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New York City's 38 Most Essential Stores, Fall 2014

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Once again, it's time to update the Racked 38, our list of the city's most essential stores. It'd be impossible to sum up the entire shopping scene, but this is our rough guide—a north-to-south round-up of the places worth browsing, whether you're a tourist or an NYC lifer.

Since New York retail is always changing, we revisit this list once a quarter, adding pertinent new shops or ones that have recently stepped up their game. This time around, we've included three Soho newbies: Birchbox, the online-to-offline beauty mega-store; & Other Stores, H&M's buzzy sister brand, and Broken English, the L.A. import that's introduced under-the-radar fine jewelry lines to Crosby Street.

We'll update the list again this winter, and we're always looking for reader input. State your cases for (or against) stores in the comments or email the tipline.


30/10/2014: Added: Birchbox, & Other Stories, Broken English
04/08/2014: Added: Story, Space Ninety 8, Kirna Zabete
01/23/2014: Added: Dover Street Market
10/03/2013: Added: Personnel of New York, Swords-Smith, Carson Street Clothiers
07/09/2013: Added: Saint Laurent, Warby Parker, American Two Shot, Kate Spade, Pilgrim Surf + Supply
04/02/2013: Added: Dagny + Barstow, Otte, Sephora Meatpacking
01/08/2013: Added: Saks Fifth Avenue, Owen, Charlotte Olympia

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1. Otte

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1232 Third Ave
New York, NY 10021
Otte operates storefronts in the West Village, Nolita, Tribeca, and Madison Avenue, but its Upper East Side flagship is still worth the trip if you've already been to the other three. Inside, there's no shortage of mid- to high-range brands like Acne, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Isabel Marant, and Thakoon.

2. Fivestory

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18 E. 69th St.
New York, NY 10021
(212) 288-1338
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Since it opened in 2012, Fivestory has garnered plenty of attention for its extremely well-edited selection of high-end merchandise. Expect pricey designer goods from Peter Pilotto, Balmain, and Preen, and mainstream lines like Alexander Wang and Carven. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

3. Kate Spade

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789 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10065
(212) 988-0259
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We don't mean to gush, but Kate Spade's Madison Avenue townhouse-flagship is truly a remarkable store—it encompasses four floors, boasts firework-esque chandeliers and gilded bird cages for decor, and carries all of the brand's offerings, from ready-to-wear to accessories to home goods, and everything in between. Plus, it's the only place you can shop the higher-end Madison Collection.

4. Barneys New York

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660 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10065
(212) 826-8900
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Barneys' decidedly unstuffy approach to high-end style makes it a favorite of fashion types, from ladies who lunch to downtown hipsters and everyone in between. And there have been a handful of significant improvements of the past few years, from the merger of the men's and women's co-ops to the revamped shoe salon and men's accessories floor. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

5. Bergdorf Goodman

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754 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10022
(212) 753-7300
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Bergdorf Goodman is known for lavish window displays, world-class designer shopping and the 9th floor John Barrett salon, where Bergdorf blondes get their highlights. If stores were people, Bergdorf would be Barneys' impeccably coiffed older sister who might not have a great sense of humor, but her clothes cost more than most houses. The fifth floor, dubbed 5F, is where you'll find contemporary brands. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

6. Saks Fifth Avenue

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611 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10017
(212) 753-4000
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Saks Fifth Avenue has been undergoing a major retail revival over the past few years. Most recently, they've announced plans to revamp their cosmetics floor, shops-in-shop for luxury handbags, and the café. Smaller projects include the return of its awnings and a new designer sneaker shop. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

7. Dover Street Market New York

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160 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016
The Comme des Garçons Dover Street Market is a game changer for New York City retail: it's located in a neighborhood that's definitely not known for its fashion, and is arguably the epitome of the high-end boutique alternative to Manhattan's traditional concept of a department store. It's seven floors, and carries everything from Supreme tee shirts to custom Prada—with a lot of CDG labels scattered throughout.

8. Comme des Garçons

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520 W. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 604-9200
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Like a high-fashion boutique designed by Dr. Seuss, this Chelsea stalwart recently underwent a major golden makeover. Mastermind Rei Kawakubo's reasoning for the color change: "When given a choice, babies gravitate toward gold." [Photo]

9. STORY

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144 Tenth Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 242-2694
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Story describes itself as "a retail space that has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store." Every few months, it'll shut down for a couple weeks to reopen with a totally new concept. They also feature a lot of local crafters, hosting a pitch night every so often to find new talent. As of this publication, the store is "turnover," meaning they're getting set up for the next round. But we're sure that it'll definitely be something worth heading to 10th Avenue for. [Photo: Driely S.]

10. Diane von Furstenberg

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874 Washington St.
New York, NY 10014
(646) 486-4800
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Diane von Furstenberg's Meatpacking flagship really embraces the idea that a boutique's design should reflect the message of its clothes. The store is a bright, colorful and adamantly modern showcase for the designer's signature frocks and more. Be sure to check out the accessories shop, too. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

11. Housing Works Thrift Shop

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143 W. 17th St.
New York, NY 10011
(718) 838-5050
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The Chelsea location is widely regarded as the best of the Housing Works thrift shops, which sell used clothing and furniture to benefit homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. The space looks like a designer store, and it's a really good place find deals on great furniture and clothing while supporting a good cause. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

12. ABC Carpet & Home

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888 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-3000
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This home decor mecca maintains a warehouse-chic aesthetic for decorators who like their high-end antiques to come with a bit of character. Check out the location across the street for furniture, linens and other home accessories. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

13. Owen

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809 Washington St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 524-9770
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A true testament to a boutique's staying power is how well it stacks up against its competition—and in Meatpacking, Owen has its fair share of that. But in just a short period of time, Owen's not only made a name for itself in the neighborhood, but has also developed a loyal clientele, thanks to its mix of established contemporary designers and hip, under-the-radar brands. [Photo: William Chan]

14. Personnel of New York

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9 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-0604
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As Jon Caramanica once wrote, the potential outfits inside Personnel of New York "prioritize comfort, but they don't lean on it like a crutch." That means you'll find easy, reasonably-priced merchandise from both established and up-and-coming NYC- and LA-based designers like Mara Hoffman, Objects Without Meaning, and more. [Photo: William Chan]

15. C.O. Bigelow

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414 Sixth Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 533-2700
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A West Village destination for those who prefer their retail laced with history instead of topped with buttercream frosting, this 176-year-old pharmacy is notable for its selection of hard-to-find beauty products, including European imports and a well-loved house line. And the space is old-fashioned and charming—you can picture one-time customer Mark Twain wandering around the aisles, even if you can't quite imagine him picking up a Tocca candle for $38. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

16. The Strand

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828 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-1452
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If the idea of 55,000 square feet of books sounds attractive, you must visit The Strand. The iconic establishment houses thousands of discounted new and used titles, rare books, and hard-to-find art and photography books. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

17. Kiehl's

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109 Third Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 677-3171
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Like Bigelow, this apothecary has been around for decades—it's celebrating its 163rd birthday this year. But unlike Bigelow, Kiehl's is obsessively modern, from its simple recyclable packaging to its frequently-updated line of magical skincare products. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

18. Oak

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28 Bond St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 677-1293
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For all things black and asymmetric, Oak should be your first stop. Lines like Pleasure Principle and Grey Ant mingle with the store's in-house label. A lower priced offshoot cleverly called A.Ok offers a mix of clothing and accessories that achieves the store's dark-luxe aesthetic at a fraction of the cost. [Photo]

19. Birchbox Soho

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433 W Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(646) 589-8500
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The news that the beauty-product-sampler startup was going brick-and-mortar earlier this year was enough to make us freak out, but their Soho store proved even better than expected. A beauty junkie's paradise, Birchbox Soho is stocked with more than 2,000 products, touch-screen tools, makeup classes, and a BYOB station—and yes, that's build-your-own-Birchbox. [Photo: Driely S.]

20. Warby Parker

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121 Greene St.
New York, NY 10012
(646) 568-3720
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For its first-ever standalone shop in Soho, Warby Parker took inspiration from classic-yet-modern libraries, with rows of glasses piled up to the ceiling like books. Eye exams are available for $50, seven days a week, and there's a photo booth in the back so you can get the full effect of your new frames. Be sure to also check out their Meatpacking and Upper East Side locations.

21. & Other Stories

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575 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(646) 767-3063
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The H&M sister brand just arrived on Broadway a couple of weeks ago, but it's already become a preferred shopping destination for finding just the right amount of European style. Merchandise includes apparel, accessories, shoes, bags, and even bath products—all of which looks much more expensive than their shockingly affordable price tags convey. [Photo: & Other Stories]

22. What Goes Around Comes Around

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351 W. Broadway
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-1225
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There's nothing twee about this Soho vintage shop, which has made a name for itself with an enormous selection of designer pieces, many with a rocker edge, for men and women. The selection also includes high-end designer bags and jewelry from Chanel and the like. Fun fact: Gerard Maione told us that rapper 2 Chainz is a fan. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

23. Kirna Zabete

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477 Broome St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-9656
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Started in 1999 by best friends Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley, Kirna Zabete has always had its finger on the pulse of what shoppers will love from their favorite high-end names (Valentino, Proenza Schouler, Céline) and some new labels that are about to blow up. When they first came up, no one in New York housed such a varied collection of designers, so they've paved the way for some of our other favorite shops. [Photo: Driely S.]

24. Broken English

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56 Crosby St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-1264
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The L.A. fine jewelry go-to opened its first-ever New York shop this year, in the rear of Soho's AllSaints outpost. Bicoastal owner Laura Freenman stocks the cases with rough-cut diamonds, boulder opal pendants, and more traditional sparklers by jewelers like Anita Ko, Pamela Love, and Colette. Be sure to check out the shop’s on-point vintage jewelry picks. [Photo: Driely S.]

25. Odin

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199 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 996-0023
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The NYT once called Odin's style "spiffed up workwear," which is a perfect descriptor so long as you don't actually plan to do any work. High prices come with high quality, and this original Odin location boasts brands like Burkman Bros, Engineered Garments, and Thom Browne. Essentially, it's the perfect store for the man who resolves to dress better and doesn't mind paying much more than Gap prices to do so. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

26. Creatures Of Comfort

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205 Mulberry St.
New York, NY 10012
Owner Jade Lai has terrific taste and a killer eye for color, as embodied by her Nolita shop's selection of cool-kid labels like Rachel Comey, A Détacher, Isabel Marant, and the house line. If you want to look like you work in an art gallery, here's where to shop. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

27. Warm

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(212) 925-1200
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Husband and wife team Winnie Beattie and Rob Magnotta really hit the nail on the head with the name of their Mott Street boutique. It's particularly cozy inside, and boasts a well-edited selection of clothing and accessories from designers like Vanessa Bruno, Tracy Feith, Araks, and Jerome Dreyfuss. [Photo: Driely S.]

28. Spiritual America

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5 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 960-8564
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Name a buzzy label—Surface to Air, Vanessa Bruno, United Bamboo—and chances are good that you'll find it here. But unlike a lot of similar stores, both the pricing and the selection are accessible for those of us who aren't heiress/supermodel/DJs. [Photo: William Chan]

29. Opening Ceremony

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35 Howard St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 219-2688
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Currently the destination for it-labels like Alexander Wang, Band of Outsiders and Kenzo, Opening Ceremony has benefited from major publicity in magazines, blogs, and from interviews with the well-connected founders. Their own label and collabs with the likes of Chlöe Sevigny and Jeremy Scott keep OC at the top of the retail game. It also helps that its Howard Street location makes it feel like a special nook in Soho. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

30. American Two Shot

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135 Grand St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3403
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Billed as the next Opening Ceremony and run by a pair of best friends, American Two Shot is as cool a place to hang out as it is to shop, thanks to the Café Integral coffee bar in the front of the store. The merchandise is mostly indie brands and some vintage, and you can always see what's new in store via the shop's prolific Instagram and Tumblr posts. [Photo: William Chan]

31. Steven Alan Annex

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103 Franklin St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-0692
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Steven Alan won over hipsters in the blingy pre-recession era with his classic low-key Americana. His Tribeca Annex is filled with plaid shirts for men and gamine looks for women, plus a carefully selected collection of pieces from like-minded brands like APC and Rachel Comey, as well as an eyewear shop. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

32. In God We Trust

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70 Greenpoint Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 389-3545
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The flagship for this New York mini-chain also houses the brand's offices and the studio where they make their cheeky jewelry. Ladies should go for the '70s-inspired long skirts and high-waisted shorts; guys should go for slim trousers, and to buy presents for their ladyfriends. [Photo: William Chan]

33. Space Ninety 8

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98 N. 6th St
Brooklyn, NY 11249
(718) 599-0209
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Say what you want about Urban Outfitters, but there's no denying that their Williamsburg concept store is pretty ridiculous—in a good way. There's the Market Space with dozens of local artisans, the expanded Urban Renewal section, and the basement pop-up shop to feature special collections. There's the larger selection of both labels and product for men, women, and home. And aside from shopping, there's a bar, a restaurant, and a sick rooftop deck. Few stores outside of traditional department stores can lay claim to all these elements—and the architecture inside the restored warehouse is amazing as well. [Photo: Driely S.]

34. Pilgrim Surf + Supply

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68 N. 3rd St.
Brooklyn, NY 11249
(718) 218-7456
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Step into this airy Williamsburg shop and find yourself transported to a place that makes you want to use the world "chill." Arguably your best bet in the city for purchasing a surfboard, if Rockaway and Montauk are your weekend go-tos. Bonus: cute boys by the dozens. [Photo: Brian Harkin]

35. Bird

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203 Grand St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-1655
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Jennifer Mankins' Brooklyn mini-empire has three outposts, but the 'Burg location is the biggest. The big, warm, LEED-certified space carries Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone, and other designers so of-the-moment that if you only shopped there for the rest of your life, you'd still look hip. [Photo: Driely S.]

36. Swords-Smith

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98C South 4th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(347) 599-2969
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This spacious, airy Williamsburg boutique sells both men's and women's clothing and accessories from indie labels like Degen, Lauren Moffatt, and Filson, alongside their own in-house line. (Bonus: the cute store sidekick, Ginge.) [Photo: Driely S.]

37. Brooklyn Flea

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176 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Brooklyn Flea is now basically everywhere—there's markets in Fort Greene (the address listed here), Park Slope, and Dumbo. The Williamsburg market is moving to a to-be-determined address in the coming months. [Photo]

38. Article&

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198 Smith St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 852-3620
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Lara Fieldbinder converted her namesake store into the concept Article&, in order to get back to the needs of her core customer: creative working types in New York City and beyond. Inside, you'll find the best of the new store's selection of cool, contemporary brands and the same sweet, attentive service. [Photo: William Chan]

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1. Otte

1232 Third Ave, New York, NY 10021
Otte operates storefronts in the West Village, Nolita, Tribeca, and Madison Avenue, but its Upper East Side flagship is still worth the trip if you've already been to the other three. Inside, there's no shortage of mid- to high-range brands like Acne, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Isabel Marant, and Thakoon.
1232 Third Ave
New York, NY 10021

2. Fivestory

18 E. 69th St., New York, NY 10021
Since it opened in 2012, Fivestory has garnered plenty of attention for its extremely well-edited selection of high-end merchandise. Expect pricey designer goods from Peter Pilotto, Balmain, and Preen, and mainstream lines like Alexander Wang and Carven. [Photo: Brian Harkin]
18 E. 69th St.
New York, NY 10021

3. Kate Spade

789 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065
We don't mean to gush, but Kate Spade's Madison Avenue townhouse-flagship is truly a remarkable store—it encompasses four floors, boasts firework-esque chandeliers and gilded bird cages for decor, and carries all of the brand's offerings, from ready-to-wear to accessories to home goods, and everything in between. Plus, it's the only place you can shop the higher-end Madison Collection.
789 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10065

4. Barneys New York

660 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065
Barneys' decidedly unstuffy approach to high-end style makes it a favorite of fashion types, from ladies who lunch to downtown hipsters and everyone in between. And there have been a handful of significant improvements of the past few years, from the merger of the men's and women's co-ops to the revamped shoe salon and men's accessories floor. [Photo: Brian Harkin]
660 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10065

5. Bergdorf Goodman

754 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10022
Bergdorf Goodman is known for lavish window displays, world-class designer shopping and the 9th floor John Barrett salon, where Bergdorf blondes get their highlights. If stores were people, Bergdorf would be Barneys' impeccably coiffed older sister who might not have a great sense of humor, but her clothes cost more than most houses. The fifth floor, dubbed 5F, is where you'll find contemporary brands. [Photo: Brian Harkin]
754 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10022

6. Saks Fifth Avenue

611 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10017
Saks Fifth Avenue has been undergoing a major retail revival over the past few years. Most recently, they've announced plans to revamp their cosmetics floor, shops-in-shop for luxury handbags, and the café. Smaller projects include the return of its awnings and a new designer sneaker shop. [Photo: Brian Harkin]
611 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10017

7. Dover Street Market New York

160 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016
The Comme des Garçons Dover Street Market is a game changer for New York City retail: it's located in a neighborhood that's definitely not known for its fashion, and is arguably the epitome of the high-end boutique alternative to Manhattan's traditional concept of a department store. It's seven floors, and carries everything from Supreme tee shirts to custom Prada—with a lot of CDG labels scattered throughout.
160 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016

8. Comme des Garçons

520 W. 22nd St., New York, NY 10011