BlackBook Exclusive: Brit Songstress Olivia Chaney’s Inspirational Places, From Soho to Florence to Walthamstow

Share Button
Images by Rich Gilligan

 

Imagine. Olivia Chaney was born in Florence; grew up in Oxford; and then studied music in Manchester and London (at the Royal Academy, mind). Artistically, and surely spiritually, one could not have begged to be surrounded by any greater sense of inspiration.

Now eight years in to a prolific and critically exalted career, the British indie-folk songstress’ CV includes collaborations with Kronos Quartet, Robert Plant, Zero 7…as well as the 2017 record The Queen of Hearts, a creative communion with The Decemberists under the moniker Offa Rex, which was nominated for a Grammy. Impressive, to put it mildly.

Most recently, she chose to withdraw to her family’s bucolic 18th Century cottage in the North Yorkshire Moors, seeking yet still fresh inspiration. The result is a stunning new album, Shelter, released in June by Nonesuch, her label since 2015.

“The beauty and unpredictability and harshness of nature provided much of what I was looking for and looking to be immersed or lost in,” she explains. “And the isolation from ceaseless communication we’re all now in was a welcome break. That isolation could also lend a terrifying kind of empty clarity – the self doubt could be exaggerated, but so was the focus and thankfully that enhanced my ability to distill the ideas I knew I wanted to distill.”

 

 

In many of the songs, there’s a palpable visceral debt to Joni Mitchell, along with a Jeff Buckley sort of sense of divinity; but her Englishness also shines through, perhaps the result of her so starkly reconnecting with the land. Indeed, “IOU” recalls Kate Bush, with its lilting phraseology of such laid-bare lyrical exhortations as, “Won’t you make peace with me / It’s been too long / That I’ve held you in my grip.” And “Roman Holiday” is at once intimate and emotionally epic.

But it’s surely “House on a Hill” that most leaves its visceral imprint, with its haunted evocation, “At night I hang from the ledge / By moon, by Pleiades / In all the shining mystery.”

“I achieved exactly what I set out to aesthetically,” Chaney insists. “More directness and clarity, but also still the layers of metaphor and I hope a true development of my own style and voice.”

She’ll be back in the States as part of a 16-date North American tour, which commences in Decatur, GA on July 24, and eventually takes her to LA’s Hotel Cafe on August 17.

In the interim, we asked her to enlighten us as to those special places that most exhilarate and inspire her.

 

 

Walthamstow Marshes

London

An urban wilderness – the flora and fauna here in spring and summer are uplifting, as is the sense of space all year round. Sometimes you’ll encounter few people, but on a sunny weekend there’ll be the dog-walkers, hipsters, cyclists, dealers, barge dwellers, poachers, planters, strollers, families, etc. The green stretches on forever here, with the River Lea flowing between other parks and reservoirs that all connect across a strange smattering of industrial estates and railway tracks, graffiti and allotments. All juxtaposed besides the pretty boats, the swans, herons, terns, the wild bits, the bridges and a last stop at The Anchor and Hope, a river-side Fuller’s pub the size of a postage stamp, full of locals that will ‘enlighten’ your sense of local history but who might not assist your journey home….

Persephone Books

Bloomsbury, London

A beautiful shop and imprint. Female authors dead, alive and reprinted. They also sell other beautiful objects, fabrics and furnishings, besides their own perfectly published books. In an age of historic London bookshops closing by the month, it’s also something to support. Lambs Conduit Street is one of my favourite streets in London – mostly 18th and 19th Century houses and shop fronts; great wine bars, cafes, restaurants; ​the wonderfully Dickensian ‘The Lamb’ pub (with it’s super-trad ‘no-music policy’ – great for a musician sometimes – plus original snob screens and overflowing with London characters), independent clothes shops including Folk; a community-run ‘people’s supermarket’. It’s (still) pedestrianised, there’s a friendly bike shop and it just feels the way a high street should.

 

 

56 St James Cafe

Walthamstow, London

Walthamstow as a borough has plenty going for it, though it’s far out of town – but such is the economy of cities like New York and London that communities are flourishing beyond their original nuclei. This particular patch is still ​a lot of bookies, barbers and defunct minicab offices, but nourishment is provided by this little gem. Juices, coffee and breakfasts to die for, jewelry, pottery and other useful gifts by local artists (of which there are many) on the side, and fabulous hosts. The area hasn’t gentrified (yet) and hopefully as it grows (not gentrifies), it will follow suit in the spirit of this small and successful enterprise, that satisfies many of the locals.

Bonnington Cafe

Vauxhall, London

This cafe/restaurant is an ex ’80s squat, still community-run, sitting on the edge of an oasis that is Bonnington Square. I’ve been coming here since I was about 18, at music college, and thankfully it hasn’t changed much: cheap, lo-fi, summery, authentic, vegetarian/vegan home-cooking (some nights/chefs are vibier than others) and providing welcome solace from the dense traffic just around the corner. There’s even a ‘pleasure garden’ 20 yards away in the centre of the square, replete with a disused watermill, a swing, neighbors’ cats, tropical plantings and Victorian eccentricity. Everyone in the square is green-fingered or inspired to be so – every doorway, window-box, and lamppost seems to ​explode with lush green planting and colourful flowers. Apparently the cafe’s tenancy is finally under threat, so go and support them whilst being cooked for, and someone might even strike up a tune on the old piano. And BTW…it’s BYO.

 

Partisan

Micklegate, York

Florencia Clifford and Hugo Hildyard opened this beautiful cafe, restaurant, gallery, vintage furniture shop (and not-always-intended community centre​) just over a year ago. York is a beautiful, small university city in the north of England (where my mother now lives) and it’s lucky to have these friends of ours and their fine establishment as an addition to its many attractions. The menu is ever-changing and fresh in every sense, as is the decor, and as are the hosts. They bring their laid-back flair, discernment, charm and skill to everything they do, make you feel welcome but not fussed over, and serve fine food, coffee and cakes with it.

The Quality Mending Co.

Soho, New York

If you’ve a moment to rifle through the deliberately more generic, repro pieces, they’ve a few near-museum-quality ones hidden in between. Once I found a 19th Century Japanese fireman’s coat on the rack that could have been designed for a catwalk today. I normally prefer hunting bargains out myself in thrift stores, but the sought out vintage ones are worth it – I like the buyer’s eye. Also great for staples: socks, overalls, belts and shoes. I believe there’s one in Brooklyn too.

 

Fish Market Restaurant

South Street Seaport, New York

Last time I was here it looked like the local mob had smashed the windows in or created multiple bullet holes? We persevered and opened the handleless door by the top corner only to hit the familiar wall of bad jukebox pop, heat and incredibly loud American banter. It’s worth it. Once fighting your way in, and once a waiter catches your eye you’ll be treated like an old friend and offered a seat at a not particularly hygienic-looking table and a confusing menu from which the fried delights and dumplings appear – a fusion of Southeast Asian, American and not sure what else…but it’s delicious. During your meal, just as you feel you’re fitting in, you’ll suddenly be offered (forced) to down shots of Jameson’s with the locals and the bartending waiters. This then usually turns into a lock in, and then things get pretty blurry after that. Despite waking with a sore head and hazy memory after a night here, people (and I) always ​return. Also if you’re looking for the grittier, less touristy answer to the monied, chic, Manhattan exclusivity that seems to be the increasing norm, here’s your (dive) bar!

San Marco Convent & Church

Florence

Divine, inspired frescoes such as those by Fra Angelico in the amazingly well-preserved monks’ cells are amongst the treasures that draw people from around the globe to this city again and again, and have done over the centuries. Two of my favourite paintings: ‘The Annunciation’ and ‘Noli me Tangere’ are both here, and so humbly; not in an air-conditioned, lifeless gallery but in the tiny monastic rooms where Fra Angelico, along with other monks, once piously lived and worshipped long ago. You’re able to look at the frescoes in the same light in which they were painted, and get a far greater sense of why and how and in what conditions they were conceived, created and perhaps interpreted or absorbed. There is a lifetime’s worth of history, art and architectural beauty to see in Florence but San Marcos’ frescoes, alongside the Brancacci Chapel (namely, for me, ‘The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden’ by Masaccio, Michelangelo’s teacher) are my two recommends if you’re short on time. If you want further guidance, Florence ~ A Traveller’s Reader has just been revised and re-issued with the wonderful Little, Brown Books (and happens to be by my scholar of a ​father).

 

 

 

Andaz London Unveils its New Sir Terence Conran Designed (RED) Suite, in Support of Ending the AIDS Crisis

Share Button

 

As Pride celebrations were in full swing around the globe, we were reminded of the hard fight still ahead at the unveiling this week of the stunning new (RED) Suite at the Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel.

It was also a privileged opportunity to meet face to face with the legendary designer and one-man-zeitgeist Sir Terence Conran, who had put his inimitable aesthetic stamp on the impossibly groovy new three-room space in East London’s most stylish hotel. The project was initiated by Sheila Roche, Creative & Communications Officer with (RED), the AIDS charity founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006. Conran and Partners, who had redesigned and reopened The Great Eastern Hotel on the same site in 2000 (it became the first Andaz in 2008) were at the helm once again for its recent makeover – and the result is a new paradigm of the founder’s signature modernist style…sublimely represented in the new suite.

 

 

Indeed, after years of faux-Victoriana, old-timey barnyard-chic, and, well, far too many stag’s heads, it felt like there was a palpable sense of electricity in revisiting his always forward-looking aesthetic. It’s a style infused with the unshakeable optimism of the man himself, at a time when optimism actually seems exceedingly hard to come by.

“I think ‘modern’ is what makes people comfortable,” he casually philosophized.

Significantly, Roche reminded all of the urgency of the (RED) mission, especially as the larger media focus has perhaps shifted to other exigent crises, like the opioid epidemic.

“(RED) is a small cog,” she conveyed, “but an important one. A sustainable way to drive funds to the AIDS cause. It’s a preventable disease, yet it has killed 35 million people – while the treatment costs just 20 cents a day, and also reduces the spread of the AIDS by limiting transmission.”

 

 

As it turned out, Sir Terence and the U2 frontman actually had bit of a history…though it didn’t really seem all that surprising.

“I know Bono,” he said matter-of-factly. “We did a hotel for him in Dublin – he’s passionate about hotels.”

But it was Conran’s passion that was shining through in the whimsical yet carefully considered details of the (RED) Suite. For one, he had commissioned photographer Nobuyuki Taguchi to take 5000 shots around the East London area – and 50 of the best are now displayed on its walls, in a fascinatingly narrative fashion. There are also shelves of (RED) signature products; a particularly groovy rust-leather lounger/rocker; clever, Picasso-referencing pillows; and a very vibrant fuchsia couch, which was actually a happy mistake – Sir Terence thought he’d ordered it in red. Yet it looked as if nothing else could possibly replace it.

Notably, there is a sleek, “figure-eight” light fixture above the dining room table, which the designer joked “was like two haloes, for the founders of (RED).” Bono’s critics could have had a field day with that one, to be sure.

 

 

Still, our favorite moment was when Conran recalled the first time he walked into the then down-at-heel Great Eastern Hotel in 1997, before his initial renovation: “When I approached the receptionist, she asked ‘How many hours do you need?'”

21 years later, it’s hard to imagine anywhere else in London (or the world) that has the soul of the exalted designer more thoroughly woven into its walls, floors and, well, everything else. But the (RED) Suite also seemed to represent a new standard in hotel activism, and hopefully will inspire more such creative advocacy.

For now, though, we couldn’t recommend highly enough just going ahead and booking it, for how utterly cool you’ll feel when you plop yourself down into one of its timelessly fabulous Eames chairs – and how good you’ll feel knowing a good portion of the rate goes directly to (RED), in the continuing fight against AIDS.

Sir Terence himself said it best: “I hope I’ll actually get to spend the night here.”

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot on the Dazzling New Viktor&Rolf Exhibition in Rotterdam

Share Button
Images by Team Peter Stigter

 

An inherent Protestantism / egalitarianism had meant that the Dutch had always favored a sense of style that stood athwart the flamboyance of the Brits, the flash of the Italians, the haute of the French. And it was earnestly hard to find fault with that philosophy, considering how well they wore it.

But in 1993, a pair of extravagantly visionary designers took to overthrow their country’s stylistic modesty – and since that time, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have veritably changed the way the world has thought about Dutch fashion design.

To mark the 25th anniversary of their stylistic insurrection, the Kunsthal Rotterdam has undertaken a career survey of the Viktor&Rolf fashion house – and the result, Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 Years, is as breathtaking and perception-altering as one might expect from such a revolutionary pair.

As the exhibition opens this month (running until September 30), we pulled curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot – also responsible for the landmark show The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier – away from his busy schedule to discuss the “whys” and “why nows” of his paramount, and stunning presentation of the world of Viktor&Rolf.

 

What made this a good time for a career survey on Viktor & Rolf?

I think what we see as “art” is very personal, some paintings can be or cannot be considered real art. I see fashion and haute couture definitely as an artistic medium in which artists like Viktor&Rolf chose to express themselves; but not all fashion is “Art” with a capital “A.” In the case of V&R, there is a real way of thinking about fashion that was outside the box from the beginning, and that was not about trends and creating beautiful red carpet dresses for celebrities. It is not what their work is about. It is a very intelligent fashion that shows how you should push your ideas to create. I always like to try to understand it in a social context and look back on the impact it had on history and society.

What does their work mean to you, personally, and as a curator?

It is important historically to understand how Viktor&Rolf have been inventing a new way to present fashion, and also to reinvent the fashion system. The title of the exhibition is “Fashion Artists.” Visitors will understand how they are in their own category as artists, using fashion as their medium; their work is about how they opened the doors to a whole generation of young designers like Iris Van Herpen, who could have not existed without Viktor&Rolf, I think. Dutch fashion was pretty much wooden clogs back then.

 

 

And they changed all that?

They are the first Dutch designers to have international recognition. It is a very inspiring story, they could have stopped many times and they never gave up fulfilling their dream. It is a wonderful message about believing in yourself, even if you are from a small town with no fashion and entertainment connections. They marked fashion history, are still relevant season after season…and for example, when you look at the recent collections of Balenciaga, with the layers, and Alexander McQueen with the pink bows, it is a beautiful homage to see how they are still so influential.

How did you come to decide on the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Rotterdam chose them and me! The Rotterdam Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk is a very good friend, and I love her team. It is one of the most singular museums in Europe, in terms of programming. Very avant-garde, modern and daring, not only showing beautiful paintings…but she really thinks outside of the (museum) box! Emily had the generosity of opening the doors of her museum to showcase the work of these Dutch national treasures, in their home country, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They are very excited about it. It is my third collaboration with Kunsthal, since Jean Paul Gaultier and Peter Lindbergh.

 

 

How will the exhibition be arranged?

It is different universes in the five galleries, from the first dress they did and won the Hyères Festival with, to the latest collection. Viktor&Rolf were very generous in giving all of their sketches, and they were very open in terms of display. They have very strong themes, from rebellion to romanticism; they work the opposite of other fashion designers and they really are fashion artists. They first start with the idea of the show, how it will be presented, and they develop the collection around it. It is a different vision, it is their own language, and it is not about trends – it is about pushing ideas and not being worried of the social commentary.

So you would say that their work is as much art as it is fashion?

It is a new art form they invented and that they lead. When you will discover the Russian Doll collection, the Zen Garden collection as well, you understand how they created new dimensions in art and fashion, and the art of performing fashion. We did the selection of the pieces together. They are living artists, for me it is very important that visitors hear their voices as well. It is quite funny, because they made a list of works, I had one as well; and out of 50, we had 49 that were exactly the same So it was resolved quite quickly and easily…we pretty wanted exactly the same things!

It is a unique opportunity to see 25 years of work together, surely.

Even if you are invited to a haute couture fashion show, it lasts not even 20 minutes. This is an opportunity to take time to discover a singular world of Dutch haute couture savoir-faire. The selection is incredible, it is a “best of” I think, everything I could have wished for, and more.

What are some of the highlights for you?

The Russian Dolls collection definitely. And also for the first time, the clown costumes they created for Madonna for Art Basel Miami will be displayed. For me this is a definite highlight – I am a huge Madonna fan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Macy Gray on Her New Music + Her Incredible Legacy

Share Button
Photo: Giuliano Bekor

 

It’s been nearly twenty years since Macy Gray released her first album, On How Life Is, which spawned the Grammy-winning mega hit “I Try.”

Eight albums later, she’s back with a new studio record, Ruby, and its buzzy, bright lead single “Sugar Daddy” is one of our sincere contenders for song of the summer. The track was co-written by fellow Grammy winner Meghan Trainor and is accompanied by a smoky, glittering music video featuring Diana Ross’ son and Gray as a down-on-her-luck lounge singer.

The new album, Gray describes, is as personal as it is varied: she describes groovy up-tempo songs, soulful ballads, and tracks she can only explain as something she’s been listening to on repeat. It’s out September 7th.

We caught up with singing legend, reflecting upon Gray’s proudest career moments, the legacy of “I Try,” her experiences with the #TimesUp movement conversation, and the artists she’s currently drawing inspiration from.

 

 

I wanted to start by asking you about this new album, and the songwriting process behind it.

It was written in pieces over about a year and a half. It started out with – I did a song on Ariana Grande’s album, Dangerous Woman, and I went to the studio of the producer of that album, Tommy Brown; he said, ‘We should do something together.’ I came back the next day, and we’ve been working together, for about a year and a half. I posted up with a whole crew of songwriters and producers over that time and worked on it with them as well.

Were you drawing on personal experience or stuff going on in the world as you were writing? What was inspiring you?

It’s a very personal album. There were other writers involved, so it was a combination, but they mostly wrote…it geared towards me and what I wanted to talk about. It was all really whatever I was going through at the time that ended up in the songs somewhere.

You mentioned the Ariana Grande collaboration – did she reach out to you?

I had never met Ariana before that, and I went to take a meeting with her label, Republic Records. An old friend of mine is head of A&R there. She said, ‘Why don’t you get on this Ariana Grande record?’ She sent me over to Tommy’s, and we hit it off. I didn’t even meet Ariana until after, at a birthday party she had that I went to way after the fact.

With ‘Sugar Daddy,’ did you come up with the concept for the video?

The song can mean so many things, so one of my favorite movies is Lady Sings The Blues. And there’s a favorite scene in there where she’s singing for money. So essentially that’s what we did with the video. To show everyone where I’m at… and it’s a love story. It’s kind of like my whole career in a simple visual. We got Diana Ross’ son Evan Ross starring in it. She saw it and she loved it, so I’m really happy.

How was it working with Meghan Trainor?

She’s adorable. She was actually working on her album with Tommy, and she came by the studio and ended up writing on my album, because she’s such a big fan. She came back the next day and the next day. She wrote the idea for ‘Sugar Daddy’ when she was 16 – it was one of the first songs she ever wrote. She had it hiding in her head somewhere. She went ‘I got this idea.’ And we finished it off.

 

 

Can you walk me through some of your favorite tracks? What were the most difficult to work on and the most fun?

There’s a song about living in the moment, living for right now. We have a feature by Gary Clark on there. I love the whole album, of course, but the very last song – I listen to it all day on repeat. Then there is a ballad I really like. But I really love all the songs, we spent a lot of time on them. Every song is super crafted.

And the title Ruby – what’s the significance of that?

Red represents emotion, and all the songs are about emotion, and feeling from the heart – and the heart is red. It’s a jewel, and it’s a jewel for me to be making an album like this, 20 years later. Jewels, and red: a bright awesome color that you also see when you’re nervous about things; and I’m nervous about the album coming out, so it’s just representative of everything I’m doing at this point in my career.

It’s been almost 20 years since On How Life Is, your first album. Do you feel like you and your approach to music have changed a lot, since you started?

It’s an entirely different process now because of technology and what’s available to artists – and the kind of music that’s out, and who runs the music business now. So I don’t think it’s really possible to do what you did 20 years ago today. But as a person and an artist, I’m a much better singer than I used to be. My life has changed, so I have different things to sing about. I’ve come a long way since my first album, musically.

Do you think this recent conversation with #TimesUp and #MeToo has had a big impact in your sphere of music?

I come from a different mother, you know? I’m from Ohio, and my mother was a ‘Take no shit’ kind of mom. Not to have any criticism of women who go through that, but I have always been able to avoid it, or nip it in the bud before it got started. But I do know that it’s rampant all over the place, especially in Hollywood where girls want to get their career going, constantly thinking you’ve got to do whatever it takes and getting caught in really dark situations. I’ve been fortunate to be able to handle things before they happen.

You’ve allowed some time to breathe between albums. Do you spend most of your downtime thinking about the next album – do you feel like you’re always working?

My mind is always going, I’m a musician, so…you can’t help but be creative. As a writer, you hear people say stuff and think about how you’re going to write it down. I’m the same way. I think in art. But I’m not working all the time…I’m actually a bit lazy.

Obviously, ‘I Try’ was such such a big song. Did you think it would be so successful if you made it now?

No, I actually was begging my label to put out another song. I didn’t think that song was a hit – that the chorus was too wordy. I was arguing with my label about another song, but they didn’t listen to me, which was a good thing. And, like, six months after my record came out that song hit. I was touring, and I was doing a lot of promo, magazines and stuff, but it was all new to me, so I was having a ball and not really counting my record sales. But the record came out in August ’99, and I don’t think ‘I Try’ hit until the next year. I was in Europe, and my manager called and said ‘Your song is number one.’ I didn’t even know what that meant. I was totally blown away. And the fact that I still sing it, and everybody knows every word, and I go to the mall and they’re playing it at Urban Outfitters, and in movies, and commercials, and stuff. I’m way more shocked than anyone. I had no idea.

 

 

What was the song you wanted them to release instead?

They did release it after I begged them, but I don’t even think they wanted to. It was a song called ‘Call Me.’ I thought that would be a massive hit. They were right – that song didn’t go. So I learned early that I really don’t know what I’m doing, and I should just stick to singing.

What about other moments in your career that have been your most proud? Even if they weren’t commercially your biggest?

This album, I’m super stoked about. I’ve been able to travel all over the world, to places I didn’t even know existed. I did this festival in the UK called Glastonbury. And I headlined there and that was a huge deal. I was selling out arenas. The fact that I still do big theaters and people still call me when I have an album out, it feels so good. I remember taking my mom to meet President Clinton, she was really happy about that. She met President Bush, because I did something for him. It’s cool to take your mom and your dad around. I got my mom backstage tickets to Tina Turner. She met Tina Turner, and she’s a huge fan. Little stuff like that, you’re glad you can pull off.

Are there other artists inspiring you right now, or that you’re listening to currently?

There’s so much music now, there’re tons. In terms of who I’m listening to now, I don’t even know who I’m listening to. I still really love Pusha T’s new album. I listened to that a couple days ago. Kendrick is always really inspiring. There’s so many, there’s a lot of great songs coming out – I don’t know that there’s one particular artist I’m following. I think Anderson Paak is cool. I think what Childish Gambino is doing is really groundbreaking. Not everyone is forced to be so commercial anymore – people are doing what they want to do, and it’s working.

Are you going to do any more acting work in the near future?

Yeah. I got so busy with my record, I had to turn down some stuff. I think next year is going to be crazy too, but I do want to do more movies. I haven’t been able to fit it into the schedule, and drop three months and go focus on film at the moment. But I do want to do that, definitely.

Do you have anyone that you really want to collaborate with in the future that you haven’t gotten to yet?

Gosh, I don’t know, it’s kind of an arrival if you get Jay-Z on your album. That’s something huge. Then you’ve definitely made it. I don’t know how soon that’s going to happen, but he’s someone I’ve always wanted to do. I’m still a big Kanye fan, I think he’s a great, great record maker. That would be cool. There’s a lot of people that I’m into.

BlackBook Interview: Jim Parsons on ‘A Kid Like Jake’ & Why ‘You Can Never Oversaturate Representation’

Share Button
Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of IFC Films

 

Jim Parsons gives an emotional, intelligent, elegantly restrained performance in the new Silas Howard film A Kid Like Jake. The Big Bang Theory star plays Greg, husband of Alex (Claire Danes) and father of the titular character, a 4-year-old who is beginning to show personality traits suggesting he’s gender non-conforming or trans.

The film examines the nuances and conversations surrounding raising a gender expansive child, and doesn’t shy away from showing how even the most liberal, open-minded of parents can struggle to find the right words to navigate how to raise a child in those circumstances.

While chatting with Parsons, we asked his opinion on the issue of straight actors consistently getting cast in mainstream gay roles, and why he thinks “you can never oversaturate representation for people who have been underrepresented in film.”

 

 

How’s your press day going?

It’s fun. It’s really nice when you’re able to do a project that at a deep level you feel strongly about, whether it’s quote unquote ‘important,’ or just important to you, artistically, to be a part of – and this was both for me. But when you do, the press days are so much easier, because you can talk about it.

I understand your production company had acquired this project before attaching a director?

A couple of years before, yeah, with Jenette Kahn and her company, Double Nickel, who are also producers on this – we had a relationship with them, as an actor, in my case. I don’t know if she’d seen the play version of A Kid Like Jake, or just read it; but in any case, she at some point said ‘This could be a smart movie. You might like it. It’s a smaller cast. It’s contained. It’s not, like, running to Europe. It could be a nice way to dip your toe in.’ And she sent it over, and she was for sure right about that – it was a smaller scale, and manageable…but more importantly, I just loved it so much.

What specifically drew you to the film?

As much as you can’t separate the current topic of gender fluidity, and possible transness maybe coming from this child – that’s there, and that’s important and one of the reasons why I loved it – but it really was much more just these well-drawn human beings and the conversation and arguments they were having. Daniel [Pearle] has such an ear for the way people talk, and the way people fight. So this was a case of it both being meaningful and well-written; and as much as I wanted to produce it, part of it was that if this got made, I so desperately wanted to play that character. It would have made me very sad to let someone else say those words.

 

Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of IFC Films.

 

I’m getting chills thinking about the fight scene that happens between you and Claire. You said Daniel has such an ear for fights – does that mean none of it was improvised at all?

None of it. It’s so natural, every interruption, every little word and name thrown in was all written and choreographed in that way, vocally. Claire and I were just at a thing for Vulture Fest, and they showed a clip of that fight, and both of us were like, ‘Oh!’ As hurtful as those characters are being to each other in that moment, as actors we were both sad that we couldn’t do it again. She was like, ‘The idea that there were two people in the play who got to do that, night after night. And feel those differences in what a line can make…’ It’s really exciting. But it’s really a testament to well-crafted dialogue, on the part of the writer. Because that’s an actor’s bread and butter, when it’s good.

Do you feel like you had to prepare yourself mentally beforehand to get into those scenes?

They placed that scene on the schedule later into the shoot. I know that that’s not always possible – some movies you have to start off with the climactic scene. We didn’t have to do that, and that in and of itself was a big chunk of the preparation. Claire and I had developed a relationship by then, we’d worked with the cinematographer, we’d worked with Jake. With Octavia. We had a lot of information behind us. But really, more of the preparation was, as I memorized, and sang those words to myself around my apartment for the few days leading up to that scene, I knew that there had been talk of taking two days to shoot that scene, because it’s very long. But first, the way it was shot, it was a steady cam that followed us around, which helped. We could move around, we didn’t have to do a thousand different setups to get this angle and that, which was a big relief in a scene like that, where you want to be engaged the whole time. That can get tiring. The other thing was, Claire and I both came in really prepared for it and ready to do it, and I remember we sat down with Silas (Howard) to just kind of do a line through. And it just fell into place sitting there, and it was like, ‘OK, let’s go finish hair and makeup and start shooting.’ For this particular character and this story, I give equal credit again back to to the writing. It was easy to wear. When you’re saying the words, they just have an effect on you. You can’t say certain words to people without going, ‘Oof.’

Have you had a working relationship with Claire before this film?

No, we’d never met. Or maybe on a red carpet somewhere – industry events are so weird. You meet so many people and then you go, ‘Did we meet?’ No, I’d really loved Claire so much for so long, because she’d been working for so long, long before I’d been in the public eye. She’s an icon. Everybody knows who she is. And I always felt like I really wanted to work with her. I wanted to play this part, and so the goal in my head became, ‘Who would match well with me? Who could I have these discussions with?’ She was really one of the first people that came to mind. But with all that, you really don’t know what it’s going to be like until you’re in a room together. I don’t think most actors are a lot different than what you’d think – if you’ve seen them, and you guess they’re probably nice in real life, or, say, a really sexual being in real life, they usually tend to be. But not always. In this case, she had plenty of surprises, too, I don’t mean to make her boring-sounding, but she was what I thought she would be, on so many levels.

 

Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of IFC Films.

 

She seems so nice.

She is. She’s very nice, and she’s very…I hate to use the world “normal,” because it’s such a weird word, but she is. She and Hugh have a very healthy marriage, they have Cyrus, she’s pregnant with another child right now…as much as you can be, and be in the entertainment industry, she really has a regular life. TV also affords that. She’s been on Homeland for several seasons now, and that allows you a more average working schedule than someone who is having to hop all over the globe for this shoot and that shoot. Although she is all over the globe with that; but at least her schedule is regimented. And I think we both had that in common, with me doing my show for so many years; our window for working on outside projects was the same.

I had just watched an interview you did, where you talk about Love, Simon. I thought it was cool how you’d said…

Yes, without passing judgment on the movie at all, it really was… There were rumblings that people had said, ‘Is it too late? Are we past this?’ And I thought, my two-layered thing on it was: number one, I don’t think in every, or perhaps even most parts of the country, to this day and age, is this too late. I think if you happen to live in New York or in LA or several other bigger metropolitan areas, yeah, you can find a real – even growing up in Houston in the 90s, like I did, and going to gay bars – there was a real gay scene that I could be a part of, and go out in, and feel comfortable in public without being looked at in any weird way. Which is important to feel, to be able to begin to express yourself and figure out who you are and who you love. So in that way, number one, I don’t think it’s too late for a movie like this.
But the second part, and this is what I got into on Colbert, is how many repeated straight romantic comedies have we had to watch over the years? Or gotten to watch; because I brought up When Harry Met Sally, which is a wonderful movie. But we only have that movie because nobody stopped and said beforehand, ‘Who needs another straight romantic comedy?’ They didn’t let that get in their way, and that, as much as anything, is what I’m looking forward to if we keep pressing in this direction. More great films that happen to be a gay romance. But if we act like we don’t need it, and the only reason to make them is because we need it, then that’s not the point. And I don’t think, too, you can never oversaturate representation for people who have been underrepresented, in film. Whether that’s race or gender or sexual orientation. Let there be no doubt, there’s been less representation of certain groups of people. So the more the merrier, as far as that goes. Even in a mediocre film, even in a bad film, there will be a nugget that someone can hold on to.

I’m interested in your thoughts on how the guy in Love, Simon – not passing judgment on the film or on his performance – the fact that he’s a straight actor. That seemed like such a good opportunity to have a queer actor take on the part. For you, who’ve been in the business awhile, seeing the scarcity of these roles…I wonder what are your thoughts.

I’m of two minds, because I feel that I do completely understand and agree with the idea that if there is a prominent leading gay role like that, and there is undeniably a talented gay actor who would be right for the role, it is ultimately a wonderful thing to have them play it. Speaking only as an actor, though, this is where I say I’m of two minds – it’s hard to find the dividing lines of where we stop letting actors play people who aren’t completely themselves. I think of a famous case, that’s just something we don’t do anymore: Mickey Rooney playing…was he Chinese in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Something like that…we don’t do that anymore; and I don’t think anybody is going to argue that we should start doing that again. So maybe we are evolving to what we’re talking about, but I’m just not sure. If that’s the case, I shouldn’t be playing a straight person, like I am in this movie. But you know what, and this goes back to the movie – these people, with Jake, who are fumbling with what words to use, and how to approach it…we can’t deal with topics that are so important to people and just have it be clean and easy. Even the most well-intentioned is this fumbling towards perfection. And failing upwards.

 

Maastricht FASHIONCLASH 2018 Celebrates the Bleeding Edge of Avant-Garde Style

Share Button

 

Positioned at the crossroads of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the surreptitiously sophisticated Dutch city of Maastricht obviously goes about its business without the corresponding fanfare of London or New York. But beyond hosting the world’s biggest art fair (TEFAF) each March, and perpetually acting as an incubator for contemporary culinary experimentation (check out all those Michelin stars), it also notably moves the avant-garde needle by producing the absolutely perception-altering annual FASHIONCLASH Festival.

Debuting in 2009, its mission was to present young designers to an international audience, including press and industry – which makes perfect sense, considering the talent regularly turned out by the city’s prestigious Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts & Design (MAFAD).

 

 

But it has since become something of a marker for the bleeding-edge of fashion design, letting participants imaginations’ run wild – and then presenting it all in a fearlessly theatrical, thought-provoking manner. It now includes crossover collaborations with performance art, theatre, dance…all meant to forge a new cultural context and challenge the boundaries of our visual language.

With FASHIONCLASH 2018 just a month away (June 15-17), we caught up with Branko Popovic, co-founder and co-director (together with Nawie Kuiper and Laurens Hamacher), to discuss its ongoing mission. 

 

What would you say is the overall mission of FASHIONCLASH?

Overall, the mission is to contribute to a better world, firstly by providing a stage to a new generation of designers/artists and their new visions. Secondly, by placing fashion in the context of society; we strongly believe that the art of fashion can stimulate critical debate about controversial issues in our society. By researching and questioning “fashion,” we learn to understand the psychology of human behavior and its role in undermining stereotypes. The central question being asked, “How can we develop the fashion industry to improve well-being and equality?”

How has the festival evolved in the nine years since it launched?

It has evolved in many ways, not in scale, but in quality. First of all, we started in a small town in the south of the Netherlands, far away from opportunities for young designers. We started FASHIONCLASH to create a stage for experiment and to also show our own work. In the first editions we were building up a network and a format; later we started engaging with other disciplines such as theatre and dance. Since 2013 we started working with themes, and since 2016, we have a Forza Fashion House Project, a talent incubator to support designers’ entrepreneurship.

It is now international?

Over the years FC has grown from a single catwalk show into a renowned, full-service fashion showcase. We have developed and organized more than 200 projects in The Netherlands, and abroad in countries like China, Brazil, South Africa, Serbia, Portugal, etc. We are still a small team, working with low-budgets, but still just as passionate.

What can we expect that will be highlights of the 2018 festival?

We of course see all our participants as a highlight; it’s so amazing to welcome designers from all over the world. The 2018 edition format is quite a challenge, we have a program at 26 locations in Maastricht – we have named this ‘The Route’. This whole idea is a highlight and hopefully an inspiring experience for the visitors. Looking into detail, we have several projects we are proud of, such as “God is A Woman!?,” the Koorkappen – choir capes – project and the 10th edition of the CLASH Project that we have done since the beginning. This year we will have 15 performances, crossovers with theatre and dance. We are very excited about this.

 

(A sample of this year’s featured designers)

 

  • Maarten van Mulken
  • Dominika Kozáková
  • Filipe Augusto (photo by Ugo Camera)
  • SorteMaria
  • God is a Woman (photo by Fayle & Shayne)
  • Michaela Čapková
  • Mukashi Mukashi (photo by Fredrik Altinell)
  • Dana Jasinkevica
  • Amy Ollett (photo by Kenneth Lam)

BlackBook Interview: John Travolta and Kelly Preston on Their New Mob Drama ‘Gotti’

Share Button

 

 

Despite well-documented career ups and downs, John Travolta is indisputably considered to be one of the most iconic actors of his time, gracing the silver screen over the last five decades with performances that have defined a generation. From disco king to postmodern gangster to kitschy Baltimore housewife in 2007’s Hairspray, his most memorable characters have distinct pride of place in the great celluloid pantheon.

At the 71st Cannes Film Festival earlier this month, Travolta was not only celebrating the 40th anniversary of Grease, but he also received the Variety Icon Award during the premiere of his latest film Gotti (due in theaters June 15) – for which he was both executive producer and star. In the riveting biopic about the notorious New York crime family, he also plays husband to his real life wife, Kelly Preston – who is Victoria Gotti to his John.

We sat down with the pair to discuss what it was like to portray one of the most famous mob couples in modern history, as well as their secrets to a successful Hollywood marriage…and what it means to be recognized as a cultural icon.

 

 

 

 

What do you remember about meeting each other?

JT: It was a screen test, at a time when she was beginning to get popular – so I was familiar with her, but didn’t know her. We had an immediate chemistry, but she was married at the time. I remember asking her, ‘What’s it like to be married?’ I didn’t know – I was 37 and a late bloomer. She said, “Oh, I love it.” No one says they love being married, and so I thought, wouldn’t it be great to be married to someone who loves being married? That was the first connection, beyond the obvious admiration.
KP: It was a comedy we were doing called The Experts. I could see him coming across the hall with his two dogs and he stopped to say hi. A mutual friend was there and she told him that he was going to meet this girl, fall in love with her, and marry her. I found this out later, and the rest is history.

This must be an exciting year in Cannes for you, John, as far as getting the Variety Icon award and premiering Gotti, which you also produced.

JT: [The award] is a remarkable surprise. I had a secret instinct that the Cannes officials would like the movie, so I wanted to submit it awhile ago – but it wasn’t ready. In the end I was right, they liked it, and wanted to make it even more of a special event. That’s when they came up with the idea [for the Icon award].

Do you wake up every morning and think, ‘I’m an Icon’?

JT: The idea of being an icon is so simple, whether it’s Marilyn Monroe or James Dean or me. It’s not an egocentric thing, we are just famous for something people visually recognize us for. I can’t help that the white suit from Saturday Night Fever or the leather jacket in Grease made me famous – the same with Marilyn Monroe’s white dress. It’s just part of the illusion; I like to take the egocentric part of it out.

Have you ever had any doubts about your career?

JT: It’s an interesting question because I think I’ve achieved even more than I anticipated. There were always moments of doubt; what part of being an actor is ever certain?

 

 

Right, it’s a very insecure business.

JT: Part of the job is the mystery of what will happen next – but it’s also the excitement. So [you have to] embrace it rather than think you will find some envelope of security. Nobody has any absolute security, there’s nothing to really anchor you. So I am an eternal optimist, I always see the glass as half full. Although life tries to knock it out of you and make you cynical, I have never been part of that. Though I have played cynical characters, I am not personally capable of that cynicism.

Were there any roles that you regretted turning down?

JT: There are only a couple of roles that I think I could’ve taken that would have made my career transition smoother. Splash was written for me, as well as Days of HeavenAn Officer and a Gentleman, and Pretty Woman. I don’t know if I had done those if I would be where I am today – but overall I’m happy with what I have chosen. I like very much that I can choose my characters and roles; that’s more interesting to me than having a perfect arc to a career.

How did you two decide to do this film together?

KP: It was years ago John asked me about this script, and if I would be interested in doing it together; and I said I’d love to, Victoria Gotti is such a great character. Also John Gotti is such an iconic figure in American history, and the idea of having John play him was amazing…an icon playing an icon.

How did it come together?

JT:  Initially it was offered to me with a high budget and other expensive actors. But the financing dipped, and I think we did really well with what we had. As for the story, Gotti is the only modern criminal that is famous and an icon, there’s been no real ultra famous and beloved gangster since. He really was glamorous and he was a composite or a dichotomy of other people that was very intriguing, because he had a lot of style, was down to earth and could adjust to anyone he was talking to. He was thoughtful and considerate to everyone he talked to but he was also tough as nails. So all of that intrigued me.

John, you are originally from Englewood, NJ – and now you are playing a character from the same neighborhood. Does it seem like you are coming full circle?

JT: It does. Welcome Back Kotter, Saturday Night Fever, and even Get Shorty had New York characters that you could do a take on. But I think the Gotti character was very different in his thinking, cadence, voice quality, behavior and physical movements. He was gruff but at the same time a genius. He instinctively knew business better than anyone and was the most powerful person in New York. So there had to be a smartness about him.

How did you go about becoming him?

JT: I build characters like a recipe. I love adding things: accents, walks, style, behavior, cadence of vocal quality.

What was it like to play a married couple on screen, and how different were the Gottis from you as a real life couple?

JT: Kelly always wanted to play a New Yorker – and when we chose this project we asked ourselves if we were really suited to play those characters. It gets criticized if it gets miscast, but if you give integrity to the casting, then it’s less attackable when there’s authenticity to the product. But the only thing that was similar between the Gottis and us was that we both really adore our families, to the level of an immeasurable value. But their style of living and their values were fun and interesting to play. They live in a neck of the woods where people are comfortable going at each other until their issue is solved. This couple fought it out and then solved it.
KP: It was amazing and really fun and different. John always completely immerses himself in each character, and the Gottis are such distinct people with distinct mannerisms. We got to really know Victoria because she is still alive and she’s an incredible woman. She’s smart as a whip, tough, and very straightforward. I did a lot of research and reading, and we had an email relationship where I could ask her anything from her personal life. She gave me her jewelry to wear, which was really special; she had some things that she had never taken off that I wore during the entire film. It was a wonderful journey to take.

 

 

Were you able to separate your real lives and the characters?

KP: John and I have been married for 27 years and that’s what we wanted to bring to it: the closeness, longevity, familiarity and comfort in knowing each other so well. We’re not volatile at all, though – we’re really easy going, and neither one of us likes to fight at all, and never have. It’s just a different dynamic.  How they were towards each other was very different than how we are together. But there was a passionate love and mutual respect between them.

Were there any ethical issues that arose in playing a mafia family?

KP: In our line of work you play every type of person from all walks of life. You just walk into the role and try not to judge. I felt that this was a story that was worth telling, and I’m not justifying or validating…just portraying.

Was it fun using that vernacular with your real life spouse?

JT: Yes, because I don’t think Kelly and I have ever cursed at each other – and they were pretty rough with each other verbally. But there’s also a great humor watching them, because they were funny people. There was an innate humor between them.

What was it like meeting the Gotti family?

JT: I loved them, they were hilarious and articulate – John Jr. was a revelation. He was lovely and smart as a whip, was really super aware and “there.” I was really impressed with him. He stood up to his father because he didn’t want that life and he wanted to protect his family. It took a lot of guts. In the film, John is in prison reflecting back on his lifetime and he’s really trying to talk his son into staying and running the mob; but his son is very persistent on why he doesn’t want this. He finally acquiesces and gives the blessing to his son.

The death scene was uncomfortable?

JT: John had stage 4 cancer and was in another state of mind; and I just became that, and only entertained what he was thinking. But my mother was an acting teacher, and she always believed that acting was being and pretending. So I’ve always been able to not suffer the pain that an actor is experiencing through his character. I know I’m just pretending.

 

 

Were you nervous about the reception of the film by the Gotti family?

KP: John Jr., who was on the set the whole time, said that Victoria was my biggest fan and was thrilled that I was playing her. I don’t know if she will be able to see the film, partly because she really misses John and the loss is still there; but mostly because they lost little Frankie (note: their 12-year-old son was struck by a car and killed in 1980). It was hard enough for us to do that scene – let alone having to watch it when it’s really your life.

What have been your favorite roles?

KP: This was one of my favorites to play. I also loved Jerry McGuire and For the Love of the Game.
JT: I don’t really have one, because I’ve done over 70 roles. It’s hard to pick one that I like the best. I just enjoy the adventure, I’m an existentialist in that way. The role I’m doing at the moment is the most important and interesting one; I don’t cross collateralize my roles.

Are there any roles that you would dream of doing?

JT: I’ve always had a good rapport with writers, because if they have defined a character well, I will help them portray that as well as I can. I would never have imagined playing half the roles that I did, it was always in the writer’s imagination. I loved adapting to their thoughts and if I can do it better than what they imagined, then I’ve done my job.

So, what is the secret to a long lasting relationship in Hollywood?

KP: I think it’s compatibility and figuring out before you marry someone if you are right together. Communication is huge – you have to keep creating it, it doesn’t create itself. A lot of people will let their marriage go; but you have to have fun and play, and have date nights to make it last.

 

‘My Paris Favorites’ With American Singer-Songwriter Emily Warren

Share Button
Above: Le Marais

 

Having penned multi-platinum tracks for the likes of Dua Lipa, Charli XCX and James Blunt,  American songstress Emily Warren at last decided in 2017 that it was time she set out on her own, releasing a trio of extremely well-received singles: “Hurt By You,” “Something to Hold Onto” and “Poking Holes.”

The latter is a paradigm of beguiling, artful pop, with sultry grooves and Warren’s alluringly soulful vocal delivery. It’s also an enlightening meditation of the vagaries and pitfalls of the affairs of the heart.

Or as she explains it, “The song’s beautiful simplicity and smooth vocals shed light on the small issues that can end up destroying a relationship.”

 

 

Despite being a born and raised New Yorker, she can often be found holed up in London recording studios, working with her many and sundry Brit collaborators – and the city has become something of a second home. But her romantic heart often takes her across the Channel to Paris, where she goes to immerse herself in “the history, the culture, and the slow pace” and to be inspired.

So, naturally, we asked her to take us through a perfect Emily Warren visit to the City of Light – from communing with Napoleon III’s ghost at The Louvre, to indulging a cocktail or two at the Pompidou’s glamorous rooftop bar and restaurant.

 

 

Things to Do

The Louvre

Besides being the home of the Mona Lisa (which you will want to see even though you’ll have to mosh to get close to it), The Louvre is just a spectacular and overwhelmingly beautiful museum. One of my favorite galleries is the Napoleon III Apartments. Another great way to see the Louvre is to get an audio guide, as it can take you through the key highlights – seeing everything in one day is, genuinely, physically impossible – a great way to get to make sure you’ve gotten to all the best works.
After leaving the museum, cut straight across the stunning Tuileries Garden to the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is way less daunting than the Louvre. What you’re going here for is a couple of beautifully sky-lit and tranquil rooms, with a 360 wrap around of Monet’s Water Lilies. This experience is transformative!

 

 

Sunset at L’Arc de Triomphe

The most beautiful spot for sunset is on the top of L’Arc de Triomphe. It’s a bit of a hike, but well worth it. Easily the best view in the entirety of Paris.

 

 

Breakfast

Bol Porridge Bar

I love this place, and whether or not you get excited when you think about porridge, you will love it too! It’s a great stop on the way up to Montmartre/Sacre-Cœur, which you also must see. My favorite is the “oat, salted butter, cinnamon” bowl, sooo good. But they also have weekly porridges that constantly change, as well as vegan and gluten free options, if that’s your thing.

 

 

Les Deux Magots

This place is so classic, and has such a rich history. They have a bunch of great breakfast options – including the Jean Paul Sartre petit dejeuner. It’s also good for any meal really, or coffee, or drinks, and even better for sitting outside, people watching and having good conversations. Picasso and Hemingway used to do just that, so you’ll be in good company.

 

 

Lunch

Cafe Marly

Cafe Marly is a scene, let me tell you. In order to be hired as a waiter here, you might have to be a supermodel. It’s right next to The Louvre, so it’s a great place to stop and get a (pretty overpriced) meal and/or drink after you’ve been to the museum – all with a striking view of the I.M Pei glass pyramid.

 

 

Angelina

Angelina is famous for their hot chocolate (hands down the best I’ve ever had), which is essentially a chocolate bar melted into a cup. But what you’re also coming here for is the croque nonsieur/madame. I swear the bread is made out of the same stuff clouds are made out of. There are a handful of locations all over the city, and some can get quite busy at certain times of day – but the one I love is the one right across from the Tuileries Garden.

 

 

Dinner

Verjus

I rank this in my top 5 favorite meals of my entire life. It’s a tasting menu (they have a vegetarian option), it changes constantly, and everything they serve is unreal. Make a reservation in advance and prepare for your mind and your tastebuds to explode!

 

 

Clown Bar

This place is really special. A hole-in-the-wall just on the edge of Le Marais (which is a cool, trendy and super fun neighborhood), serving delicious French food with Asian accents (sweetbreads, smoked eel, veal brains) and great atmosphere. Since it’s small, it can get busy. Try to book in advance.

 

 

Bars

Le Georges at The Pompidou

This spot, also in Le Marais, is amazing because of the views. It’s on the roof of the Pompidou modern and contemporary art museum and has absolutely breathtaking perspectives in all directions – including being able to see all the way to the Eiffel Tower. Amazing at sunset.

 

 

Experimental Cocktail Club

This place, on a side street in the 2nd arrondissement, is easy to miss – we walked past it three times before we finally found it. The drinks here are incredible – and yes, experimental – and it’s a small, dark, and sort of hidden space. Pretty much started the new cocktail trend in Paris.

 

 

 

The BlackBook Guide to Brooklyn Vintage Shopping

Share Button

 

It’s about to be summer, and you know what means – a completely new wardrobe is in order. Yet you face a couple problems: one, your budget is tight and those paychecks (or lack thereof) are just not covering expenses the way they used to. Two, you don’t want to buy the same H&M floral shirt that everyone and their brother has five different shades of at this point. And three: you have no idea where to find cool stuff.

Worry no longer, sweet aspiring fashionistas. We’ve been scouring Brooklyn for the past three summers for the best in vintage and thrift that this plentiful city has to offer, and now, we’re pleased to report on our ten favorite must-spend spots. Read on for shopping nirvana.

 

Harold and Maude Vintage

Located in Bed-Stuy just off Nostrand Avenue, Harold and Maude is one of our absolute favorite places in Brooklyn to find unique, quality vintage clothing that you won’t find in other shops. The price point can occasionally get a little steep, but you’ll find reasonable tags on most of their items.

 

 

Beacon’s Closet

It’s a chain, sure, but we would like to specifically call out the Williamsburg location of this resale shop – which is not only a great place to sell your old clothes (they’ll donate what they don’t want to buy) but full of amazing goods from the residents of Williamsburg. You’ll be surprised at the variety of shoes, dresses, jackets, and more found on their (cramped) racks.

 

 

10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas

This place is a swing or a miss – sometimes you’ll find the best new item you never knew you needed, and sometimes you’ll get overwhelmed by the price point in the back room, where things get a little more expensive. Regardless, if you ever need a classic thrift purchase, like a t-shirt or some wacky jeans, you’ll always be able to find something here.

 

 

Le Point Value Thrift

Here’s the place to go for very cheap, very interesting clothing that may require you to sift through some racks for a while before finding that perfect hidden gem.

 

Feng Sway

It’s expensive here. We’ll be the first to admit that. But this plant shop / vintage store hybrid in Greenpoint is home to some of the wackiest, most exciting garments in all of Brooklyn. Don’t miss it.

 

 

Collections BK

In Bushwick, you’ll find Collections to be a diamond in the rough: lots of variety, curated exquisitely, and at mostly affordable prices. Check it out.

 

 

Chess and the Sphinx

Some of the absolute best pieces in Brooklyn – not as wacky and outlandish as some of the other locals on this list, but exquisite, designer vintage and some cool pieces that wouldn’t give your grandmother a heart attack. See below.

 

 

Olive’s Vintage

Over on the more southern side of Brooklyn, away from the vintage meccas of Williamsburg and Bushwick, sits Olive’s: a Carroll Gardens classic with (pricey) decades-old gems.

 

 

Shop the Break

Another Greenpoint oasis, the Break will give you quality, high-fashion pieces like high-waisted purple leather pencil skirts and tiny cat-eye sunglasses, and lets you sip complementary champagne as you shop. Enjoy.

 

 

L Train Gowanus

Okay, okay, we know: L Train is an obvious choice. Except when people think of L Train, they think of the ones in Bushwick. No, those aren’t good. The secret is the Gowanus L train, which is much less crowded because less people know about it.

 

$3 tees @ the jungle

A post shared by Vintage Clothing New York City (@ltrainvintage) on