In Bed-Stuy, a New Store is Like a Petting Zoo for Clothes


The brownstones off Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant are lined up like stripes of Neapolitan ice cream: brown, white, pinky-beige.

There’s a grandeur to the homes that you don’t find anywhere else in Brooklyn. They stretch toward the sidewalk like sleepy sphinxes, taking up a crazy amount of space.

A new boutique in the neighborhood fits right in. Sincerely, Tommy is as roomy and elegant as the 19th-century homes on either side of it, albeit in precisely the opposite way: all poured concrete, open space and Modernist accent furniture, the store is a little slice of Marfa in Bed-Stuy.
Critical Shopper
The stories that our clothes tell, one store at a time.

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Sincerely, Tommy is owned by Kai Avent-deLeon, a local whose mother and grandmother regularly swing by the shop to say hello or pull a shift. A counter at the front serves almond croissants and blood-orange soda to visitors hooked up to the store’s Wi-Fi. In the back, racks of clothes share space with cantilevered chairs by Nicos Zographos and a dressing room big enough for doing cartwheels. (Another luxury of Bed-Stuy: discretionary square footage.)

The designers in stock tend to be international, and the silhouettes tend toward looseness. A cropped jacket from the New Zealand-based label Kowtow had batwing sleeves wide enough to wear to karate practice, and the store’s in-house label offers silk T-shirt dresses ($130) and culottes ($86.25) that are as utile as they are civilized. These are charitably-cut pieces that allow a body to function without scrutiny.

A sheer top in navy flocked cotton by Penny Sage ($195) was transparent enough to warrant a double-take but boxy enough to thwart catcallers. I tried it on and gave a whirl for Ms. Avent-deLeon, who was on the floor that day. “There’s a pair of matching pants, too,” she said, handing them over.

The pants ($347) had a narrow waist and patch pockets. With the top, they formed a quietly demented playsuit. Add a cigarette and a preposterous tan and I could be an Italian grandmother on the make in Portofino. With a macaroni necklace, I could be six years old. This is the kind of versatility I seek in clothes.

When shapes are ample, color is key. The racks are lined with garments in hues the mind struggles to name: Electric celery? Neon mustard? Raisin smoothie? Dusty Creamsicle? For shoppers on a budget, color can be tactical. The right hue makes a piece look much more expensive than it actually is.

Textures may do the same. A pebbled leather bag (by the local label Kara) wrapped in shearling looked like a normal purse being hugged by a rare poodle. With the shape of an oversize hip flask, the bag was exactly the right size for a paperback book, a sack of Utz and a MetroCard.

The bag’s chunky zipper gave it another quality that popped up as a theme throughout the store: touchability. A hefty zipper is more fun to pull than a dinky one. Silk organza pants with pompoms are more pleasing to fondle than silk organza pants without. We spend all day in our clothes; why not choose pieces that reward petting?

Not that these pieces veer into “hotcha-hotcha” territory. There’s nothing tight, short or plunging at Sincerely, Tommy. Nothing looks like a prelude to sex. Many things, however, look like a prelude to a Kazimir Malevich print, so if you enjoy the notion of dressing like a geometric abstraction (And who wouldn’t? It’s so liberating), you’ll find plenty to choose from.

To be sure, these are clothes that demand clean living. Not in the sense of raising your kale consumption or avoiding booze, but in the sense of being careful not to stain each item’s surface with crumbs, grease or tomato products. Minimalism is sublime only if it is pristine. A stained ecru turtleneck is just depressing.

A table at the center of the store displays affordable treasures, including Egyptian Magic Cream, nail decals printed with flamingos, and sunglasses that appear to be made from melted Jolly Ranchers ($50). In fact, everything from the frame’s temple arm to the bridge is crafted from tinted acetate in your choice of sunflower, bubble gum, smoke or golf-course green. They are produced by the store’s in-house label. I bought green, wore them out and immediately got a compliment from a pipe fitter in a hard hat.

Related Tags:Tompkins Avenue in Bedford, pinky-beige, slice of Marfa, Modernist accent furniture