Welcome to Bodeworld

How big can a downtown clothing brand inspired by tablecloths and old quilts get and still be cool?

Photo: Hugo Yu
Photo: Hugo Yu
Photo: Hugo Yu

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Is that Bode? A little tipsy, I asked this question of an also tipsy young man at a cocktail party in the MoMA garden earlier this summer. The crowd was a mix of well-turned-out supporters of the arts and good-looking, vaguely creative people who somehow got invited. This particular guest had a porn ’stache and was popping around the event (dress code: “festive”) taking selfies in a white lace shirt unbuttoned to his navel paired with jeans and a green Bottega bag.

I was right: “It’s Bode! It’s real Bode! It’s made from a vintage, um, a vintage table thing. A vintage tablecloth!” he screamed over the music, as if that were just the most delightful thing in the world. When he saw another guest wearing a red knit shirt with white flowers on it, also Bode (pronounced BOH-dee) and inspired by a vintage pot holder, they gave each other a high five, congratulating themselves on their shared good taste.

If you’ve spent much time out and about downtown in the past couple of years, or at the sorts of peacocking events that necessitate distinctive, don’t-get-it-wrong outfits that might attract a BFA party photographer’s eye, you will have spotted a Bode boy yourself. Although, at first, you might have thought they were wearing a lucky thrift-store find.

Bode was founded on the Lower East Side in 2016 by Emily Adams Bode Aujla, who took a vintage sensibility and upcycled it into a luxury menswear brand that women also love to wear. Some apt words I’ve heard used to describe the Bode aesthetic? Artisanal, grandpa chic, farm to table. Her clothes, inspired by and often made from heritage textiles like quilts, curtains, oven mitts, tea towels, tablecloths, and bedsheets, were an immediate cultish sensation.

“I went to visit her old apartment on the Lower East Side, and it was stacked to the gills with all these fabrics and things,” remembers Bruce Pask, the senior men’s-fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. “It was immediately entrancing. You could see there was something there that was very different from what we were seeing in the world.” To the early adopters, wearing Bode was, and perhaps still is, a source of great pride. Marcus Paul, a celebrity stylist, bragged to me, “I don’t want to be one of those people: I was first. But I was really, really early with Bode … I was wearing their lace shirts early on, and people were like, ‘I don’t know how I feel about it, but I like it.’” Bode boys tend to cherish the fact that many of the pieces are one of a kind, just as, I can only imagine, they assume themselves to be.

Bode became the go-to uniform for a pack of downtown microcelebrities, including Tyler Mitchell, Jeremy O. Harris, and GQ’s Samuel Hine, who all also happen to be Bode Aujla’s friends. In the beginning, it wasn’t so expensive either.

Soon enough, the macrocelebrities (or at least their stylists) caught on. Harry Styles, Ryan Reynolds, Jonah Hill, the Jonas Brothers, and Jordan Peele have all sported Bode. Brett Gelman of Stranger Things and Fleabag fame told me not long ago that he started dressing in Bode for television premieres and found himself the subject of several approving stories about his fashion sense. “What pushes fashion forward are innovative designers like Emily Bode, who sort of break and rip our brains apart and then the cartilage that forms is a new idea of what’s possible,” he effused. “I’m a Jewish man in his 40s being seen as this person to look to for fashion!”

Some Bode boys are conventionally handsome, but just as many are a little bit quirky looking — “editorial,” as fashion people like to say — and not too strenuously masculine. The brand’s boxy, workwear-inspired cuts look flattering on those who aren’t a rail-thin Gen Z–er. Jeff Goldblum, for example, has been photographed wearing Bode.

Bode’s reputation was bolstered by the fact that the designer is married to an artist turned furniture designer and interior decorator named Aaron Aujla. The design firm Green River Project, which Aujla co-founded with another erstwhile artist named Ben Bloomstein, is known for its vintage-looking upstatecore wood-paneled interiors. Its furniture — spindly wooden stools, Donald Judd–ish chairs with cushions made of straw, lamps crafted out of twigs — became status objects for the same cohort that shopped at the Bode store on Hester, which it also designed. Green River did work on Harris’s home office and Frank Ocean’s Tribeca apartment and were hired to reupholster the stools at the East Village bistro Lucien. Probably because Bode Aujla and her husband are a power couple, well connected and articulate about what they do, they can seem the 2020s equivalent of the 1970s discosexuals Diane and Egon von Fürstenberg. Many people aspire to be in their circle and find them intimidatingly accomplished. The media tends to fawn over them.

Bode is “very sincere and it’s really tender and it emphasizes family and friendship and grace,” says the Washington Post fashion writer Rachel Tashjian. “You also have to remember Bode and their ascendance happened at a time when everybody was getting really sick of Instagram brands.”

Walk along the east end of Canal Street now and you might feel as if you’ve wandered into some sort of Bode–Green River colony. First came the Bode shop in 2019. Then the Green River–designed restaurant Dr Clark opened in 2020.

In 2021, Bode opened a tailor-and-coffee shop next to its flagship, and the following year, Green River designed another high-end clothing store, Desert Vintage, down the street. The couple’s bar, the River, opened last year. And this summer, they announced that they had transformed their former apartment, directly above the restaurant Dimes, into a private studio for VIP clientele.

Call it Bodeworld. But who wants to live in it?

Aaron Aujla and Emily Bode Aujla. Photo: Hugo Yu

On a Saturday afternoon in May — one of the first warm days this year, when it seemed everyone was inspired to get out for day-drinking, brunching, or spending money in one way or another — I made a trip to the Bode store, right off Dimes Square proper. On the sidewalk outside, an elderly white-haired lady in a red lip and a fringed black leather jacket was staring into the shop window wondering what had become of her neighborhood. In and out went a number of modish young men with the kind of haircuts, outfits, and attitudes that are not very easy to pull off. “It’s just not contemporary,” protested the lady, pointing to a creamy wool coat in the window that Bode Aujla had just worn to the Met Gala.

The Bode boutique feels like a stage set for a play whose plot involves you buying your own costumes. It’s easy to get lost within the tobacco-stained walls adorned with antiques, Bode family photographs, and empty bottles of Dom Pérignon filled with dried flowers. For some reason, there’s an apple-size bust of John F. Kennedy in one corner and an armchair with the stuffing spilling out in another. The New York Times, when the store opened in 2019, declared this “a new vision for bricks-and-mortar.” It smells a bit like an old house but in the best possible way — though, as one employee admits, that’s just the Diptyque scent Oud. (Whenever I’ve visited, I’ve noticed that the candle labels have been turned toward the wall.)

“It’s giving … towel,” I overheard a waifish boy wearing sunglasses inside joking to his friend with a man-bun as he held up a pair of heavy-looking white trousers, which, as the tag explained, were actually made from a vintage bedspread. All of the price tags detail the inspiration for each piece, along with how many of them were made — as if accompanying an editioned artwork.

I marveled at a $650 white short-sleeved button-up on the rack with, of all things, tiny crocheted chickens dangling off the hem that were inspired by a kitchen towel from the 1940s. (According to its tag, it is one of 30.) “This is perfect Bode,” an associate said, trying to sell me on it. “You have guys coming in here that I’m sure would never think they’d wear a shirt with little baby chicks on it.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find something here under $500, except for a T-shirt with a horse on it ($210) or a pair of Merino-wool socks ($230). “I literally scoop ice cream for Bode,” said a high-schooler I met on my next visit to the store. “I think it’s so special. The pieces are so special.”

Some of the most popular items, I’m told, are those with rhinestones, lace, or equestrian-themed accoutrements — like the “Buckaroo shirt” hanging on the wall, which has a beaded cowboy twirling a lasso on it. One item from the brand’s spring collection that sold out almost immediately was a two-piece set of hunter-green short-shorts and a collared shirt with cutesy Bundt cakes and gelatin desserts sewn onto it. Little at Bode is sexy in a conventionally masculine sense. There’s a hell of a lot of lace and frilly ribbons.

What exactly does Bode mean on a man? Is it a rejection of logomania and streetwear? “With Bode, it doesn’t say BALENCIAGA across the front. It has a lobster on it. I want to express myself by wearing this silly lobster sweater,” Christian Maradiaga, a tech-bro Bode boy, told me.

A number of Bode boys shared that the brand is what got them to wear florals and sheer tops for the first time or to exit their hypebeast phase. It’s certainly no coincidence that Harry Styles is one of them. Luis Carlos Zaragoza, an influencer in L.A., told me he bought one of Bode’s tablecloth shirts only because he saw Styles wearing it. (Once, when he wore the shirt to a mall, an old lady asked him where he bought it. She owned the actual tablecloth.)

Harry Lambert, Styles’s stylist, said the pop star found the brand on Instagram. “Bode says something without screaming it. It says, ‘I’m into fashion. I’m into the way I’m dressed. I’m into dressing up,’” he told me. “But it doesn’t feel like you’re trying too hard when you wear it. I think that’s what’s successful about it with straight guys who are into it.” Lauren Sherman, the fashion correspondent at Puck, put it bluntly to me: “It says, ‘You can wear a lace shirt and still fuck girls.’”

Clockwise from top left: Bode’s Hester Street store. Tyler Mitchell. A Bode shopping tote. Gossip Girl stars Eli Brown and Evan Mock at the River’s opening night. Jeremy O. Harris. The Bode tailor-and-coffee-shop. Harry Styles’s Senior Cords. Emma Corrin. Photo: Courtesy of Bode, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images (Mitchell), MWE/GC Images (Corrin), Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet (Brown and Mock), Depop (bag), David Becker/GC Images (Harris).

These days, Bode is hardly mainstream, but it’s hardly a secret either. Not long ago, I went to Bushwick to meet an earnest, well-mannered young man who, I was told over and over again, is the ultimate Bode boy. His name is Tanner Dean, and he is a lanky white 25-year-old from the West Coast with dark, swoopy hair, precious dimples, and a wealth of knowledge about everything that’s supposedly cool in menswear right now — meaning when Dean talks about fashion designers, he uses their first names (“Virgil”) and he can tell you, without any Googling necessary, what boots exactly A$AP Rocky wore in his “F**kin’ Problems” music video (Ann Demeulemeester, autumn-winter 2012). He smells like Le Labo, reads Kierkegaard, and counts such gentlemen as Mr. Darcy, Sherlock Holmes from the old BBC series, and his motorbike-riding English professor from school among his “style inspos.”

“Sometimes I dress like a grandpa,” he admits. He spends a lot of money to look that way. Dean’s passion was always fashion. In the fall of 2021, his then employer, Nordstrom, where he was a sales associate, transferred him to New York because, he says, “I wanted to be where fashion is happening.” As the city opened back up again, Bode was what was happening.

And so Dean shopped and TikToked. In one video, he greets his followers with, “This is what I’d wear if I was cast in a Wes Anderson film,” then shows off his fit: a mustard-color, double-breasted cardigan from Bode; a button-up shirt printed with orange and yellow flowers from Bode; and brown corduroy trousers that aren’t from Bode but may as well be. In another video, Dean attempts to put on every piece he has bought from the brand, but he owns so much he can’t make it happen. He even tried to get a job at the Bode store on Hester Street once but was rejected, though he wore full Bode to the interview. Now he works at a fancy clothing store he asked us not to name on Madison Avenue.

To be honest, Dean’s apartment is more Ikea than Green River. But as a true fanboy of “Emily,” he tells me, he thinks he’ll never tire of this “timeless” brand. When he shows off his Bode collection, which has been organized on the kind of metal clothing rack you’d find in a department store, he talks about the individual pieces as if he were in love with them. “My mom would plant sunflowers in front of all the houses I grew up in. It’s her favorite flower,” he says, fingering that floral button-up, though he’s not sure the pattern is actually sunflowers. Then he shows me a pair of pants decorated with dark-brown silhouettes of a barn. “This is really nice puppytooth,” he says.

He insists he’s not one of those people who wear these clothes just to signify their with-it-ness. He can’t say the same of some other Bode boys he has been seeing around town lately. “There’s a lot of people who throw on Bode to power-stack their outfit. Like armor in a video game. I feel sometimes they wear Bode because they think, Oh, it’s expensive; it’s cool at the moment.

“I’ve seen Yeezys with Bode,” he continues, suppressing a small shudder. “That was a wild one. It was Yeezys with Bode shorts and a hoodie. I was like … I am … it was just … I had to give it a double take. Interesting.”

Clockwise from top left: Annie Hamilton reading poetry at the River. Bode Aujla and Aujla’s Dimes Square apartment. Leon Bridges. Guests in Bode pants at a GQ party. Green River Project’s tiny three-legged stool. Harry Styles. Photo: Courtesy of Bode, The Cobrasnake (Hamilton), Backgrid (styles), Krista Schlueter (party), Amanda Edwards/Getty Images (Bridges).

For all the kitsch and chickens, Emily Bode comes across as entirely serious. When I meet her at the brand’s headquarters in the Bed-Stuy warehouse it shares with Green River, I ask her: What does she understand about men that I don’t?

In high school, she explains, she was obsessed with how the men in her life — her father, her grandfathers, her guy friends — dressed. “I was super-inspired by the way they wore clothing and the way they lived their lives from a material perspective,” she says. “I loved the way they cherished their clothing. Whereas what I’d see with my girlfriends, they didn’t cherish things. It was more like, I was buying this thing because I wanted to look this way.” The designer, in addition to a couple of female fashion journalists and fans of hers I spoke to, argued that this is a real difference in the ways of men and women: Men get comfortably attached to things — a ratty old T-shirt, say, or a favorite baseball cap — and women just wear what looks and feels good on them. Bode Aujla hopes she’s selling “modern heirlooms,” pieces to be passed down to hypothetical future Bode boys. (“They become heirlooms. That’s a very Bode thing,” Dean had said to me.)

Bode Aujla, who recently celebrated her 34th birthday on the roof of Nine Orchard, is a descendant of Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower, and she certainly looks it with her long chocolate-brown hair and fair, clear skin. The daughter of a prominent diabetes doctor, she spent a year at a boarding school in Switzerland and is impeccably put together, with her fingers, wrists, and neckline decked out in gold jewelry, appearing overall much less earthy than her designs may suggest. One frequent shopper described her look to me as “a Nan Kempner, lady-who-lunches type.” Bode Aujla often wears vintage Chanel, which she collects. She is casually aloof with a voice that rarely changes in tone while managing not to come across as unfriendly.

Bode Aujla was raised in Georgia, but both her parents are from Massachusetts, so she spent a lot of time growing up in the Northeast. (A recent collection includes a T-shirt that reads CONNECTICUT, where she owns a country home, and the runway for the show was constructed to look like a shingle-style house on Cape Cod.) After Switzerland, she moved to New York to attend Parsons and set out to become a childrenswear designer before a professor encouraged her to pursue menswear. She also got a degree in philosophy and landed internships at Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs.

In 2018, she became the first woman to show during the men’s portion of New York Fashion Week. She won the Menswear Designer of the Year Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America two years in a row, in 2021 and 2022, beating out more established names like Telfar and Thom Browne.

At the warehouse, where the brand occupies rooms across four floors, Bode Aujla gives me an in-depth tour. Everywhere there are quilts (she literally has “quilt dealers”) and shelves stacked haphazardly with vintage textiles. Bode Aujla cares about provenance, to use a word she says often, and can tell me the backstory of almost any item we encounter. “These are from Iowa,” she says, pointing to a shelf stacked with boxes containing more than a million pearl buttons. “This was a region that used to supply a third of the world’s buttons. When the factory went under during COVID, I started buying stock from them.” Over the course of three hours, she is occasionally distracted by bidding on more buttons on eBay. The lot also contains an Hermès coat.

Is she a hoarder? I venture the question delicately. “Yeah, I probably have the gene for it,” she deadpans.

A nod to traditionalism, to “craft,” and to a desire to get back to how things used to be is embedded in the way the designer describes her business. All of the sewing machines here, for example, look ancient. “These keep up better than the new ones. A lot of the machines we buy, even if someone’s converted them to be computerized, we often de-computerize them. Why fix it?” she says.

Bode Aujla, who says she doesn’t “follow fashion,” is instead motivated by memories of family holidays and by “American tales” like that of the Iowa button factory. Many of her collections mine her “personal history,” another popular phrase in her lingo. That Cape Cod runway, for example, was a sort of homage to her mother. (It occurs to me that my own family let my memaw’s homemade quilts be used as bedding for our stinky dog.) “We tap into the emotional realm of American life. We’re quite a sentimental brand. We talk about other people’s family histories and cultures,” Bode Aujla says. “And my guy that we dress, they’re quite in tune with the sentimentality of their own life. They’re their mothers’ sons.” Which is another way of saying Bode boys are quite often mama’s boys.

I think back to Dean buying the sunflower shirt because it reminded him of his mother. “I want something that is a personal-history thing,” he’d told me. Time and again, other Bode boys I spoke to regaled me with their personal histories. When I contacted Sameer Sadhu, a record-label guy whom Dean called the “King of Bode” in New York, he told me about having his wedding suit made by the brand out of his mother’s old saris. Samir estimates he owns 50 Bode pieces. Another groom said he wore a shirt made of antique horse ribbons partially because his stepmother was an Olympic equestrian. A TikToker told me his first Bode purchase was a shirt with cherries on it because his mother used to pack them in his school lunch box. “I don’t know why, but it just incited this random childhood joy in me,” he said.

Aujla, who has joined us on the tour and is slightly more animated than his wife, speaks fluently about their shared visions for the brand. He can, like her, easily summon an erudite reference to describe what it is that Green River is about.

“You hope these places you’re working on will be around for a long time and people will talk with admiration,” Aujla tells me. “There’s so much stuff that’s made today. There’s gotta be a reason we’re doing these things. You gotta give people something that’s meaningful no matter what you’re doing.” Bode Aujla puts their shared mentality this way: “The through-line to Green River Project and Bode is craft as something that has emotive capability — the emotive quality of material culture, whether that’s in furniture or quilts or textiles or clothing.”

They get good press for almost everything they do. The couple were both in Air Mail’s much-talked-about “Downtown Set: A List of 50 New Yorkers Defining the Scene” last year as well as Town & Country’s “New Creative Vanguard” roster. Sustainability and gender inclusivity are some of the industry’s buzziest buzzwords, so Bode scores extra points: The Washington Post Magazine quoted CFDA CEO Steven Kolb calling it “the menswear brand that has no gender.”

The New York Times, this spring, published nearly 1,000 words all about the brand’s “senior cords,” old-timey corduroy jackets and pants, which you can have customized with cutesy hand-drawn illustrations that apparently reference an early-20th-century midwestern collegiate tradition (“Ms. Bode Aujla thinks some of the beauty … is tied to how the process can feel like a therapy session”).

GQ especially, in its current “New Masculinity” era under editor Will Welch, has gone to great lengths to elevate Bode Aujla. In 2018, the magazine argued the designer was “winning the New York fashion race with quilts,” and in 2019 it crowned her the “breakthrough designer of the year.” Yet another profile, by Hine, published in the magazine this June, called her “America’s Next Great Fashion Designer.”

Hine writes of his friend as an “aesthete with a deeply grooved sensibility, a kind of taste that often takes an entire lifetime to develop.” He recalls attending the couple’s wedding, “an ultraexclusive fashion presentation” in Connecticut last year with an after-party hosted by Harris; he notes the “no-photos policy,” though that apparently did not apply to Vogue, which published 44 of them and complimented Bode Aujla for being a workhorse: “While Emily was getting her hair and makeup done, she was also approving everyone’s looks.” Only Puck’s Sherman dared suggest to me that perhaps it has all been a little overhyped. “Emily Bode’s story and the Will Welch GQ story are inherently wrapped up in each other. One doesn’t exist without the other,” she says.

Still, both she and Hine compare her to Ralph Lauren. Except Lauren, who has built a brand and branding empire worth billions, was born in the Bronx as Ralph Lifshitz. He is a merchant of class aspiration. A better comparison may be The Row, a New York brand with a cult following, a reputation for quality, and a price point that keeps the riffraff at bay.

The other person to whom Bode Aujla and her husband are constantly compared is the filmmaker Wes Anderson, who is known for, among other things, his costumes and sets that evoke a whimsical bygone era. When Bode’s second store, on Melrose in L.A., opened last year, the New York Times complimented its “Wes Anderson–esque theatricality” (there’s a dinosaur sculpture on display), and the Financial Times once noted the “colorful slice of Americana with shades of Wes Anderson” in Bode’s clothes.

In 2020, Bode Aujla debuted her fall-winter runway collection in Paris under the Anderson-esque name “The Education of Benjamin Bloomstein.” The clothes were typical Bode: coats crafted from reclaimed horse blankets, patchwork pants, lots of cow print. Elle called it “Moonrise Kingdom vibes … Wes Anderson is probably jealous of Emily Adams Bode.”

That collection drew on the biography of Bloomstein, Aujla’s Green River Project co-founder. He has been friends with the couple since 2010, a year after Aujla and Bode met at a party in the city. At the time, Bloomstein and Aujla were both artist’s assistants for Robert Gober and Nate Lowman, respectively. She encouraged them to make furniture instead.

Bode Aujla said she was inspired by Bloomstein’s childhood in upstate New York, where he attended a Waldorf school on a farm. The Green River is in Hillsdale, his hometown, where he learned to catch fish in his bare hand and wrote poetry. As the designer wrote in the show notes, “The cultural background and values which provide the backdrop to Bloomstein’s education reflect the principles of Bode: reuse, self-sufficiency, and a commitment to the preservation of the history of craft.”

The first time I meet Bloomstein is on the warehouse tour with Bode and Aujla; he’s in the workshop on the first floor smoking a hand-rolled American Spirit cigarette. He’s a burly man with ice-blue eyes, a beard, and a number of hand tattoos. In other words, he looks exactly like the kind of guy you’d expect to find in a woodshop. “Ben, do you have anything to say?” Aujla asks. Bloomstein grunts.

When I come back, I find him once again smoking a cigarette. I ask what he thinks of all of the attention. “I don’t really get it. I think it makes sense from a business perspective to get attention. It’s nice. It’s flattering, I guess. But it can feel a little bit like a dog chasing its own tail,” he says.

“I have no idea what it feels like to people on the outside. I think Emily and Aaron are more aware of that,” he adds. “New York is a constant caricature of its former self. It doesn’t feel like a real place. It’s so hypercommercial and business oriented. There’s a built-in nostalgia to everything. It’s hard not to feel like or be conscious of the fact that we might be simulating some version of the past that we romanticize. But that’s what New York is good for — that’s what’s cool about it.”

The fact that the River became a scene spot, he says, is “kind of a bummer.” He’s in his sweatpants as he carves the figure of Jesus Christ into a slab of wood, and not wearing Bode, because, as he tells me, he once ripped one of his lace tops on a resting saw blade.

Could Bloomstein have been the original Bode boy?

Sometimes, in New York, you just eat where you’re told. Take Dr Clark, located on a not very well-lit strip of Bayard Street in Chinatown. It opened right before the pandemic and emerged from lockdown one of the hottest places in town. Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion director of Nordstrom and a Bode enthusiast, told me when he first heard about Dr Clark, he went three times in a single week in hopes he’d become recognized as a regular and would never have to wait for a table again.

On my visit to the restaurant on a Thursday night this spring, the dining room was quiet except for a woman in a corner typing on her laptop and kind of destroying the antique mood. But the place is pretty and pleasant in its austerity — the walls are pegboard, and the wooden benches look uncomfortable yet surprisingly aren’t. The wait staff, wearing Bode-designed uniforms featuring little sheep (cute, but then again Dr Clark specializes in grilled mutton), are appropriately superhot. As Aujla explained to me, “Dr Clark was supposed to be a representation of the Pacific in terms of the Pacific as a broad, general design aesthetic.” As I’d learned in Bed-Stuy, the minds behind Bodeworld tend to defend their output as if it were a college thesis, even when they’re just talking about the dried coconut palms affixed to the wall.

For a nightcap, I went to the River, the bar the couple opened in collaboration with Dr Clark last year. It too has hosted all sorts of in-the-know parties. The window has been bricked up, and you enter through a long, dark hallway that brings you to a saloon door carved from sarsaparilla. There is a folk-arty mural of a Hudson River landscape. Three full tree trunks extend from floor to ceiling around the room. Faux-rusticity in an urban context lives on, just now without the taxidermy that Freemans fetishized back in the aughts.

Stop by for a drink and you feel like you’ve been transported to some mythical upstate dive (though there is a “porn star martini” on the menu because this is still Manhattan). “I sit and pour myself a glass of orange wine,” one of the co-owners, Yasmin Kaytmaz, once wrote in an essay about the bar. “I wish for that glass to sit there forever; visited by the ghost of its past — touched, altered and left. I drift off a bit, visited by my own ghost.”

Not long after, I make another dinner reservation for Green River’s first commercial project outside Manhattan: Cool World, a Greenpoint restaurant that opened last summer and aspires to be the “Odeon of Brooklyn.” Eat there during the day and the space looks sort of cheap — the tables are made from spare pieces of epoxied wood from Green River’s workshop, and the lighting fixtures are empty green beer bottles.

Dine there at night, however, and the restaurant sparkles with a “halcyon glow,” as Julian Brizzi, a co-owner, puts it to me. (Everyone in Bodeworld knows how to describe everything like they’re writing a travel-magazine caption.) Drink a couple of cocktails and you’ll eventually find yourself needing to walk downstairs to the restrooms, which are constructed from slabs of plywood that make you wonder if the construction was ever finished. Aujla had told me the “reference” was the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s studio, the artist Alex Katz’s kitchen, and the work of conceptual artist Tom Burr. It’s all about “relational aesthetics,” he’d said.

Meanwhile, and probably more to the point, the mirrors in the bathrooms might as well be designed for doing a discreet bump of cocaine. “While we don’t encourage drug use, we certainly acknowledge that it’s good to have mirrors in restrooms,” Brizzi advised me. “I’m not on any of the dating apps, but I’ve been told that a lot of people in this neighborhood that are on dating apps find people’s profile pictures in these restrooms.” I logged on to Grindr and found one immediately.

Later, I log on to TikTok and find an Australian transplant recommending the River as a cool hangout. “This bar feels like what I would imagine a wood cabin in a Wes Anderson film might feel like. There’s just something about this place that makes you feel like the rest of the world doesn’t exist,” she says. “It still feels like a little bit of a secret, so I feel like people might get mad that I’m even saying anything.” The post has more than 10,000 likes. “#nyc #newyork #nyctiktok.” I also find a 21-year-old TikToker in Montreal, Nolan White, who has outfitted his entire apartment to look like a bargain-hunted Green River interior.

I kept thinking about a friend who was the first person to introduce me to Bode and who told me that wearing Bode at the River these days would be kind of too obvious. That’s why Dean said he stays away from Dimes Square: “Because I like Bode, I have friends that suggest we should go to the River. But that looks a little obsessive.”

Earlier this spring, I’d been sitting outside C&B, a coffee shop next to Tompkins Square Park, with Matt Rossi, a member of the East Villains TikTok boy gang, who was lamenting that he used to be a big fan of Bode. But now he’s noticed that an embarrassing number of normies are wearing it.

As a matter of fact, the night before, he had been at a party where he claimed to have seen three “dudes” wearing Bode jackets with Supreme tees. Then there’s the finance boys. “I don’t really want to be the guy in full Bode. Especially now that I’ve seen Zach, Bryant, and Chad in Sperrys wearing their quilt coats. I’m like, Oh God. Bode styled well looks really fucking good. But if it’s not styled well, it’s kind of like,” he trailed off, then moaned. “You can tell who gets it.” Just then, coincidentally, Dean sauntered by holding an iced latte and wearing blue patchwork pants from Bode. “Here’s the Bode king,” Rossi said, pointing to Dean. And not without a certain amount of side-eye.

That’s part of the problem when everybody else finds out about something only those in the know once knew about. Yet even some of the most devoted Bode boys I met don’t seem to mind the ubiquity. Frankie Carattini, the doorman of the Noho nightclubs Acme and the Nines, which are ever popular with pasty finance bros, admitted, “Sometimes I’m at the door and I’m like, Oh my God, I own that Bode shirt. And then I’ll go home, put it on Grailed, and sell it. The person wearing it? I’m like, You look like a dad on vacation at Disneyland. It’s just a shirt at that point. It’s not a Bode shirt.” But still, he explained, “I want the world to be a prettier place. I have to walk around this city.”

Really, even the biggest snobs probably don’t have much to worry about. Bode Aujla, who says she isn’t on TikTok and has never heard of this Tanner Dean character, says she wants to keep her business “tight.”

How big can something that depends on dead-stock fabric, old buttons, and dessert motifs get? Back in 2019, she told the Times, “When we learned about branding in college, the rule was success has nothing to do with the way you explain the brand to consumers. It has everything to do with how people explain it to each other.” But what if that changes?

Womenswear launched earlier this year. It features several flapper-y, sparkly evening gowns, though it’s not yet in stores. The couple say they’d like to keep the business in the family — Aujla’s brother, Dev, is the CEO — and they have insisted there are no plans to take any outside investment. There have also been rumors of a shoe collaboration with Nike, though Bode Aujla declined to comment on it.

Their primary focus, they say, besides their family — the couple’s first baby is due in September — is opening new Bode stores, designed by Green River of course. This spring, Aujla went to Tokyo to “get the juices flowing.”

“I joke with Emily and Ben, ‘If we just made stores, I would be in heaven.’ That’s my favorite thing to do,” he says. Bode Aujla tells me, “It’s really easy to imagine what our first 20 stores are gonna be, but what our first five stores are going to be — oh, gosh. Which city first?” Green River, on the other hand, has no plans at the moment to keep building out Bodeworld. Ideally, they say, they’d take on only one commercial project a year. “It needs to be the right feeling and the right place,” says Aujla.

“I want to make sure it still feels special,” Bode Aujla tells me, “and not everybody is wearing that Bode piece you’re getting.”

Welcome to Bodeworld