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The Times Shopper

Bargains Abound in the City of Brotherly Love

November 23, 1986|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer.

PHILADELPHIA — The City of Brotherly Love is closely associated with our nation's Colonial heritage. But Philadelphia is also tremendously trendy.

The city's blend of traditional and contemporary influences is seen most clearly on South Street. The tree-lined strip from Front Street, on the Delaware River, to 8th Street was the southern border in William Penn's original city plan. Colonial and federal residences on surrounding streets are evidence that South Street developed rapidly. Today, South Street is part of the inner city and has become the Bohemian quarter, with some of the city's trendiest shops, restaurants and clubs.

South Street's personality changes throughout the day. In the morning and throughout the early afternoon, the street is patronized by neighborhood residents, buying groceries, fresh-cut flowers or household supplies. By late afternoon, shoppers from other parts of town browse and buy in the street's boutiques and galleries. Many of the shops stay open late, to accommodate the dinner and club crowd who arrive at about 6 p.m., and stay until the wee hours of the morning.

Broad Price Range

South Street shops offer a variety of styles and a broad price range. Xog (which recently changed its name from Fog, at No. 340) has up-to-date men's and women's clothing of high quality and design, and prices that are within reach. Owners Rick Millan and Irene Nawalkowsky include in their stock selected items from known lines (Matinique, for example), but they also scour the market for new designers from the United States and abroad. Armagnac, for example, is a Philadelphia designer with a line of lightweight wool knits. A green, ankle-length full skirt with high waist ($180) has a matching top that looks a bit like a bolero jacket in reverse ($90); in contrast, a skinny black almost-mini dress has a zipper all the way up the front ($174).

Danny Noble, known nationwide, hails from Philadelphia, and Xog stocks many of his designs. A purple and black, horizontal stripe, skinny long skirt and matching over-blouse, in lightweight wool knit, is stunning (about $160).

Nancy Carbonell is a Canadian designer whose large black shirts with white prints that look like primitive drawings ($28) are popular with both men and women. Carbonell also makes a wonderful black sweater with tufts of white wool scattered over the surface. There are a lot of wildly colored sweaters for men, to go over pants that are pegged and pleated and pocketed. A "top gun" jacket by Avirex is popular; Marc Buchanan's black leather bomber jacket, with a stand-away collar and lined with possum, is a standout. A men's gray lightweight wool coat, lined with paisley, is reasonable at $220.

Xog also has great accessories. "Popcorn" necklaces made of colored plaster dots on strands of thick thread are unusual, with drop earrings to match. Via Spiga all leather, high-fashion shoes are $62. There are cotton socks in all colors and an interesting selection of hats.

Zipperhead (No. 407) sells fun, punkish fashion. In addition to the Betsey Johnson line of black dresses that zip up the front, the store carries Raymond Ercoli, a Philadelphia designer who does a lot of tie-dye cotton dresses ($60), shirts ($38) and sweat shirts ($28) in vivid colors. Ercoli also designed the store's logo T-shirts, a man's face with a zipper down the nose ($14). The store is shocking pink; the clothes are fun.

Skinz! (No. 331) is another punk store, with a great collection of T-shirts imported from Britain, with amusing cartoons and slogans, and a huge collection of comic books.

First on Your Block (530 S. 4th St., just off South Street) has moderately priced casual clothes for men and women, with an emphasis on stylish separates. Navy cotton pleated pants ($36) and a navy double-breasted jacket ($34) by Creeks are attractive. There is a great collection of dusters, and best is the shop's own black duster of heavy cotton, ankle-length with long back slit ($36).

Patti LaBelle's shop, LaBelle Amie (526 S. 3rd St., just off South Street), has elegant, expensive and flashy fashions. There are evening gowns, handsome afternoon suits and dresses, and an apple green padded jacket in a metallic fabric ($380).

Spirited and Trendy

Fun is the word at Kamikaze Kids (520 S. 4th St., just off South Street), where children's clothing styles are spirited and trendy. There are leggings in a rainbow of colors, socks with all sorts of trim, handbags and hair bows for little girls ($9), plus sparkle-covered T-shirts with net tutus attached ($40). Sweat shirts for boys and girls have drawings with raised patches and lines ($20), and the romper suits are adorable.

Hand-loomed cotton clothes from Mexico and other countries are sold at Eye's Gallery (No. 402), along with handicrafts including wooden carvings, basketry, ceramics and more. Artist Isiah Zagar has incorporated some of these handicrafts into his unusual, huge murals through the gallery and dressing rooms.

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