412 East Ninth Street
If the risk of PETA protests or the fetishistic gaze of S&M enthusiasts does not frighten you, head to the Leather Rose for custom-made pants. Despite the subterranean shop's heavy-metal mood, the designs are decidedly elegant. South African-born owner Aldo Kleyn boasts, "I grew up with all these animals. I can make you any style, any color of leather known to humanity," as he fans out an endless pile of swatches-lambskin, alligator, black mamba snake, and deer hide. Clients agree, judging from the photo albums documenting smiling customers as they slither into their new second skins, as well as magazine spreads -- Lil' Kim in red python leggings, Marilyn Manson in a gold space suit-scattered among the leather cuffs and cowboy hats. With only Kleyn and his wife, Cilia, handcrafting the creations, the wait can be long (up to two months) and the price tag hefty (a pair of boot-cuts starts at $800). But the finished product will last a lifetime. Kleyn pulls out a pair of caramel-colored deer-hide tie-up trousers: "I made these for myself eighteen years ago, and they still fit me like a glove."
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