Joseph Quartana may have spent his time at NYU studying economics and business, but he preferred running with the Parsons crowd. So it was no surprise that, after making his mark on Wall Street, he happily left banking in 1999 and co-founded Seven New York, an ultraprogressive boutique that has since become a go-to for fashionistas looking for cutting-edge design (Imitation of Christ, Gareth Pugh, Bless, Preen, Jeremy Scott, ThreeAsFour — you get the idea). As the store’s buyer, Quartana hits Paris four times a year and is the mastermind behind the store’s forward-thinking inventory; naturally, the man has an eye for what’s next. How could we not sit him down and get some tips?
Your store carries some major avant-garde labels. What influenced that choice? Is that your own style?
Not so much me personally. It’s what we’ve decided to do with the business. In the beginning we saw fashion kind of as an art form — and it is. There were some designers at the time who were just doing incredible stuff — and of course they still are today — but we just didn’t see it for sale anywhere. And we’re like, “Well, this is something I would want, and if I want it there must be other people.” So it’s kind of a niche that we sell into. And over the years we tried to offer more basic lines or lines that we thought would be more sellable, but still in the realm of cutting-edge designers, but the irony is that stuff didn’t sell well at all. It’s the basic stuff at the end of the season we end up marking down. So we decided, “Screw it. We’re going to go 110 percent full force in the direction of cutting-edge designers and apparel.” And that’s the stuff that sells brilliantly.
How do you scout for new designers, fresh talent?
It has a lot to do with research. While I’m [in Paris] I have a lot of friends that are editors or stylists and I’m friendly with other shop buyers from around the world, like Dara from Colette and Robin from Maria Louisa. We all pick each other’s brains and share opinions on the shows that we’re seeing and swap notes and stuff. So it’s that coupled with reading every cutting-edge fashion magazine out there.
What are your favorite fashion mags to read?
I love Self Service, Purple, Crash, V, i-D, — magazines in that direction.
What about advice for shoppers with a budget? How can those without disposable incomes update their wardrobe each season without going broke?
When it comes to buying basic items, like a skinny black jean or easy T-shirts or a nice jacket or blazer, I think it’s best to buy it at the end of the season when things are on sale. Because those are the items you’ll get the most mileage out of in the long term and they’ll coordinate with everything else in your wardrobe. So if you’re on a budget, wait until May and June when the department stores, particularly, go into their deep phases of markdown, you can definitely scoop up some good basics.
I see it already changing. We’ve been so steeped in worshipping luxury brands since 2002, and I see it shifting away from that, at least with our customers. They’re kind of over big labels — wearing big labels for the sake of wearing big labels and whatnot. And it’s good news for people like us who specialize in the smaller brands, the cutting-edge. Then again, there’s some luxury houses that I think are doing an awesome, awesome job and actually doing cutting-edge things. Like Givenchy right now, I love. Yves Saint Laurent as well, and Lanvin. All of them blow my mind. If you’re going to buy luxury, buy them. Don’t buy, like, Dolce & Gabbana.
Where do you shop, other than your own store?
Other shops like my own. In Paris I’ll shop at Maria Louisa. I’ll shop at Colette. In London I’ll shop at 2C, I’ll shop at Dover Street Market. And here in New York, I bought some things from BBlessing, Atelier. I used to like Helmut Lang a lot, but, you know, it’s not really happening anymore.
What was the first designer item you bought?
My first biggest purchase was when I was 18 and I bought this $800 Vivienne Westwood blouse for men and I still have it somewhere. It has sentimental value. I can’t throw it out.
What trends do you love for spring?
I just finished the buying for fall so my mind is on fall trends. Let me rewind for a second. I’m still kind of feeling metallics. We’re doing well with them.
What’s really selling for spring? What are the big trends that you’re seeing?
The funny thing is we’re having a really unusual season where everything is selling well. Usually some lines sell well and some don’t. We always do really well with giant oversize hooded sweatshirts that the girls wear as dresses. It’s kind of a staple item because at least one or two of our designers will offer some variation on it every season and they always blow out fast. Style them with skinny jeans, a legging, nice hosiery.
What trends do you wish would go away?
I don’t like the floral trend that’s happening for spring. It’s too girlie-girlie for us and for our taste. I hate the whole boho thing that’s happening again. That’s also just not us. We’re more into modern and clean sort of things, so that whole hippie early-seventies thing I really can’t stand. And it seems like it just went away two years ago and now it’s back again. It’s, like, “Ugh, go away!”
What fashion objects are you lusting after right now?
I have to say, everything that Preen did this season I really loved. That was my favorite collection hands down. They did a lot of looser silhouettes, they really emphasized blousy dresses — kind of short blouse dresses in silks and whatnot with these kind of open backs. It was just stunningly beautiful.
What designers do you love?
Raf Simons, Bernhard Willhelm hands down, Preen, Material Boys.
What designers or labels do you actually wear the most?
Probably Raf Simons. I wear a lot of Jeremy Scott, too.
What can’t you live without?
There was a hiking boot that Raf Simons did that just blew my mind. When I first saw it in the showroom, I almost fainted. I was like, “Oh my God!” It’s kind of in the style of Mondrian-esque. It was this white hiking boot with primary-colored straps in red, blue, and yellow. So fucking awesome. It looks like a Japanese robot from the seventies. So we bought ten of them for the shop and I can’t wait to get mine and we have this enormous waiting list of people who can’t wait to get them. —Noelle Hancock