Though it’s near-heresy to say so, I count Century 21 as the most overrated store in the city. A four-floor discount department store right across from the World Trade Center site, it made its reputation by selling designer clothing, shoes, and housewares at steeply discounted prices. But though the clothing may say “Calvin Klein,” “Mosconi,” or “DKNY,” I’ve found that in nine out of ten cases, the really inexpensive offerings look nothing like the goods you’d get from these designers at retail stores. Instead, the fabrics are—to my mind—the cheapest polyesters; the colors are gaudy, the fit is off, and even the labels themselves look different. I suspect this is where designers go to unload the terrible mistakes they’ve made, or perhaps to peddle lines of cheaper goods created explicitly for this store and others like it. I’m in the minority on this, as witness to the fact that a new outlet of the store opened in 2012 on the Upper West Side.
- Pauline Frommer