“Though the rash of celebrity labels and how-to books make it appear as if anyone with a dress and a dream can become a designer, few who start actually stay in the business. Young designers work for years without actually turning a profit; many close their doors before even doing so” (35).
Last year I began working at a boutique on 9th street between 1st and 2nd avenue in the East Village, I live on that block and know it well. The store was called Jill Anderson and so was the designer, she had been in that space for 18 years making all clothes by hand with the help of two sewers in the back of the shop. The garments were beautiful and unique and she had a very intimate relationship with every customer; “I’ve been coming here since the day Jill opened”. I worked there twice a week, noon til eight. Jill would be in the back redrawing patterns, making new ones, guiding the sewers and I would man the front being trusted with tasks like window displays and floor layout.
Six months later I received a call. She was closing shop. Business had been slow, rent was becoming too high, the time had finally come. 18 years in a 500 square foot space and then it was gone.. “As Heidi Klum, the host of Project Runway, reminds designers each week: ‘ In fashion, one day you’re in, the next you’re out’.” (49). I watched her mind start closing with the boxes, the store was her life, was her everything. Her customers all came and said their goodbyes, she moved home to North Dakota to help her parents with their Bed and Breakfast. She mailed me a letter, it was nice.
Now in the 500 square foot space stands a new store of old things. It’s a Scottish vintage store, now matching the rest of the vintage stores on my block. I give it a year. A year and a half tops. Two more shops have closed across the street, and two new vintage shops are on their way to open. Mostly owned by young hip wealthy people selling a sweater from 1973 for $200. They open and close instantaneously, different names same goods- grandma sweaters, Levi’s, combat boots galore.
I bring this all up because like what we were discussing today in class, our generation is all about taking from previous ones. We are the millennials and we are nostalgic. We like our clothes to have a story from before us, besides the story of being made in a sweatshop over seas. We like picturing them being worn by dainty older women going on their morning walk when Facebook didn’t exist and neither did global warming.
This brings me to the idea of Project Runway or any other reality design competition show. We started to bring story into fashion and clothes first hand. The contestants show us their personality and we then associate it with their clothes. They tell us about their lives, and we remember it when we see their lines, each piece being a part of their history and now becoming a part of our present. Vintage is kicking new clothes out to the curb, taking over. Designers are becoming more like scavengers.
New York City is a fashion capital of the world- but really it is a Mecca for all different people from all over the world to share their story, share a part of their upbringing and history on their skin and by making it themselves and giving it to others, they are giving a piece of their past to the present.
Jill likes to think she still lives on draped over shoulders of women parading down the cement streets of NYC.
– Violet Overn