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How We Shop Now

Four tastemakers solve the riddle of why we buy what we buy.

10 CORSO COMO, MILAN

The Only One in the World

Most people are agreed: Few of us need more stuff. When we shop we mostly do so for two reasons—to buy what we truly need (socks, soap, bread) and to have a cultural experience, a glimpse of the wider world through an assortment of its things. 10 Corso Como falls into the second category. It offers few necessities but much that you most heartily desire. It enlarges and expands your point of view. It's more than retail therapy, it's an aesthetic, artistic, life-enhancing experience.

10 Corso Como opened in Milan in the last years of the last century (that makes it sound old, but in spirit it always seems very, very new), just as many other stores—from Gucci to Gap—began multiplying. But from the beginning it was clear that 10 Corso couldn't just be rolled out to order. It is individual, and behind it is a very individual eye: Carla Sozzani, sister of the editor of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani. Without her it would be just another shop.

What it sells isn't so extraordinary. After all, it stocks lotions and potions (albeit pretty special ones) that you'll find in plenty of other stores. It carries Marni and Prada, art and design books, and objets and gadgets for the home. But it is a precisely edited selection of Marni and Prada; only the most beautiful and interesting books; and housewares that have been brilliantly selected for their cleverness and usefulness. There's a restaurant, a gallery, and a bed-and-breakfast. Yet it is more than the sum of its parts. It makes you feel good, as if you belong to a club whose members know fine and rare things when they see them. You want to be a 10 Corso Como sort of person.

Spread across a rambling former workshop, the store feels like a metropolitan souk, where the fun and the beautiful mingle with the avant-garde and the antique, where serious design and art share the spotlight with clothes and scents and candles. Most of all, it's a place where you feel that the owner has been hard at work, choosing only the very best of the things she comes across. 10 Corso Como is something precious: It's the cosmopolitan retail version of that endangered species, the family business, owner-run and cared for, with a style and personality all its own. It doesn't matter whether it's a recherché collection of handbags, some small recondite scent from an artisanal maker, a rampantly modern ceramic pot, or an outrageous piece of leather clothing that might look at home in an S&M shop. If Carla likes it, in it goes. And if she doesn't, well, that's most definitely that.

—Lucia Van Der Post


MOSS, NEW YORK

The Shop As Museum

After almost a decade, moss still holds its ground at the epicenter of cool. People come to this home-design store in SoHo as if to a gallery—to ogle Venini glass, order an Ingo Maurer lighting fixture, pick up a set of Jensen sterling, or maybe it's a tiny toy sheep wearing a real coat. Twenty-five grand, 25 bucks, it's never the money that matters. What matters is the Mossiness.

Murray Moss, the man behind the shop, was always a design freak. For his 16th birthday, in l966, he asked his dad for a pale-blue T-bird convertible. "It was perfect," Moss sighs. "You pressed a button, the roof went down. It had pale-blue leather upholstery." Today he gets the same thrill from the thing itself, whether it's a car, chair, lamp, a copper pot for poaching fish, or yes, even a stuffed toy. This exuberance has turned him into one of the most influential retailers in America, not to mention one of a handful of visionaries who changed a fading art neighborhood into a shopper's field of dreams.

"I expected the store to close in a month," Moss says. "The reason it looks like a museum is that the area was still biased toward galleries when we opened back in '94." But there is a lot more than circumstance at work on Greene Street. There is wit as well as gravitas, and most of all, there is context. Moss displays a Hexenbecher witches' cup, for instance, alongside Gaetano Pesce's sideboard; a Chiocciola marble bathtub sits next to a wooden German stool shaped like a sheep. The way in which these sometimes boldly less-than-discreet objects of desire—the glass, silver, porcelain, lighting, furniture—are displayed next to each other makes them provocative, funny, and most of all, necessary. Art, craft, industrial design, are all translated into domestic pleasure.

Moss came to New York to be an actor; he soon turned himself into a fashion entrepreneur. In 1990, he got out of that biz and into this one. "I felt fashion was going down and home design coming up. But at the time, there wasn't much around—no product, no stores."

Now there are plenty, thanks to Moss—and more to come. The original store has already expanded. There is a bridal registry, a mossonline.com, and other prospects too grand even to dream about. In other words, this Moss is still very much a rolling stone.

—Reggie Nadelson


VIVRE CATALOGUE

Mail Order Style

The Spiegel catalogue was never like this. When Vivre was first published, eight years ago, it was clear that the twice-yearly source book of extraordinary accessories would be much more than a catalogue. It is, in fact, the glittering alternate universe of its utterly chic creator, Eva Jeanbart Lorenzotti. Swiss-born and married to one-time Manhattan prepster Lorenzo Lorenzotti, she began Vivre after a career as a financial analyst because, she says, "there was a real void in conveying the artistry and craftsmanship of luxury brands." Plus, owning a catalogue is a fantastic excuse to shop. With 28 employees in an office overlooking New York's Madison Square Park, Lorenzotti scours the known—and, more important, unknown—corners of the world in search of anything that strikes her fancy. She lassos each for the consumption of her 1.5-million-person subscriber list, of whom 120,000 spend upwards of $450 every time they place an order. "I am always looking through books and magazines, talking to people I know, running around the world," she says. And what she cannot find she creates herself, with a cadre of manufacturers and craftsmen—stitched leather dresser trays, white waterproof-cotton jackets, the perfect mini-umbrella. But make no mistake:This is very much her sandbox, a celebration of the things she loves and hopes we will too. Think of her as Martha Stewart by way of Capri (not, god forbid, Old Greenwich). But instead of inking with K-Mart, she's Montblanced her deals for the likes of Lambertson Truex sandals and Etro slippers; Ruzzetti & Gow stone bowls; baubles by John Hardy and M + J Savitt; a Beretta jacket and Armand Diradourian pullovers. This is the world of good taste, presented as practically as a recipe for pâté brisée. "Greet the rain in a pair of whimsical Wellingtons," she decrees on a page featuring delightfully colorful hand-printed "puddle proof" boots by Tamara Henriques. "They will brighten even the cloudiest day." On a spread of oatmeal cashmere sweaters, "Natural colors are the classics we never tire of," our Eva declares. Husband Lorenzo, now a private financier, and her children, Allegra, six, and Amedeo, two, also make appearances in the catalogue, often in silver frames. So do Heidi Klum (who has a new jewelry line), Andrée Putman (who designs for Christofle), Chagall (whose images are available on china), and Marie-Chantal of Greece (Eva adores her line of baby clothes). Vivre is as much a who's who as a what's what—a glamorous circle that we're all encouraged to join.

—Suzanne Slesin


FRESHDIRECT.COM
Grocery à Gogo

The trucks were the tipping point. Suddenly, every Manhattan phone booth was plastered with ads for the new online grocery store, and then—wham!—out rolled the vans in legion and FreshDirect had arrived. Now, when you're sitting at your laptop at 10 p.m. (or 2 a.m., for that matter) and realize you need two marbled porterhouses, a box of Tide, soy milk, balsamic vinegar, arugula, and paper towels, you know just where to click (freshdirect.com). The company was founded last year by former investment banker Jason Ackerman and Joseph Fedele, a refugee from Manhattan's Fairway market (there's still a dispute over what his actual title was, but who cares?). The concept is that you can buy a whole cartload of groceries without stepping out of your house, or in this case, your apartment door (the trucks go only to sections of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens now, but eventually they will be headed to all five boroughs, and no doubt the world). This is an idea whose time has come, but considering the fact that for years people have been buying everything from CDs to split-level houses online, what took it so long?

Daniel Boulud, the soul father of haute cuisine and a FreshDirect fan, offers up one theory. "When you go to the farmer's market or Dean & Deluca, you get to touch, you get to smell, you get to see. You can't get that experience sitting at a computer." True enough, but that hasn't stopped FreshDirect from adding 2,500 new customers every week. Besides, the Web site holds your hand through the whole process: "Do you want your avocado ripe enough to eat in two days or six?" "Would you like us to chop that cheddar into cubes?" "May we vacuum-pack that Cornish hen for you?" "Let us explain the sweetness level of our baby bananas." It's better service than you're likely to get at Gristedes, the A&P, or whatever your local supermarket, and there will be no one paying with pennies in the express lane. FreshDirect has a few kinks to work out, of course. Milk sometimes leaks. A tomato comes crushed. And there are those who can't even be persuaded to try it out. Writer-director-Upper West-sider Nora Ephron, whom we asked to write this article in the first place, e-mailed us this: "I've never ordered from FreshDirect, and I was out in East Hampton, and so far you cannot get them to come all the way here. I tried to order from them a few months ago, but they weren't carrying Pellegrino." We just checked: Pellegrino is $1.19 a bottle, 65 cents cheaper than at D'Agostino, and—Nora, are you listening?—they can deliver it between nine and 11 tomorrow morning.

—Jeffries Blackerby