Monday, September 9, 2013

At Home and In the Studio with Rachel Antonoff

Posted By on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Rachel Antonoff doesn't live in Brooklyn. Well, not yet anyway. She's relocating to Brooklyn Heights in February, moving into the apartment of a friend who owns her place and doesn't yet want to sell. But for now? Antonoff lives on the Upper West Side (kind of the Brooklyn Heights of Manhattan, I'd like to think, with similar dog and fashionable sneior citizen populations) and has a studio in the Garment District and yet, still, we wanted to visit her home and talk to her as she prepares to present her Spring line (via video, like last season). Why? Well, anyone who is a fan of Antonoff's incredibly wearable, yet totally unique clothes and accessories (I love her visors in particular), or who frequently checks in on her incredibly funny Twitter feed with its judicious use of emoji, or who follows her on Instagram, where she shares a life full of familiar faces (including her brother and roommate, Jack, of fun. and his girlfriend, Lena Dunham), wouldn't need to ask why. Antonoff transcends any geographical limitations we've imposed on ourselves, because she's just that talented and fun to be around.

Located on one of the prettier blocks on the Upper West Side, just a short distance from Central Park, Antonoff's apartment is a duplex on the top floor of a small building, and gives the impression of being more of a tree house than a regular house. This might have something to do with the color she uses on the walls. "It's called Teresa's Green from Farrow and Ball," she says. "This wall color is my favorite wall color, and it will go with me wherever I live." In fact, the mellow green on the walls is one of the more distinctive major design elements in Antonoff's apartment. The apartment is spare; not too much hangs on the walls, and there are just a few major pieces of furniture—a wrought iron bed, a white couch with clean lines, a dark blue rug with an inlaid ballerina. It makes perfect sense when Antonoff says, "I don't require a lot, so decorating isn’t the most important thing to me. In my old apartment on 82nd Street, people were always asking me, 'Oh, did you just move in?' or 'Oh are you moving out?' and the answer was always 'No!' For me, just as long as I have a TV, a couch, a bed and an Internet connection, that ‘s all that I need. So I’m really proud of the fact that I did something here. And it’s only because we filmed our video in here that i even got it to look like this."

But even though Antonoff might not have any major decorating ambitions, there's still no shortage of interesting things to look at in her home. From a gorgeous bouquet of purple roses ("Flowers are so nice and they go such a long way, and it’s the kind of thing that I’d think was a waste because it’s just me, butI’m just so happy every time I see them. so I think I’m going to keep doing that. It makes me feel very together.") to a framed Francine Dressler print ("This was my grandmother’s, and my brother and I were totally obsessed with it and I found Francine Dressler and got her permission and now I’m using this as a print for spring.") to a bookshelf full of books from the Baby-Sitters Club series ("Stacey made diabetes cool."), Antonoff's home is a treasure trove of cool found objects.

As she explores her room for interesting things to show me, she shows off something that anyone who grew up in the early 90s would instantly recognize as something of basically infinite value: a sticker book, complete with oilies, fuzzies, and puffies. She tells us, that she's currently arguing with her brother over who the sticker book actually belongs to, although "I can see now how this is probably an amalgam of both of our sticker collections, although it does seem to have been his first. Because, well, that's his name on the inside of the cover. And, really, it’s so cute that he had a sticker book at all." Antonoff pulls a sheaf of loose-leaf paper, covered in the rounded, purple-inked handwriting of a middle-school girl, and starts laughing. It looks like a school essay, only it's titled "The Naked Man Riot," which doesn't sound very school-appropriate. Antonoff explains, "This is pretty special. This is an offensive essay I wrote in the 6th grade and got suspended for writing. I used the fake names Mike Hunt and Dick Hurtz but then I also named myself in it and gave my identity away. There was a school assignment and the teacher wasn’t nice about what I originally handed in, so then I wrote this in order to blow off some age-appropriate steam, and you would not believe what I wrote. Are you ready for this? It’s very disturbing…'The people who are rallying are all men who he’s fucked, the women are too scared to go near him'—before I say this next sentence, I just wanna let you know my parents did not send me to therapy after this—'he’s raped them all and pulled off their tits.' You see! This is a horrifying story! It’s awful. But then I got caught by the school, because I wrote myself in...there’s a policewoman in the story named Rachel Antonoff. So in case you didn’t know who wrote this, in case you didn‘t know about the one girl in the class with her purple pen, well, it was me."

Antonoff looks up from the story and tells me, "Anyway, this teacher is on the list of people to find and apologize to. There’s an actual list. There needs to be."

We leave her apartment—saying goodbye to the white tiger statue sprawled on her floor, whose crazy "House of Wax" eyes, "gross out" Antonoff a lot, even though she still likes the statue—we head down to her studio in the Garment District. Once there, we meet Sara Lopez, Antonoff's assistant who started out as an intern and quickly proved herself indispensable. They're getting ready for Fashion Week, even though Antonoff doesn't stage shows anymore, preferring to showcase her line through videos, like the one she made for Spring 2013, directed by Lena Dunham and starring Grace Dunham and Alice Gregory. Antonoff says, "I love doing the videos. At first, Ifelt it was a step backward, and then when I realized it was all the same benefits, plus a lot less stress without all the financial burdens, it's just a win-win."

The studio is small and bright, full of shoes and sketches and set pieces from old shows. Antonoff talks a bit about the gaffes she made when she first started her line (at a very young age), most of which involved not emailing back stores that didn't seem to fit in with where she saw her brand going, and says that while she can understand where her head was back then, she knows she didn't have to be "such an asshole, I could have written people back." But she talks about learning from her mistakes in the most relatable possible way for those of us who grew up reading the kind of Young Adult fiction that still line her bookshelves: she relates growing up to that epic series Sweet Valley High. Antonoff says, "And now I feel like, as I'm older, well, Sweet Valley High is a perfect example. When I was young, Jessica was awesome and Elizabeth seemed like a loser. And now, Elizabeth seems kind of together and cool and confident, Jessica seems kind of a wannabe asshole. She cared way too much about joining the Unicorns." Rachel Antonoff definitely does not need to prove at this point in her life that she wants to join the Unicorns. Although, let's be honest here, she's still way too cool to be an Elizabeth. Either way, we can't wait till she moves to Brooklyn, bearing gallons of Farrow and Ball paint, visors with the Francine Dressler boob print, and the complete set of every important Young Adult series of the 90s.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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Rachel Antonoff

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Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen is the Managing Editor at Brooklyn Magazine and the L Magazine. She has been described as "a hipster buzzword made flesh." This seems pretty accurate.

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