Mar 03, 2017 | By Karen Chiang
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If you’re already in Austin enjoying the the BBQ, chill summer vibes and Interactive Festival or heading in this weekend to catch the the last few days of SXSW, chances are you’ll want to do some shopping while you’re there. And if you weren’t planning on it – well, I suggest you make the time. Austin’s shopping scene is diverse and full of what you’d want from destination shopping – stylish goods at decent prices often locally sourced and always with an off-beat Austin perspective. Here’s a few of the very best:
1. Uncommon Objects
The Grand-Dame of antique oddities. If you’ve done your research on Austin, chances are you’ve heard of it. This is a store to get lost in. Coded by color, the black and white section will seduce you with creepy antique photographs of turn of the century children and medical supplies from (equally creepy) long-shuttered hospitals. The baby pink and sea-foam green room delights with pinup-era mannequin heads, decorative china and antique porcelain dolls. Be on the look-out for reasonably priced estate jewelry as well, this place is teeming with glittering goodies.
I’ve listed these two neighboring shops together because they are equally great in similar ways. Both are highly-curated vintage shops with a decidedly-Austin flair. Both hold gems such as shibori kimonos and so-old-they’re-trendy-again vintage jeans in perfect fits. Feathers is a bit pricier and more feminine. Prototype is funkier, slightly cheaper and also has menswear. Boom – go nuts, you’ll want to spend a lot of money in here.
Take a short stroll off South Congress to the up-and-coming area of South 1st Street. Here you’ll find Esby, a local womenswear label that focuses on a ‘menswear mentality’ (meaning: well-made clothes that you wear often). Think linen-blend dusters, reversible button-front tops and easy, yet structured culottes. The prices generally fall between $125-368, a reflection of the quality and craft put into pieces made for daily wear. Connection to the community is at the core of this brand – check out their calendar here for exclusive SXSW events, releases and pop-ups.
This is my favorite store in Austin. Maybe it’s the moody all-black wearing New Yorker in me, but this minimalist macabre boutique is heaven. Expect Rick Owens-esque layers by way more affordable brands such as Uzi NYC and Religion. Black candles by Biren and Co., musky scents by Kerosene Fragrances and leather rope chokers from Design Aust. This shop is noir, not goth. And yes, there is a difference.
Go here to fulfill all your gifting needs – be it self-gifting or picking up an Etsy-ish houseware for your best friend’s apartment. You’ll find loads of Texas charm from longhorn-emblazoned everything to cacti-printed well, everything. There are cookbooks, candles, tea towels and sandals and enough jewelry to keep you browsing for a while. If you’re in need of a children’s gift – also the place to be. Nothing can be cuter than the baby bandanas – for your little G in training.
Yes this a cooler store, as in coolers for camping trips. Chances are you aren’t in the market for camping gear, but go anyhow. This concept space is smartly located near the bridge that connects the South Congress neighborhood to downtown, which if you are on foot is the easiest way to explore both areas. In terms of retail spaces, this is what the future looks like. Experiential retail at its best. (Yes, I nerd out on this stuff). There is a bar first and foremost, where you can sit outside and have a beer, or if you prefer, take the beer around with you while you shop (always a bonus). There is a stage for live concerts, a customization center and a Hall of Fame wall for the nation’s leading outdoorsmen (and women). Also, if you are the market for a cooler, this is your spot. As coolers go, they are top of the line, and good-looking too, IMHO.
These stores are (mostly) unrelated but are both great reasons to high-tail it over to the Lamar Street shopping neighborhood. I lump them together only by price – these boutiques are some of Austin’s most aspirational, carrying brands not easily found elsewhere in the surrounding area. By George (with another location in the heart of South Congress), boasts Balenciaga, Alexander Wang and Marni amongst its ranks, with a complete collection of menswear and home goods to boot. Kick Pleat caters to the modern minimalist, adhering to a soft palette across brands such as Creatures of Comfort, Rachel Comey and Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
8. Fortney Home
In between By George and Kick Pleat you’ll find a lovely stretch of West 6th Street that feels like a place you’d want to live (if you could afford it). Fortney has an unassuming antique-shop storefront there that belies the winding nature of both the store and the adjacent grounds. Indoors you’ll find a bevy of homegoods from dapper antique canes to polished silver trays, but outside is where you’ll really get lost, roaming around the selvedge yard of antique shutters, lawn statues and estate-sale furniture that won’t fit into your suitcase no matter how much you try.
Again, unrelated shops that happen to be awesome and right next door to each other. (Trying to keep this list tight and walkable). Prize is another fantastic gift and homegoods store with a heavy assortment of not-your-average gift cards, lucite table-top goods and jewelry with a twist – think chunky crystal pendants and bronze-coated wax seal jewelry. Hacienda, as you might have guessed it, is a homegoods store with Texan charm. The look aims to please the modern ranch-style homeowner and does so with an artisanal array of Turkish bath towels and Mexican glassware.
Ok, so this one is a bit off the beaten path. And it is a mall. But it’s not just any mall. This very new (as of September 2016) outdoor shopping community is a concept that I haven’t yet seen mastered on this scale. It has taken some of Austin’s more famous independant boutiques, barbers, bars and coffee shops and given them a polished, convenient playground of sorts to live in. Add to that an established retail anchor store (Nordstrom), and few of fashion’s more forward-thinking retail concepts (Warby Parker, Bonobos), and a dash of heritage brands that speak to the Texan outdoorsy spirit (Filson, Frye, Will Leather Goods) and you’ve got a really fresh thing happening. It would be very easy to say that taking independent retailers and putting them in a commercial setting is ‘selling out,’ but after a seriously solid meal at Thaikun and engaging conversations with literally EVERY shop manager/associate/owner I came across that was genuinely enthusiastic about his/her brand – I immediately changed my tune. The enthusiasm was contagious and made for a unique and motivating shopping experience. Yes it’s a mall. But the place has heart.
To follow Sidney on more retail adventures check out her instagram: @sidlouise.
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