From 2019 to 2021, more than 4,000 privately owned businesses in New York shuttered, mostly in Manhattan. This was a disaster that made space for something new. How would retail reinvent itself? The answer: Out with the old and in with the older.
Many of the most exciting and original new stores to open recently carry vintage and secondhand clothing, and they can largely be found on a strip of the Lower East Side below East Houston. “I mean, what else is there?” says Houman Farahmand, who recently opened Ending Soon on Broome with his partner, Arsène Barski. For him, new clothes are a thing of the past.
The neighborhood has always been frip-friendly, and now even more so. Creative types looking for Agnès B. and Yohji Yamamoto will line up outside Lara Koleji, where I recently spotted costume designer Miyako Bellizzi of Uncut Gems fame. Merch heads will crowd into Leisure Center and pick off Chad Senzel’s #streetrack. And Bode acolytes will browse museum-worthy pieces at Desert Vintage. Like the clothes they sell, no two stores are alike. But all are more curated than your average Beacon’s Closet and have become social destinations, places where fashion nerds can take ’fit pics and find common ground over Comme des Garçons.
Rogue, on Stanton Street, is the go-to for all things nostalgia-core and Y2K and perhaps the most accessible of the bunch with prices as low as $25. “I think it’s the new Soho,” says founder Emma Rodelius, 27, of the area — the “Vintage District,” as she calls it. The old Soho, she says, has gone too corporate for her. “To be honest, I don’t even go to Soho that much anymore,” she adds. “Just to Fanelli’s.”
Her space is decorated to look like a teenager’s overstuffed bedroom with Twilight posters and Furbys lining the walls. On the racks, you’ll find Happy Bunny baby tees, Juicy tracksuits, and Paul Frank accessories. At the end of May, the lovable dirtbag rapper Post Malone stopped by and bought ten items, including a Bud Light T-shirt and one with Elvis on it.
Like her peers, Rodelius creates foot traffic by hosting pop-ups and influencer closet sales. She’s uniquely skilled at harnessing the power of social media, and the IRL hype of the store is matched online. “I have people coming in from crazy countries that I don’t even know exist!” she says. “Literally, everywhere. And they’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, we saw you on TikTok’ or ‘We saw you on Reels.’”
Over the past year and change, Rodelius’s savvy has attracted the attention of the corporate world. In September, Rogue collaborated with Pop-Tarts, which provided a Pop-Tart throne and limited-edition Frosted Strawberry boxes with Rodelius’s face on them.
Pop-Tarts was “perfect,” she says, but Rogue is still a one-woman show where most of the employees are in school. “This is going to be an empire,” she declares. When we meet, she’s just gotten keys to expand the space next door, so that’s a start. “We’ll have IRL all over the U.S. and globally. We’re going to develop our own product line and clothing line and do e-commerce. We’ll do content production and develop longer-format series for YouTube and chop it up into shortform. We’ll have IRL experiences like festivals. And then we’ll get into the metaverse …” She takes a breath. “But we’re not there yet.”
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