BEST ARTISTIC PROTEST 2020 | Charles Smith II | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Kathy Tran

Dallas designer Charles Smith II released his "Freedom" collection in November 2019. Inspired by the resiliency of Black leaders, culture and experiences, Smith artfully constructed pieces honoring Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent figures of the civil rights movement. Little did the "Do Not Touch" designer know at the time, but his collection would be resurrected in June 2020 at the JFK Memorial downtown to serve as the centerpiece of hope and inspiration for a Freedom II (Black Lives Matter-inspired) protest where he and leading voices in the Dallas arts industry made a call for equality through images of fashion, art, music and sound. As images of Emmett Till, Malcolm X and George Floyd appeared in projections on the side of the memorial, the peaceful, illustrative protest made a social statement on its own.

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Historic in its own right, The Joule effortlessly appeals to Dallas' multiple personalities. For the ultra-casual, downtown views at either Americano or CBD Provisions fare well, followed by a low-key nightcap at The Midnight Rambler. Don't forget the mood lighting. The creative falls in love as vibrant art installations, unique retail boutiques and contemporary vibes surround him/her with every step. Coffee and convos take a seat in the spacious foyer, while others travel exclusively to indulge in the world-class spa. Whether it's a pool-side soiree, rooftop toast or relaxing staycation for two, it's clear why The Joule is touted as "the cultural epicenter of downtown."

"Upscale hippie," "earthy elegance," "the kind of thing Alexis Rose would wear" — we'll try any way to avoid the expression "boho-chic," but that fashion-favorite duality is exactly what Dallas designer Julie Cohn's work entails. Cohen's jewelry encompasses all sorts of beauty: that of culture, nature, luxurious craftsmanship and innovation in design. Her standout pieces include black widow and cocoon bronze earrings. It's original and evocative, not "ew" at all, David.

Brian Maschino

This Dallas gem off Jefferson Boulevard is the perfect spot to flip through vinyl while listening to one of your favorite bands play live in the background. Since opening in 1956, Top Ten Records has become more than a record store. It's become an all-encompassing lifestyle store with old and new records, turntables, clothing and sound systems. Sitting near Texas Theatre, Top Ten relaunched as an arts and culture nonprofit/media library with a huge selection of Tejano, hip-hop, rock and anything else you can think of.

Avoid the grocery stores and mega-chain pet stores in favor of a shop and team that cares about your furry loved ones. Since simply stepping out for groceries is a risk during this time, Hollywood Feed provides same-day delivery and a variety of sustenance for the animals that matter most to you. Insight, care and knowledge from the Feed's staff prove there's a reason why they are called "pet experts."

Kathy Tran

Let other Dallas shops specialize in vintage couture. Vagabond has the clothing items we actually wear: vintage band tees. The store carries jackets, cowboy boots and other items, but their T-shirts make up the majority of the inventory. If you're looking for an authentic Van Halen tour tee from the '80s or original The Simpsons merch, you'll find it at Vagabond. Their selection is made up of collectibles, and prices are reasonable considering the mileage you'll get out of your purchase.

Originally built in 1925, The Drakestone is a mix of modern and historic as the Dallas landmark is newly remodeled in the heart of downtown. The former Republic National Bank now holds a fitness center, resident lounges and working spaces (since it looks like we'll be working from home for the foreseeable future.) The new apartment complex also houses a rooftop spot that includes a panoramic view of the skyline. But what makes The Drakestone appealing most of all is its commitment to preserving the interior while adhering to the growing resident life in downtown. Sure, it's pricey, but it's a prime example of preservation that's modern, luxurious and uniquely Dallas.

Courtesy of Forever Young

Inside Forever Young's trove are more than 250,000 items including vinyl, CDs, cassettes, T-shirts, record players and collectibles. It's also where owner David Eckstrom evaluates potential buys from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He says collectability, sellability and condition are key factors for sellers seeking top dollar for their merchandise. "Condition falls more heavily on value for Elvis and the Beatles and the like," he says. "Otherwise, I'll buy [practically] anything in good shape because somebody will value it. If I don't have it, and they come in looking for it, I can't sell it them."

If you're about that "vape life" then 710 Vape is the palace for you to find the necessary accessories to ensure you're puffing safely. With a variety of vapes, e-juices and alternative smoking options, 710 Vape ensures that they will meet the high (hehe) standards of their customers with the products they sell. With free shipping for orders over $35, there's no need to leave the comfort of your own couch. 710 Vape has a variety of collectible items that will sit nicely next to your vape and/or intricately designed "blown glass."

The Nikon Icon

Erica Campbell. Cardi B. Beyoncé. Haitian womenswear designer Venny Etienne of Levenity is more than just a local fave; he's becoming a household name. Whether it's brushing up on all things couture in Paris or in the Harlem atelier of Dapper Dan, the Project Runway designer continues to rack up win after win, including his recent collaboration with the Queen Bey for her highly acclaimed Black Is King film. The sky is the limit for the talented ready-to-wear designer with all standing back to see which celebrity or runway or film his styles will grace next.

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