Between chic territories, realms of cool and guarded enclaves, fashion mapping in New York juggling identities.
How does New York dress? Very expensive and with strong brilliance, if we are to believe the successful television series that shaped the imagination and styles of the 2000 to 2010 years.
Carrie Bradshaw, the heroine of Sex and city, and her friends, four “successful” thirty-year-olds, wander Manhattan only wearing Manolo Blahnik pumps and draped in a thousand designer labels. Gossip Girl? A bunch of high school girls from the Upper East Side, the chicest corner of the metropolis, who in their free time rob Chanel and co.
An ultra-bourgeois city, a consumerist as hell, a little sexist: only girls, almost 100% white, would be interested in clothing? – this is what these programs have transmitted, obviously far from what New York has always been: a city of diversity where fashion lovers know how to play with social strata; a city where showing what you want from yourself, freely and even madly, has always been the norm.
New York, a trendy city
At the beginning of 2022, during our visit against an Omicron variant backdrop, the New York of fashionistas isn’t quite at the party. Oh! Sure, luxury brands dear to Carrie Bradshaw still adorn Madison Avenue and behind SoHo’s beautiful brick facades. But, everywhere, empty shop windows and billboards “Retail space for rent” (shop for rent) have sprung up.
The huge shopping temple has left many feathers in the pandemic. Opening Ceremony, the country’s most popular avant-garde multi-brand, has gone out of business. Same disastrous fate for the superb concept stores Totokaelo and Forty Five Ten, originally from Seattle and Dallas respectively. The New York branch of 10 Corso Como, the famous grail of Milanese fashion, didn’t last two years!
All remain the same, always giving the the weather, Dover Street Market (DSM), the stall opened in London by the Japanese Rei Kawakubo (the designer of Comme des Garçons) and which exhibits the best of the avant-garde on seven hyper-scenographic floors. Among the clashing labels that have just been voiced by DSM, that of Sintra Martins, a 25-year-old designer, caused a sensation at New York Fashion Week last year.
Let’s try to reassure ourselves about the resilience of the city: even in times of commercial crisis, he remains eager for young talents ready to disrupt the game. Born in California, New Yorker by adoption since studying at Parsons: all the designers that matter come from this famous starGreenwich Village School of Design – Sintra Martins invents, under the banner of Saint Sintra, dresses all in overlapping and oddities, reminiscent of trips to Disneyland and evil tales, which surely seduce pop stars (Olivia Rodrigo, Willow Smith …), but who are attracted “For all body types” (understand: not only for the size of the mannequins).
After his school, she could have returned to Los Angeles, a city of entertainment where fashion is no exception. “But in New York there is, in terms of fashion, an ancient expertise and ecosystem, she explains, while Europe, which in my opinion remains the beating heart of our business, is only six hours away from the time zone – against twelve in Los Angeles – which facilitates communication with press offices and buyers. There is also a culture of craftsmanship here: I collaborate with producers who are just a few blocks from my studio. “
His workshop, a handful of square meters which miraculously houses a large work table, moodboard (inspiration board) and piles of fabrics, is installed on the upper floors of an anonymous building in NoMad (North of Madison Square Park), the historic pastry district. Before the acronym NoMad marked its trend, this small quadrilateral was first called The Ladies’ Mile, because New Yorkers came to it in embroidery, corsets and toilets, then Garment District (clothing district).
But since two hotels (The Ace Hotel and the NoMad, which will reopen under the Soho House banner after the renovation) with a high power of desirability have settled there, twig girls and climbing boys, all dressed as Michael Kors, jostling on the sidewalks. A slightly opulent theater rrepresentations that Sintra Martins watches amused: “It’s fun to see all these extremely chic and trendy people who love big brands and shop at Saks, the famous luxury brand on Fifth Avenue. But I am more interested in these very young New Yorkers, natives of Queens or the Bronx, who wear multi-pocket jackets, big boots, pile one outfit on top of the other with crazy refinement, without necessarily being aware of their incredible style …. “
And to add that what enchants him or at least gives a thousand faces to local fashion, it is the seasonality of the climate, unlike Los Angeles, a city of perennial good weather and short sleeves all year round. “Season” in the fashion world is not an empty word. Even though collections are multiplying everywhere, the fashion weeks biennial, spring-summer and autumn-winter, remain, with their deadlines and their specifications, the backbone of the sector.
In particular, it is “To escape this great exhausting machine” that Brandon Giordano, formerly a member of designer Narciso Rodriguez’s team, opened, with her husband Collin Weber, James Veloria – James is Collin’s middle name, Veloria is Brandon’s – the most flamboyant second-hand shop in town – where it is possible unearth the treasures of the 90s and 2000s, from Versace to Vivienne Westwood …
Irony of fashion and its perpetual coming and going: “Many designers and stylists come to buy from us for inspiration! “ – Humberto Leon, former artistic co-director of Kenzo and co-founder, with Carol Lim, of Opening Ceremony, regularly passes the head. James Veloria is symptomatic of a new geography of YouNew York trends. It is in Chinatown, at 75 East Broadway, that the two boys have been running a shop since 2021. At first glance, this is a shopping center (mall) a little blind, nestled right under the Manhattan Bridge – “As soon as one meter is overturned, all our walls tremble”, Colin laughs.
Its ground floor, typical of the neighborhood, it is full of hardware stores, horticulturists and Asian junk. Upstairs, surprise: in what appear to be former offices, experimental art galleries have established themselves, a beloved fashion label, Eckhaus Latta, has set up its mini-flagship-store and, in the midst of all this, decorated with wigs and disco curtains, Brandon and Collin’s shop shines happily.
How amazing and exciting this today’s Chinatown looks, where the popu intelligently mixes with the pointed, where the top and bottom of the range, good and bad taste happily flirt, where the New York of fashion and art, in short, offers a restyling! Whether you have a vegetarian lunch at Dimes, the best in canteens, or in a Cantonese restaurant, whether you close your beers in Forgtmenot, a port that doesn’t seem like much, or a party carefully selected awaits you at the Public Hotel, the new headquarters of the artistic fauns, your eyes will be harpooned every minute by girls in cartoon coats, boys in leatherette skirts and other splendid looks. You could then tell yourself, walking along this Orchard Street where fashion and design boutiques challenge each other in inventiveness, that the district’s Chinese identity will soon be over …
Not so fast! Among the addresses that count, at number 28, there is the one, all in concrete and sculptural supports, of Sandy Liang: the New York designer, herself of Chinese origin and daughter of Queens, has become an essential visionary. A stone’s throw from her shop, her father owns the Congee Village restaurant, a culinary institution in her hometown.
More than at home, here, we embark minorities even in its highest ranks. Could New York, through fashion, this industry of dreams and glitz, make the gentrification pill go more smoothly? This is what we tell each other as we explore the Bed-Stuy (short for Bedford-Stuyvesant) borough in Brooklyn. Originally poor and African American, this cute nook of ocher houses now loves a whole fringe of so-called creative professions, yes, but without its identity fading too much. Because hotspots for aesthetes of all conditions form the link here and there.
To Kai Avent-deLeon, originally from Bed-Stuy and founder of the cafe-concept-store Sincerely Tommy, we meet, at the time of the end of school, mothers of large families, who stock up on (vegan) delicacies for their children, and visual artists in search of stylish boots. As for Michael Graham, African American stylist and creator of the Savant Studios showroom store, it makes it a point of honor to offer pieces at fair prices that skillfully mix hip-hop, jazz, pop influences and resonate with the culture of the piece.
This New York, where we design clothes “for all body types”where we love second-hand clothing as much for its singularities as for its ecological virtues, where the notions of masculine and feminine are confused, where we celebrate both the hyper-loyal and the international, he would not have quietly invented the style of life of the future?
> Discover New York.