“Nothing. Absolutely nothing beats Tokyo.” So States Tomoki, 23; Japanese fashion connoisseur, boutique owner and driver of modified Toyota transit with two sets of additional wing mirrors and an aerofoil ripped from a Porsche monster truck.
Alas, this is New York City and Tomoki is sidewalk-tied whilst dishing out promotional freebies at Japan Fest 2019, while discussing his own burgeoning clothes line. But Tokyo, by the admittance of Tomoki in a (jovially) resigned voice, is losing in the fashion stakes right now, which is what we’re trading views on.
That comes as something of a surprise, seeing as it’s Asia that – by most retailers and economists’ calculations – is currently pushing the financial and fashion envelope, and that New York went hyper-conservative at Fashion week last fall.
But the Big A, like Japan’s shopping metropolis, can never be assessed solely on the state of its retailers. The most ethnically diverse populace in the world, where – it could be argued – America meets Europe in the capital in all but name, where African-American culture was cultivated, designated, packaged and curated, and where hyper-opposing views on everything from gun control to insider trading to immigration papers share head space amongst joggers, financers, grocers and rabbis – the look is, to say the least, diverse. And yet you know its New York, because it works. And you know it works, because people tell you.
“It works for two reasons,” says Naomi, Brooklyn resident and Tribeca logistics operator, “African American culture has come into its own in terms of the African part.
“I think you see more people willing to step out their apartment thinking, “I’m American but I’m also African.” That and the queer scene, which is so influential to how young people dress in New York – that attitude of “Okay I’m not Mika Schneider. I’m not super thin or paid to be a model, but I’m going to act like I am. And I’m gonna pull it off.”
And colour – the absolute essence of all things dyed African or painted with the rainbow sign – is a sure sign that you’re dressing best. It’s why the big apple bit makes sense – red and green and, as we’ll see, a whole rainbow worth more. Starting with a base color.
Think mid-forties gangster – sharp as blades zoot or demob heavy suit (shopping accrued to one fist and Starbucks/phone locked to the other)- has New York as its spiritual ma: Big band jinks or Sicilian decorum to thank for its corner table mythology via Supreme. Make it a pastel tone and complementary accessories to hang at the back entrance running numbers or texting Uber.
Whatever you say about white-powder-fuelled paranoia exiting onto those pretty iffy side streets, it’s the seventies hip tail-spin into the eighties from which New York generates a colour wheel – Flash Gordon, Phantom of the Paradise, Talking Heads and The Warriors are manic riffs on NYC’s pre-digital chicanery – Africana, ROCK, lightning rods and percussion, screeching subways, megalomaniacs and fame-bound rejects. The look is pure orphan child, and like its British pal Punk is at its best when making a righteous din.
New York was once a frighteningly dark place to lose your soul: the origins of its fashion re-awakening owe much to a cult obsession with colourful cubist signs and yes, Central and Western Africa is the much ripped source here. But for a Nile-bound reading of that lower Manhattan must (jewels with your furs) – we look to our feline friend: high-snobriety, Deco grandeur and languid look downs on all things dingy in Chanel cat eye sunglasses and – colour wise – lux black-gold takes the Cairo-bound train cabin class.
Whatever you say about post punk’s power lines, or Francis Ha’s Woody-chrome-fixation, New York’s obsession with monochrome gentrification is often a furtive way to brag about your Givenchy suit or to have your clothes match your chauffeur’s. If that’s your obsession, drinks at Bemelmen’s. The point is this – with black there is only so far you can go and – once you’ve gone there – you’ve gone, so you better go well baby.
BLACK and BROWN
Vogue might say it’s a Fendi hangup, and the Italian art of near-tan with matt black is a hard and steep fetish. A trick to enliven, exoticism is one path by mixing your death black underlay with some faux furs. Brown Leather overlay is a safe entrance but for a dare try tan sweater with black pants and some aviators if you’re shy of perfection.
Ahhh and we were having such a dark time. For Jessica Rabbits with an atom bomb read on sex appeal, all-out rouge leaves six tables floored by their own tongues. By the bench across the street, we’re inclined to red’s autumnal heritage: Start with brown slacks and red socks or code switch between red pants and a bold blue sweat. If you’re still drawing attention to your bloodshot eyes, start over.