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by Ami Kealoha
on 07 July 2005

New York is turning into a giant shopping a good way. Based on an easily navigable flash-based floorplan, Refinery29 is a website launched just over three weeks ago that is dedicated to the best shops in the five boroughs. Their clean design (thanks to Agnieszka Gasparska, the lauded graphic artist and sometime Fischerspooner collaborator), along with friendly info-icons, handy "receipt" sidebars highlighting store basics, and well-written descriptions, make for a useful guide to area retailers. A regular feature-well includes categories such as editor-culled daily picks, a local's neighborhood-specific guide, fashion history, and (my personal guilty pleasure) a profile of a found fashionplate, which all indicates that we needn't fear; Refinery29 is much more Nylon than it is Mall of America.

As co-founder Philippe Von Borries puts it, Refinery29 aims to be "the mall of your dreams" by providing real-time details about the depots they deem superlative in New York. (Editorial space will never be sponsored.) Citing the entrepreneurial spirit (Von Borries quit his job as editor at The Globalist to start the project) and "an Old-World attention to detail" as an inspiration and guiding principle, he says that stores are chosen based on their approah to retailing. (Boutiques are the new "shoppes"? It's so neo-19th century! Just like...blogs!) Refinery29 looks for those spots that thoughtfully consider elements like interior design, personalized merchandising, service, and, most importantly, what they stock. Catering to what Von Borries refers to as "people's constantly growing need for individualism," these stores are more than specialty outposts; they're the places where the proprietors take retailing to the level of "true artform." Those that have made the cut so far include the LES, artist-run AFF, the Williamsburg cabinet of curiousities, Saved, and in the East Village, the men's lifestyle store Odin (who we just can't stop jocking).

An ecommerce site is planned for the Fall, natch, and look out for editions that cover the fashion capitols of Berlin and Los Angeles by the end of the year, followed by a London site.

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