Ask anyone who lived in New York more than 20 years ago what the city was like then, and they’ll reflexively launch into how different things were. Whether you’re enamored by the grittier, more bohemian scene of the ’90s, or prefer today’s safer, glossier reality, the decade offers plenty of fascinating history, nostalgia, and distinct style. Inspired by the era, Botkier New York commissioned photographer Kat Irlin to recreate the spirit of downtown back when pay phones and floppy disks were still a thing. Simultaneously, the accessories label collaborated with graffiti artist James Goldcrown on two styles — a handbag and pair of pumps — that fit in nicely with the grit-and-grunge theme. Below, check out exclusive images from the shoot, along with Irlin’s insights about the concept.
“The inspiration behind the shoot was the Lower East Side in the ’90s and how cool, grungy, and artsy the area was,” says Irlin. You didn’t have to try to be cool if you frequented the Lower East Side then; you were by default.” This season, Botkier’s styles transcend the vintage-y vibe here, thanks to having the essence of New York women at their core.
Irlin thinks that “accessories can help make any outfit make a statement,” which is definitely the case with the limited Botkier New York x James Goldcrown Collection, featuring two styles (shown here) exclusive to the Botkier site. You might recognize Goldcrown’s graffiti hearts from his colorful, much-Instagrammed “Lovewall” in Nolita, or a similar mural in L.A. The sentiment of the capsule is that love is everywhere, including its charitable aspect — 20 percent of sales proceeds benefit Free Arts NYC, which provides art and mentoring programs to underserved youth.
Irlin arrived in the city from Russia in 1994. “We lived in Queens at the time, and every trip downtown was a fascinating experience,” she says. “I felt like I didn’t belong because everyone seemed so cool and relaxed and ‘with it,’” she admits. She fawned over the boutiques, the restaurants, and the bars, and envied the young people who came and went with a confident air. Part of that cool-kids effect of course, is a certain kind of style. A bold, functional bag is just the type of thing that might visually set a city person apart from the uninitiated — even if they’re only dressing the part.
Beltbag, fanny pack — there’s no denying the correlation. And while the original hip pouched eventually gained notoriety, the current iterations of it wouldn’t have been possible without the big-in-the-’90s version. Of what’s still in style from the pre-aughts, Irlin says: “It’s the ‘effortlessly cool’ factor that’s always in fashion. People that are cool achieve it without trying too hard — they’re pioneers, they’re not afraid to try new things.”
Who does Irlin think would wear these style-conscious staples best? “It’s a confident, smart, self-assured person, a person who’s not afraid to speak their mind and leads by example, who loves to have a good time but also takes the time to keep up with the current events — a modern muse,” she says. She points out that, for daily life and downtown adventures, even essentials need to translate from day to night well, and look as great walking into an office as a bar. Like fashion types falling in love with the city, some things never change.
All images courtesy of Kat Irlin/Botkier. Styling by Yael Gitai (@yaelgitai).
This is paid content produced for an advertiser by New York Stories. The editorial staff of The Cut did not play a role in its creation.