The starting gun goes off in late August with the release of Vogue's thick September issue, but who wants to shop woolens when you can still catch rays at Jones Beach? Like football, the season doesn't hit its stride till there's a chill in the air.
We have options for shopper-athletes, whether you're nimble as a shortstop, or a linebacker mowing down anyone standing between you and a sales rack.
Purists may prefer Loehmann's, but nothing beats Century 21 for price (up to 65 percent off) and variety (apparel, accessories, linens, cosmetics and more). Sure, there's one in Westbury (and you also can shop online). But hitting the downtown flagship, now being renovated, is like a trip to Disney World. And last year they (finally) opened an uptown location.
WHERE 22 Cortlandt St. (at Church Street), 1972 Broadway (at West 66th Street)
INFO 212-227-9092 (downtown), 212-518-2121 (uptown), c21stores.com
SHOE FLOOR WARS
In 2007, Saks debuted a designer shoe salon "so big it has its own ZIP code" (10022). Now, Macy's has created the world's largest shoe floor (63,000 square feet) with 300,000 pairs of shoes, a tempting coffee, Champagne and chocolate bar (and mini luxe shoe shops to come). For guys, Bergdorf Goodman Men renovated its cozy Shoe Library (offering loafers to sparkly purple Jimmy Choos).
A CIVILIZED SAMPLE SALE
The days of real sample sales (when designers sold for cheap actual samples worn on runways) are long gone. Nowadays designers unload excess inventory at normal sale prices. Still, deals can be had. Soiffer Haskin has a spacious venue with group dressing rooms (one for men, one for women), so you don't have to drop trou' in the aisles. Sales (Brioni suits, Pratesi linens, Chopard watches), last three to five days, and prices drop the last day (sometimes by 75 percent), but with skimpier selection.
WHERE Soiffer Haskin, 317 W. 33rd St. (west of Eighth Avenue, near Penn Station)
INFO 718-747-1656 or soifferhaskin.com
Skip generic department store eateries and try the Swarovski Crystallized concept store in SoHo. After browsing glittery baubles, settle in at Café Kristall, a sleek Viennese outpost. Developed by chef Kurt Gutenbrunner (of Michelin Star-awarded Wallsé), it's perfect for lunch, dinner, cocktails, snacks or weekend brunch. Expect classics (spaetzle, schnitzel, strudel) and lighter fare that will have you singing "Edelweiss."
WHERE 70 Mercer St. (between Spring and Broome), 212-274-1500