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breezing through the streets of Lower Manhattan

New York City.

It’s hard to imagine that exactly a year ago this bustling city came to a complete halt and witnessed the pandemic’s darkest sides. Yet it’s no surprise that it would be New York that bounced back the quickest. The empty Soho shops of 2020 are now seeing queues forming outside their doors. The once shuttered restaurants in the West Village are abuzz with people spilling over to sidewalk dining. The once eerily ghost streets of Williamsburg, Upper East Side, Flatiron are busy with people rushing to their next appointment, couples on a date, and families seeking an oasis in the summer heat.

I’d like to take you along to the streets of post-pandemic New York, some of the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan. Together we can enjoy the sunshine, people watch, and of course talk about their style.

I live in the East Village, two blocks away from Tompkins Square park, which has become my nature escape during a long day of working from home. I saw this woman with her dog, surely headed for the dog park. She was balancing an iced latte, a tote bag (aka the most practical and therefore the most New York accessory), and her cute pup – all while rocking a breezy white dress with boots. That’s right, this dog mom opted for boots in the summer and made them look like they belonged in this very season.

The East Village has one of the city’s best restaurant and bar scenes. This is probably where I see the most densely populated number of outdoor dining setups. As I was passing one of them, my eyes were caught by this beautiful straw bag, seemingly the bag everyone is coveting right now. As my focus shifted to the whole outfit, I thought ‘wow she is a cool chick’. She meant business with her oxford shirt and silk midi skirt. It could’ve been a dress too. But everything was presented in a relaxed manner, making her float by me completely cool and collected.

Speaking of cool. This couple was standing outside of a dive bar on E 5th Street and Avenue C. A fairly residential area. They reminded me of the hipster kids of Berlin: their chunky white sneakers, her canvas blue jumpsuit, his mustard colored shirt which without a doubt he got at a vintage kilo shop, and the striped socks, pants rolled up just enough to show them off. If I were a smoker, I may have asked to bum off a cigarette just so that I could small-talk with them and catch some of their vibe.

Over in Soho, it was a hot summer day. The heat didn’t stop anybody from partaking in the scene. Crowds swishing by you, hands gripping multiple shopping bags, designer this, designer that. If you can manage to actually take a pause you may even spot a celebrity or two. Here we see the couple ready to go from the city to the beach, the man suited up in purple with his quintessential New Yorker tote carrying only the essentials, straw bags paired with straw hats, and floral dresses accessorized with a soft hair bun and gladiator inspired sandals. A day of shopping in Soho is a fashion show and a fitness class wrapped up into one.

Walk up to Noho now. On my walk back home from the boxing gym, I often see well-dressed New Yorkers turning every corner. However it was the FUEL-fueled gentleman and the angelic creature in moto boots who grabbed my attention on this particular day. I spotted the gentleman on a Saturday afternoon. He must’ve been carrying takeout in the brown bag, which makes me think ‘what does he wear out when he’s not picking up food?’ And whatever you call it – a jumpsuit, a boilersuit or a coverall – his wasn’t an ordinary one. It was his power suit FUELing him for another busy weekend in New York. A few blocks later, my attention turned towards a beautifully flowing dress in the breeze and the woman wearing it was walking with so much confidence I immediately straightened up my shoulders and picked up my gait. I don’t know what the secret was for all that self-love but it didn’t hurt that she was in leather boots with the latest from the Prada collection over her shoulder.

That’s the spirit of New York.

It always bounces back no matter what the world throws at it. With our heads held high, hair styled to flow in the wind, tied back into a relaxed bun or hidden from the beating sun by a stylish hat. With our fast-paced walk, clothes smartly chosen to be practical yet never boring, we move forward, rarely even stopping at a red light. This city inspires you to be one with yourself and your surroundings. So join me next time as we go exploring another part of this sprawling city that is far from dead.

all photos by Aika Zikibayeva @aikaziki

Aika Zikibayeva was born a storyteller. Growing up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, she would often sit on her grandfather’s lap and recite poems to him. A published poet and a journalist, he encouraged Aika and her siblings from a young age to stay curious, to observe, to read. Writing came as a natural next step for her. At the University of Virginia, where she studied foreign affairs, her writing was shaped by political theory, debate and hours of research. Her career took her to Washington, DC and then life turned a corner and she found herself in Copenhagen, Denmark. Five years of an expat lifestyle in Denmark inspired her to write more casually about culture, travel, human-to-human interaction. Since late 2019, Aika has been residing in New York City. By day, she is a marketing professional at a software company, and on her off-hours you will find her soaking in NYC’s vibrant energy one step at a time.

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