There’s something incredibly appealing about a novelty shopping experience. I frequent the bookstore-bar down the block from me regularly, and on the other end of the street there’s a coffee shop-yoga studio-karaoke haven with a couple of New York Times' write-ups. I once went to a French restaurant that doubled as a furniture store, where you could buy everything from the table I dined at to the chandelier that hung above it. Don’t even get me started on cat cafes.
The best way to sell me something is to entertain me, so when I heard about the Retail Rave this past Saturday I knew I had to check it out. It promised free cocktails, pumping music, underground street wear designers, free cocktails, art and light installations, handmade accessories, and free cocktails. Also, did I mention the free cocktails? Alcohol is another great way to sell me something.
I dragged two of my friends with me to East Williamsburg, battling the raging wind and testy subway service for the sake of fashion. We walked past the modest entrance three times before finally spotting the clapboard that announced the Rave’s existence. The event was hosted by MOVES, a “secret designer boutique” that’s housed steps from the M train in an old sewing factory. The concept store serves as the home base for beloved New York brands like Ruffeo Hearts Lil’ Snotty, Fashion Origins New York, and Kid Ruffeo. It usually opens its doors by appointment only, so I felt incredibly hip as I lead my friends inside. They made sure to remind me several times that I am not.
We trudged up the three flights of stairs to the boutique, and were immediately greeted by the sound of club beats and the smell of bodies when we walked inside. MOVES can’t be bigger than 500 square feet, but every one of them was jam-packed with both the works-in-progress and final products of fashion designers. The first room we went through showcased accessories from I Still Love You NYC, a Brooklyn-based company with an edgy yet feminine flair. Their Spring 2015 designs include Lucite brooches, necklaces, and earrings that look more like delicate stained glass. There's also a collection of rings and cuffs inspired by locks and vault doors, which I am totally buying every piece of when I win the lottery.
The next room was the heart of the Retail Rave. The back was entirely taken up by a DJ booth, where Joey Labeija, Wolfbitch, and Brian Whateverer were spinning from 2-10 PM. Visual and lighting artists Daniel Creahan, Mary S., and Seáncé had their work displayed throughout the space, with pieces hanging from the ceiling and videos being projected onto a screen that took up the majority of the room’s left wall. The surface of the makeshift bar next to the door displayed more of the artists' work. I opted out of the free mimosas being offered; if I'm going to drink I don't want to get hungover halfway through.
But of course, there were the clothes. The Retail Rave showcased MOVES’ usual designers, but we were treated to the work of others who’d traveled from as far as Taiwan to have their collections included. Damage is a Taipei-based line that came about when two creative minds, “Dbsk1” and “Pet Shop Joe”, teamed up to make street wear that’s as provocative as it is trendy (i.e. a tee shirt that depicts an amiable Kim Jong Un waving above the words “Nuke Kid on the Block”). It was a great opportunity to see designs from a label I'd probably have no access to otherwise.
I spoke with Brian Whateverer, who helped to organize the Retail Rave in addition to delivering his beats to the shopping masses. He showed me pieces from his own brand, Whatever 21, and explained how they were a “response to American consumerism”. He takes well-known logos and cultural icons and distorts them; one of his crop tops initially caught my eye because of how he’d changed the Nike swoop into something fat, curly, and a bit cartoonish. He has a line of screened tees that bear blurred-out logos across the chest, which he said he modeled after the way that famous icons on clothes are censored in music videos. If the rap community catches wind of these, I think he'll have a whole new client base.
Brian Whateverer knows his audience, and he created a collection that manages to be both stylish and utilitarian. I was curious about the buckles and clasps on some of his clothes, so he showed me all the different ways his shirts can clip around your body to make them easier to carry. This idea came from years he spent losing the clothes that he'd peeled off at hot, humid parties. The material of the shirt he showed me is breathable, but the clasps allow for the fact that sometimes you just gotta take it off. As someone who is both incredibly sweaty and incredibly irresponsible with their belongings, I appreciated that attention to detail.
While we left the Retail Rave empty-handed, I still considered it a success. Being there felt like being in on a secret; no one would expect the old factory building we'd walked into would hold the interesting and intricate work that it did. It was also clear that the designers showcased strive for each other's success as much as their own.
All that being said, the cocktails were a disappointment. Mimosas? What is this, Chelsea? You’re not in Brooklyn unless you’re drinking bourbon.