Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Type of Place: Women's Clothing

When I walk into the small but well-appointed Spec, I find owner Ai Ito working alone, busily but calmly helping customers, answering the phone, and handling paperwork. Spec is her creation; and her own outfit--flowered bell-bottoms and a white tank top pulled together by a long flowered necklace--is an indicator of the chic, well-crafted, and often 60s-flavored clothes on offer here. After studying sociology in Japan, Ito came to New York seven years ago and opened Spec in this location in 2005. The shop features styles for men and women from about 10 designers, some local and others Japan-based.

Diving into the racks, I especially love a black blouse with metallic thread-weave and a bow at neck ($118, from Collective Clothing); a mini dress from EmMeZ in brown, maroon, and turquoise, in a pattern the friend who has accompanied me describes as "polka dots on drugs" ($138); a gorgeous cream-colored blouse with sheer straps and white flowers ($148 from Piko 1988); and a yellow cotton-knit halter dress, also from EmMeZ ($110). For men, I especially notice optically patterned shirts from Takeo Kikuchi, starting from $89. Affordable and clever accessories are also here, in a smartly curated array.

I see Ito taking care of business (in English and in Japanese) as I admire the designs, which, while proudly wearing their hippy-chic on their sleeves, manage to look entirely modern and fresh--as does Ito herself. Her sociology study of a shop spanning continents, languages, and decades is, as shown by brisk and multilingual business at the register, a proven success.
  - Pamela Grossman; July 14, 2008

62 Clinton St
(Rivington & Stanton)
New York, NY 10002

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