wouldn't be possible without a stop at Rebel Rebel. The iconic record shop still buzzes with the gloriously over-the-top glitz and edge of its glitter-rock heyday. But while you can revel in David Bowie and shop Debbie Harry there, you can also find tons of newer releases within its expertly eclectic inventory, the stuff of a music geek's dreams.
Cementing its status as the place you can find any album you're thinking of, Sophia tells us. is that "if they don't have it, they will order it for you from anywhere in the world, from vinyl to CD." There are even obscure notes on some of the records, cluing shoppers into the hidden gems they might be stumbling upon.
DASHWOOD BOOKS: 33 Bond Street
Heading east, Sophia takes us into Dashwood Books to stock up on both things we'll want to flip through a million times and things we'll want to make our coffee tables look a little more interesting. "Dashwood is one of the most extraordinary bookstores in the city," she says. "They carry the best selection of rare and hard-to-find books at reasonable prices, and some items are even signed by the authors. The staff is very helpful and know a lot about everything that they are selling."
Devoted to photography titles, this is a a go-to for both uptowners and downtowners in search of unique works, and we appreciated that the staff could point us in the direction of who our next favorite photographer might be.
OAK: 28 Bond Street
Ready to get trying on different trends and hear our guide's take on assorted looks, we followed Sophia's lead to Oak. "This is a store for every budget," she explains. "They have their own label, but they also carry works by designers such as Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons. There are great accessories and a wonderful selection of their own unique fragrances."
In total agreement with this logic, we got to assembling outfits comprised of accessible house-label pieces — versatile basics with draped and asymmetrical twists — and the more insane statement styles from Sophia's recommended brands, plus impossibly cool pieces from the likes of Jonathan Simkhai and Back by Ann-Sofie Back.
TRASH & VAUDEVILLE: 4 St. Mark's Place
Keeping our rock-and-roll vibe going, Sophia took us to one of the East Village's most important stops, Trash & Vaudeville. While the store is happily only moving a couple of blocks away come fall, and not closing, the time to shop its original digs where it's been since 1975 is running out. Right now, you can pop into the same fitting rooms that regular shoppers like The Ramones and The Heartbreakers once did, but even after the move, you can still shop the same stock of genuine, real-deal punkwear.
"This is a place where designers come for inspiration about genuine rock-and-roll garments and the overall aesthetic," Sophia notes. With help from a staff that eats, sleeps and breathes original New York rock, you can shop everything from Tripp NYC jeans, luxe leather biker jackets, and rockabilly dresses to UNIF sweaters, band tees, and Doc Martens.
BLACK MARKET: 110 Avenue A
Shopped out and armed with rock-inspired records and duds, we decide we've definitely earned a chill session, a drink, and a delicious meal at the at chic-yet-cozy Black Market. "If you get tired and need a pit stop while you are shopping at all these wonderful places, you can grab a beer and burger ... and maybe a Prosecco — or two," our guide advises. "The patrons here are assorted and beautiful."
We can drink to that people-watching factor, and do just that with a refreshing Here Come the Jets, one of the restaurant's inventive cocktails that's made with vodka, raspberries and peppercorn. Add to that some crispy cracked kale and gooey grilled cheese, and we can vouch for Black Market being the ultimate end to a downtown day.