By Janet Kelly
Covid, no Covid, shopping online is here to stay. But WHERE is the question perplexed friends and family ask us.
I browse a LOT and sometimes find fun things in surprising places, but in the main I look at three sites most often. I suspect these will change—Everlane used to top my list but has tilted too young in the past few years and the quality of the fabrics are not what they were—but for the nonce, my go-to sites are COS, Alex Mill and The Frankie Shop.
If you actually want to try on something you’ve identified online, your best chance is at COS, part of the Swedish H&M group, which has brick and mortar stores in big cities in the U.S. and internationally.
Years ago I went to a COS pop-up in Soho in NY and thought the clothing selection was impossibly drab. That has changed. Although their clothing is not trendy by any means, COS focuses on using first-rate fabrics for basic wardrobe items—shirts, sweaters, pants—offering clothes with the high-end vibes of The Row at wallet-friendly price points. And I’m happy to report that brighter colors are making their way into the collection.
Mickey Drexler, former CEO of J. Crew (and before that The Gap) has taken over the reins of Alex Mill, which was founded by his son. And what Drexler and his team have come up with is a mixture of what people loved about J. Crew in its heyday. So there are preppy corduroy jackets, the obligatory striped shirts and sweaters but also blouses with tiny prints and scallop collars. Wide-leg khakis, one-and-done jumpsuits and velvet slippers with grosgrain ties round out the mix.
The Frankie Shop came across my radar about a year or so ago, although New Yorkers have known about the small store on the fashionable Lower East Side for much longer. (There’s also a branch in Paris, founder Gaelle Drevet’s home town.) The website launched in 2016, carrying brands such as Ganni and Nanushka before they became coveted labels. Frankie also stocks a mix of international brands from Australia, Korea and Spain.
Like COS and Alex Mill, the aesthetic here is minimal-with -flair but steers far away from super trendy. Because the cut on jackets, sweaters and trousers is oversize and slouchy–my most fashion-conscious NYC pal notes that she likes to try on their clothes because oversize can fit oddly. I told her when the coast becomes clearer, I’d be making a beeline for NYC and meet her there.
FAR LEFT: COS is big on pink for February, and this fuchsia Ribbed Knit V-Neck Sweater, a blend of 58% cotton, 24% linen and 18% merino wool, is a perfect example. Cut for a relaxed fit with voluminous raglan sleeves, it balances style with comfort, selling for $135.
LEFT: Tailoring is COS’s strong suit, and when it comes to pants, they pay attention to achieving the perfect tapered leg, as in their Tencel™ lyocell slim-fit straight pants ($89) with a stylish split above the ankles.
NEAR RIGHT: I’ve been on the lookout for a quarter-zip sweater like this one. I like the oversize collar and raglan sleeves and think that it will look quite natty with a blue shirt tucked underneath it. It’s the kind of knit that will have long legs in my closet—and probably yours, too. And it looks quite luxe for the $125 price tag.
RIGHT: Structured but everyday-wearable, button-down shirts are a category COS excels in. This all-cotton Oversized Long Sleeve Shirt ($99) with a curved hem calls out to those among us who crave bright colors. I’m seeing emerald green everywhere. It also comes in white, pink and blue if you’re feeling less bold.
LEFT: I haven’t totally abandoned my skinny (more slim than skinny) jeans, but relaxed-fit ones, such as The Frankie Shop’s Riva Wide-Leg Jeans, look so much more comfortable. In soft, broken-in denim and a $108 price tag, as compared to the $200-plus pairs I see too much, they’re worth trying on.
CENTER: If I owned this merino-wool Joya Roll Neck Sweater ($295, The Frankie Shop), I’d wear it every day this winter—it looks so cozy and warm. I’d probably have to own another color besides lavender, though. Luckily it’s available in six others—citron, taupe, lemon, marigold, terra cotta and kermit green.
RIGHT: My mission this fall, which lasted until December, was to score a pair of leather or faux leather pants. I ordered and sent back several times. Three were too big and the fourth I ordered was confirmed only to be followed by a note that said, sorry, these are no longer in stock. The first time I saw the Sotto Faux Leather Pants (in black) from The Frankie Shop, they didn’t have my size but not long after I got the “back in stock” email. I immediately scooped them up. They drape well and fall just at the heel of my lug loafers. Now I see they’re selling on the site in beige buttery soft faux leather for the same price—$165— I paid for my black ones. Maybe one pair is enough? Note to self: That fitted knit turtleneck top with the slightly puffy sleeves shown with the beige pants makes a terrific outfit.
LEFT: Leather jackets and coats and sportswear make up the DNA of the Copenhagen-based Remain Birger Christensen. Give your life a lift in this double-breasted leather trench in a show-stopping fern green. It’s $899 at The Frankie Shop.
RIGHT: Searching for the right trench coat is like hunting for the Holy Grail, trust me. Generally speaking, if they’re from a designer brand, they’re wildly expensive. And there just don’t seem to be any fashion-forward, mid-price options. Perhaps because those mid-priced brands have mostly disappeared or gotten too damn pricey. With this oversize—but not too voluminous—silhouette, this $489 Decima Trench Coat from The Frankie Shop packs in more style than I’ve seen in similar coats for twice the price.
LEFT: Alex Mill’s Italian-made Julien Italian Flat in a velvet military green (also available in black, burgundy and red for $165) is darn cute, a riff on a ballet slipper but one that won’t pummel your toes. If your ankles are on the slim side, it could be fun to tie the grosgrain ribbons around your shins. If not, they’re removable.
CENTER: I’m a fan of corduroy and am happy to see more of it lately, including this Frankie Blazer ($245). Using leftover inventory, Alex Mill created a slim-fitting jacket in a wide corduroy wale, hand-dyed with plant-based indigo. The site notes that natural indigo transfers to light colors, so wash—separately—before wearing.
RIGHT: Made from recycled cotton and treated with a vintage wash, these easygoing Pull-on Pants —$125 in olive green— (shown) or navy with a slightly tapered leg are on my wish list. Wear with the matching Vintage Wash Hoodie ($110) and you can walk out the door with a perfectly coordinated outfit.
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