On an unassuming block of West 10th Street in the West Village, an outwardly smart and clean storefront called Grahame Fowler tempts pedestrians with the capitalized word “SALE” emblazoned on the glass. Peering inside, one can make out a huge collection of button-up shirts and a shelf of impressive-looking footwear. Only after entering the store, however, do visitors realize that the single-room location is what you might call “miniscule.”
Grahame Fowler has been a classic shopping destination for years, packing palpably British clothing and atmosphere into a space no bigger than the average New York City studio apartment. The lack of space actually feels welcoming and comfortable, giving visitors the feeling that they have stumbled upon a hidden hole-in-the-wall gem. Grahame Fowler remains one of the few spots in New York City that stocks shoes and boots by the prestigious English shoemaker Tricker’s, which are crowded into the north wall of the store. Distressed tee shirts screen printed in-house with classic graphics, as well as button-up shirts in countless patterns and textures, hang above customers’ heads from a repurposed dry-cleaning rack.
Grahame Fowler himself, the man behind the store, is as much of a West Village fixture as his shop is. With a seemingly endless supply of knowledge about his wares and the warm demeanor of an old friend, he’s happy to chat with customers interested in buying or just browsing. The man and his tiny showroom both cultivate a relaxed, yet smart atmosphere that makes Grahame Fowler such a unique and memorable part of the neighborhood.
About a 20 minute walk from Grahame Fowler, at 348 Bowery, visitors can still see what remains of the pop-up store for Brooklyn-based cult denim brand Deth Killers. The building and parking lot belonged to an auto repair shop before Deth Killers got their hands on it, and since their departure the whole space has been converted into an outdoor eatery. When they did have the property, though, they chose to use only the 64-square-foot corner building, and like Grahame Fowler they managed to pack it with more attitude than most multi-level fast fashion stores have.
The pop-up was a departure from the brand’s long-term business model, giving the motorcycle-club-turned-retailer a temporary physical storefront. Plastered with old-school pinups, the interior of the store showcased the brand’s signature asphalt-resistant denim and aggressive prints on sweaters, tees, and tank tops. The counter cabinet was filled with loud iron-on patches and Zippo lighters engraved with the label’s unforgettably rebellious motto, “COME HARD.” In its short lifetime, the almost painfully small pop-up made a huge impact, drawing immense hype from online outlets by bringing an underground brand suddenly into the spotlight.
These two stores’ ability to draw so much attention to such a small area is a testament to the greatness of Manhattan, where there is a severe lack of supply of space. The wide variety of cultures and styles that New Yorkers squeeze into less than 25 square miles is a source of pride for residents, and the compactness and efficiency of the city is mirrored by how much these legendary brands are able to do with their limited real estate.
Have you been to Grahame Fowler? Did you get a chance to shop at Deth Killers on Bowery? Comment here or on Twitter @BillChangNY