Love this spring's gypsyish fashions, but wary of looking like a sloppy hippie? Meet designer Catherine Malandrino, of the SoHo shop Catherine, who always mixes ethnic finds with bright basics: "You have to bring south-of-France colors to the Hamptons, otherwise it's so . . . boring," she says. To add a bit of pizzazz to our essentials, we tagged along on a shopping trip.
At the Chelsea Market, we make a beeline for Imports From Marrakesh. From a cauldron full of leather slippers, Malandrino picks a gold pair ($50). "So sophisticated with khaki pants." Next comes a lime-green-and-brown scarf with sequined tassels ("Perfect for the beach.") With the gold slippers? "No, no! Flip-flops or Manolo Blahniks -- always combine ethnic with modern," she explains.
Taking the scarf, we head on to Little India's Royal Sari House, a trove of colorful silks. "I'm looking for green -- bright green," she presses the saleswoman. But she also loves a pink and gold tunic ($250, with pants): "Fantastic with capri pants, no?" (The pink pants will go with a white top.) She's not nearly so concerned with the traditional way of wearing things ("A great strapless wrap dress," she proclaims of a large shawl, $200). In the end, she picks up another green silk scarf ($35): "You can do a lot with this."
At York Novelty Import, bright strands of beads ($3-$12 each) blanket the walls. "When you're tan, you have to wear lots of natural, colorful beads," she insists. But not prissily: "Lots and lots together, like in Africa." Mixing and matching, Malandrino reflects on her choices: "I'm very colorful."
Imports From Marrakesh, 88 Tenth Ave., near 15th St. (675-9700); Royal Sari House, 264 Fifth Ave., at 29th St. (679-0732); York Novelty Import, 10 W. 37th St. (594-7040).
Picks of the Week
ABH Design's pashmina shawls (very, very impressive Mother's Day gifts) are on sale for much less than you'd pay elsewhere: from $160 for light embroidered styles to $240 for mid-weight solids to $395 for oversize, heavily embroidered shawls. 153 E. 61st St. (688-3764); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-5:30; 4/19-5/10.
Patrick Robinson's cool downtown clothes for women are $350 and more at uptown department stores. At the showroom sale, they're half off: from $150 for cashmere sweaters to $350 for fluid jersey dresses. Sizes 2-14. 84 Wooster St., second floor (431-1301); checks accepted; Mon.-Fri. 10-6, 4/19-4/23.
Renée DuMarr women's casual and career clothes are on sale at the showroom for 70 percent off retail: from $50 for simple dresses to $200 for tweed suits. Sizes 4-14. 530 Seventh Ave., near 38th St., seventh floor (768-3734); A.E., checks accepted; Fri.-Sat. 11-4; 4/23-4/24.
Carla Westcott and Heidi Weisel's eveningwear is ideal for dressy summer weddings. At Barneys, gowns start around $1,000; at the showroom sale, samples and stock are $100-$300. Sizes 4-14. 530 Seventh Ave., near 39th St., twentieth floor (768-9794); checks accepted; Fri. 8-7; 4/23.
ALWAYS A DEAL
Save a Bunch
Brighten your home (or a friend's dinner party) with budget weekend pickings from 800-FLOWERS. Stems are usually from $1 for carnations to $2.99 for yellow lilies to $4.99 for long-stemmed roses, but on Friday afternoons from 4 till 8, all are two for one. Mix your own, or snap up a ready-made bouquet ($12.99 for tulips) -- either way, they'll match it for free. 380 Second Ave., near 22nd St. (780-0120); 576 Third Ave., at 38th St. (490-0990).