Photo: Cititour.com

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


" 'Yu' means 'warm water' in Japanese. The idea was for this store to be soothing, like bathtime," explains Ryoko Hatogai, a sales assistant at this charming Ludlow Street boutique. Indeed, the shop's unpretentious sense of style is soothing--but given Yu's dedication to art within fashion, I'd describe it as inspiring as well.

The focus here is on up-and-coming designers, some local and some from Ryoko's and owner Eiko Berkowitz's native Japan. I found many things I that haven't seen elsewhere: Cheerfully spring-like skirts by Heidi, in patchworks of complimentary fabrics and embellished with pom-poms, lace and buttons ($240); smocked jackets by PAL in soft beige or brown cotton (from $150); widelegged drawstring pants imported from Japan, in checked and polka-dot prints ($125); cleverly crafted hats by Amy Downs (from $60); and whimsical, artfully reconstructed t-shirts by Natalija ($88).

Special mention should be given to the lovely handmade bags by YouMe, which come with handwritten notes from the designer--adorable, and a bargain at $34. I especially liked a grey felt design decorated with a bright flower and delicate trim, but each bag was covetable. I was also very taken with the gorgeous skeins of knitting yarn ($14), especially after I learned that Eiko made it from start to finish: She actually sheared the wool from the sheep, washed it, dyed it, and spun it herself.

That kind of involvement--and commitment!--seems in keeping with the general spirit here: one of dedicated and personal creativity. Even the photos on the walls, also available for sale, are here by personal connection, having been taken by a Yu customer. Near the door, a postcard hangs to promote The Cats of Mirikitani, a wonderful documentary that has been screening at Cinema Village. Its director and Eiko are friends.

Yu has been in this location for 10 years, and I can only hope it will remain for many more. With its artistic leanings and its welcoming feel, it's the kind of place this city shouldn't lose.

  - Pamela Grossman; March 25, 2007

151 Ludlow St.
New York, NY 10002
(212) 979-9370