More Street Style!


Lover, Spring/Summer 2007 (photo from Vogue Australia)

Returning from a trip to the opposite side of the globe (Southwest Australia), we found it our duty to try to look for indie fashion in far-flung places. At first, dispirited by the rampant mall culture of Singapore (our first stop), we found a small burgeoning indie fashion and music scene in the city’s Muslim quarter on Haji Lane. (Time Out Singapore is about to be launched and it will certainly be a good guide to the city’s indie culture.) As for Australia, you can by now probably find most Australian designers in New York. Our favorite is a duo of Sydney-based designers named Lover (a label whose dresses are reminiscent of Mia Farrow’s attire in Rosemary’s Baby). To find out about the most interesting brands from Australia (as well as New Zealand), while avoiding the charming 27 hours of flight time, you can visit the store I Heart in Nolita.

And since we are on the topic of shopping, we forgot to mention that one of FP’s contributors, Jay Ruttenberg, recently wrote about his experiences shopping in the Lower East Side in the New York Times Magazine. The article might no longer be on the website, but you can take a peak at it by clicking below.

The Funny Pages | True-Life Tales
The Boyfriend Sofa

Published: November 5, 2006
One recent Saturday afternoon, my girlfriend went shopping for clothing on the Lower East Side, and I accompanied her. If my calculations are correct, it was the 416th such trip that we have taken in the almost eight years that we’ve been together. As in weeks past, she induced me to come through profound logical reasoning:

ME: Do we have to go shopping today?

HER: Yes.

So off we went. I know all the boutiques in town. There’s the snooty one where you have to ring a buzzer to be let in. There’s the one on Ludlow Street with a great selection of women’s magazines, the one just down the block with a grumpy dog I like to play with and the one with a rack of expensive men’s shirts that the clerk always tells me about in a really hopeless voice.

My girlfriend led me into a large boutique with a sparse collection of clothes. As we entered, I held the door for another couple. The woman was wearing a floppy white dress and carried a small handbag with an abstract drawing of a cat on it. The woman turned to her grim-faced companion and said, “Look — they have a boyfriend sofa.” Her confident accent evoked a California youth drenched in carefree sunshine and pricey math tutors.

As our girlfriends picked over skirts, the boyfriend and I assumed our places on the couch. He had a large tattoo crawling across his arm that said, in not so many words, “I hope never to take a job as a surgeon or as a United States senator.” Soon, we were joined by a third guy who I think plays guitar in a moderately popular local rock band, but I could be wrong. It’s so hard to tell these days.

Our trio sat in silence, a table of frilly skirts at our side, as we demurely awaited our orders.

One by one, the women entered the dressing rooms, each toting a generous heap of clothing. We could see their bare legs move clumsily beneath the dressing room curtain. When one of these curtains fluttered, the trio of boyfriends rapidly averted our eyes, terrified of spotting something we were not supposed to see.

A girlfriend would emerge and we all would look up, hesitating for a very strange second before realizing which one of us was supposed to rise from the sofa.

“What do you think?” the girlfriend would ask of her prospective outfit.

“It looks good,” the boyfriend would respond, obviously.

“Does it lump up?” the woman would wonder.

“Um. . . . ” the boyfriend would say. “Er.”

My girlfriend and I ditched the boutique empty-handed and entered some more shops in quick succession, my girlfriend turning around and saying, “Thank you!” brightly to the air as we left each one. Eventually, we found ourselves in the Houston Street branch of American Apparel, that rapidly propagating chain whose founder, a creepy man with a formidable moustache, talks about fair-labor practices the way a real estate agent talks about high ceilings. This is my favorite store because it is so identifiably part of the 00’s — what Starbucks was to the 90’s or Polo was to the 80’s. Shopping here makes me feel as if the culture has yet to pass me by; I also like it because the clerks dress like pornographic film actresses from 1982.

One such clerk was assisting my girlfriend in her vital quest for something or other. The clerk was wearing a pair of sports shorts that would have seemed to be of an appropriate length if not for the inappropriately long striped socks that extended all the way to her knees. Outside of dominatrix wear, this was the one instance when more equaled less; if the clerk were my daughter, I would make her take off those socks before leaving the house. I would also make her get a less sexually exploitative job, like waitressing at Hooters. The clerk shot me a menacing frown that I thought said either: “Grrrr!” or “It’s cool — I’m a postfeminist and have a thing for bored men. So if you want, after you’re done shopping. . . . ” Then, my girlfriend shot me a look that unequivocally said, “Grrrr!” so I stood by the store’s window and gazed into the void of Houston Street.

One of the couples from the previous store approached. The guy with the tattoo was now in possession of a dainty boutique bag. As they passed, the woman looked my way, did a double take and pointed at me with an impressed smile. I grinned back and lifted my hand to wave, but stopped upon realizing she was not smiling at me but at the mannequin standing to my right. He was stylishly dressed and, though he lacked a head, would someday make a model boyfriend, I’m sure.

Jay Ruttenberg writes about music for Time Out New York and edits The Lowbrow Reader.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company