Adam Gopnik recently wrote a piece called “Gothamitis” in the New Yorker about the decline of New York’s character and its grit, claiming that “New York is safer and richer but less like itself, an old lover who has gone for a face-lift and come out looking like no one in particular.” Certainly, when I was growing up on the Upper East Side, no way would my parents have dreamed I’d be living in the Village and paying over $1,000 in rent a month. While I do regret having missed the real bohemian era of the Village, I also appreciate the ability to walk safely home, drunk, at 3am.
I’m torn, however, when it comes to shopping, particularly in the case of Soho. If I had to call it, I’d say it started with Uggs and miniskirts. I’d seen the appeal of Uggs, standing on half-frozen subway platforms in February. But I was mystified to see girls wearing micro-minis and Uggs the following fall, as temperatures were dropping. Sure, Cameron Diaz was doing it in L.A., but surely chic New Yorkers were wise enough not to risk the nerves in their legs for some fleeting L.A. trend. Was L.A. really that enviable? Was anywhere, for that matter?
New York has always been a melting pot of style and invention, though lately one of the venerable shopping Meccas, Soho, has been lit up by stars that are far from local: England’s Reiss (and Topshop on the way), Japan’s Uniqlo, Spain’s Té Casan and L.A.’s Von Dutch.
Von Dutch’s Soho store is an attempt at “boutique fashion,” clearing the way for the brand to try its hand at more high-end materials and craftsmanship. That said, they’re still sticking to the basics: jeans, t-shirts, jackets, etc. While yes, it’s undeniably true that everyone needs jeans and t-shirts, it’s a testament to Von Dutch’s brand power that this L.A. look has developed such a foothold in New York’s fashion scene in general, considering how “anti-L.A.” New Yorkers often are.
Has New York’s design scene become too insular — elitist boobs seen only in the Bryant Park tents? Are Uniqlo and Von Dutch designing for the people, and are people coming to New York to shop for “the people’s clothes?” Maybe I’m turning into one of those nostalgic geezers who picket Starbucks, but I fell in love with fashion for its eclecticism, its flavor, its mistakes — made incarnate in the bohemian Soho of my youth, all vendors, lofts and scandalous candy for my 10-year-old brain.
Von Dutch, Spring between Mercer and Greene Sts.