The fashion industry rarely needs an excuse to party, but the opening of a pop-up shop is typically as good a reason as any to put a few complimentary beers in a bucket of ice, rent some speakers, and watch a crowd of well-wishers stream in. Unless, of course, your pop-up shop is set to open just days after one of the most divisive and vitriolic Presidential campaign cycles in recent memory resulted in a less than favorable outcome.
"Who wants to celebrate anything right now?" designer Teddy Santis asks, standing in a space on Manhattan's Mott Street that he rented to house a temporary concept shop for his apparel and accessories brand Aimé Leon Dore. Around him, the ALD team is touching up a fresh coat of paint on the walls and typing out last minute emails; the concept shop is opening tomorrow, with a kick-off party tonight. "Trump threw a wrench in our whole thing. Everybody woke up yesterday kind of shocked," he says. Sighing, he gestures around the room, a narrow storefront with the distinctly downtown character that's becoming increasingly difficult to find in the city. "At the end of the day, it’s a good vibe in here," he says. "It’s real. It’s honest. This is what I was telling my team the other day. Life goes on. We’ve got to continue going to work. We’ve got to continue doing what we’re doing. It definitely sucks, but we’ve just got to keep pushing."
Fortuitously, when the future seems scary, the Aimé Leon Dore pop-up offers a chance for visitors to look back to more innocent times. On the walls, framed 35mm photographs by Santis' friend Andrew Jacobs showcase items from Santis youth. There's a pair of Jordan 1's, a stack of cassette tapes from Nas, Jay Z, and Mobb Deep, and a faded Wilson basketball. "We had about 90% of the items already," Santis says, pointing toward a photo of three packs of cigars in a row. "I had to pick up the Phillies, obviously."
Most of the items pictured are also specific to growing up in New York. Santis highlights an image of four plastic containers of flavored water, locally known as "quarter waters." (If you, like Santis, have a New York accent, the name almost rhymes.) "They used to be 25 cents each," he explains. "It’s all sugar and water. Before you go play ball, you spend a buck and you buy four. Whoever doesn’t know about it thinks it’s interesting, but whoever does know about it is like, 'Oh shit, quarter waters.'" Shoppers can purchase T-shirts printed with Jacobs' photos at the pop-up for $65.
In addition to the tees, the pop-up will stock Aimé Leon Dore footwear and exclusive apparel, along with highlights from the brand's fall collection. It opens with, among other items available for purchase, particularly lust-worthy shearling jackets, a wool topcoat in a rich green, and a white, window-pane flannel suit. The product in the shop will rotate periodically for the month and some change that it's open. Santis has consistently walked the line of making minimalist clothing with just the right amount of restrained, luxe details to keep things interesting; the current offering at the pop-up is appealing for that reason, as well. If nothing else, visitors can pick up ALD-branded pens, pencils, and lighters for $10 or less.
"I know that the morale is not at the highest lately, and everybody’s kind of beat up," Santis says. "I think that what we do is so honest and so real. We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not.” Santis surveys the shop, which he's rented twice before for previous pop-ups. "The gentleman who owns this property, he doesn’t want to get rid of this space," he adds. "He thinks one day something really special is going to happen with it." If the Aimé Leon Dore pop-up shop can give Santis' fans a reason to celebrate something this week, even if just for a minute, the gentleman who owns that property might just be right.
The Aimé Leon Dore "Class Of..." concept shop and photo exhibit is open from November 11 to December 23 at 179 Mott Street in Manhattan.