We’ll say this upfront: We don’t believe there’s such a thing as one “Brooklyn Look.” As a borough, we cannot be reduced to facial hair and tattoos, or to normcore and, well, man-buns. But although we decry any simple way of defining Brooklyn style, we still celebrate the fact that Brooklyn has fast become one of the most fashionable places in the country, renowned for everything from its innovative designers to its fashion-forward boutiques. Brooklyn’s style influence extends beyond the superficial, speaking to a larger ethos of what it means to make an impact in a creative field, namely, what it means to be a maker.
Talk about Brooklyn, these days, and you can’t help but use the word “maker.” In the fashion world, these makers encompass everyone from self-made fashion bloggers who set the street style tone for the whole city, to the owners of some of the most influential boutiquesbi in the country. This list is a celebration of everyone from fashion pioneers—those people who came to Brooklyn way back when rents were affordable and studio space was easy to come by (yes! there was a time like that!)—to designers whose clothes grace many of the most fashion-forward among us. These are the people making a mark in the world of fashion and just the world in general, proving that while there may be no singular “Brooklyn look,” there is still an awful lot to look at coming out of Brooklyn.
It was just under two years ago that the New York Times credited Mankins with being the “curator of the Brooklyn look.” And while we shudder at the idea that there is one “Brooklyn look,” we also recognize that if such a thing had to exist, it could do a lot worse than to be defined by Mankins. As the owner of the mini-chain (three stores to be exact) Bird, Mankins sells a thoughtfully chosen collection clothes and accessories that immediately call to mind the kind of high-fashion yet seemingly effortless look that is pretty much universally beloved. And all those small brands that seem to define a certain Brooklyn style—think Rachel Comey, Ace & Jig, Raquel Allegra? Brooklyn saw them first at Bird. The eclectic mix of goods at Mankins’s boutiques seem to embody the idea that if you gather all the things you love around you, it will all make sense in the end. Whatever the underlying philosophy, all we know is that it works.
Pamela Love Jewelry
Love’s ornate, often vaguely Gothic line is the very definition of statement jewelry. Each piece tells a story (some of them far more intense than others; let’s just say there’s lots of knives, skulls, and arrowheads) and all of them are made of carefully sourced and frequently recycled materials. Love’s line has many imitators, but she’s a true original—not only as a designer, but also for her personal style, which is evidenced in everything from the artful outfits she puts together for herself, to her gorgeous and graphic tattoos to her beautiful home. Love marries style and substance, through and through.
Leisure Life NYC
When Corey opened Leisure Life last year, he set about making the atmosphere of the store as welcoming as any we’ve ever visited before. Full of leather backpacks, varsity jackets (including vintage satin models), flannel shirts, pocket squares from Monsuun, and, well, a house line of teddy bears, Leisure Life is like no other store in Brooklyn. We’re not usually inclined to anthropomorphize a store, but Leisure Life is undeniably infused with the spirit of the vintage-loving Corey. And it’s a spirit that we think has proven infectious as people have flocked to it, despite the fact (or perhaps because of it?) that it’s not located in a heavily trafficked retail area. (As we noted in our sister publication The L Magazine earlier this year, it is much closer to bars than other boutiques. Though that may not be a bad thing.) This is the kind of store you linger in, and come back to over and over. And we suggest that you do. Brooklyn will look a lot nicer for it.
In God We Trust
Pay one visit to Shana Tabor’s Greenpoint location of In God We Trust, and you’ll understand that her influence extends beyond the already impressive fact that she’s the owner of several of the best boutiques in north Brooklyn. Simply put, Tabor’s dedication to the fashion community at large is evident in the way she gathers designers and makers around her, even giving many of them space in the studio located at the back of the Greenpoint boutique. Tabor has worked out of Brooklyn since 2005, all the while selling some of our favorite clothes and jewelry, as well as building relationships with many of her fellow small business owners. Thus, Tabor is an essential part of the Brooklyn fashion community at large, and her tireless promotion of other boutiques and designers is a truly impressive thing to behold in what could potentially be a rather ruthless world. Plus, well, IGWT has one of the most on point Instagram games out there.
We first came across Ahmed about a year ago, when we were profiling Solange Knowles for Brooklyn Magazine, but Ahmed instantly stood out in her own right. She has a style that appears almost effortless, though it clearly involves plenty of thought and care, seeing as how her wardrobe is full of the type of well-tailored pieces that are the hallmark of immaculate taste. Ahmed is also the founder of Everyday People Brunch, a monthly pop-up party, as well as new creative agency, Sokoni Worldwide. Expect to see a lot more of Ahmed, and expect to want to know where she got her clothes.
Fieldbinder, a longtime Cobble Hill resident, has operated a Smith Street boutique with her husband Brent Steen since long before the the thoroughfare became a fashion destination. The first iteration of the shop was Dear Fieldbinder, a much loved boutique that carried an eclectic and smartly edited women’s clothes. The store was reborn a couple years ago as Article& and has changed in a couple notable ways—while the available clothes are still not quite like anything you’d easily find elsewhere, they are also eminently wearable and (this is key!) affordable. All of this contributes to the fact that Article & is a not-so-well-kept secret amongst all the fashion- and cost-conscious women we know.
Emil and Sandy Corsillo
Hickoree’s and The Hill-Side
The Corsillo brothers own and operate what might be the best one-stop shop for men in all of Brooklyn. Whether you’re shopping for the perfect T-shirt (we like the Velva Sheens) or a wear-anywhere neck-tie (there’re Hill-Side ties aplenty, since that’s long been the brothers’ own brand), Hickoree’s has you covered. There’s a recent phenomenon in New York (and maybe everywhere?), in which “all dudes” suddenly learned how to dress. We don’t know this for sure, but we’re pretty certain it happened at around the same time the Corsillo brothers came on the scene.
Longtime Brooklyn resident Callahan has a fashion background that includes working with everyone from Tracy Feith to Derek Lam to Steven Alan, and the influence of high fashion is easily apparent in her gorgeous architectural shirts and dresses. Callahan’s work is sold at stores like Bird and Beautiful Dreamers, but it—and Callahan herself—have also been found at the rotating retail shop located in the lobby of the Wythe Hotel. Callahan curated a gift shop there late last fall, in which she showcased many of Brooklyn’s best small designers and artisans. Here’s hoping she does it again soon.
When your name is preceded by the adjective “Dapper,” well, you’ve got a lot to live up to. Luckily, Dapper Lou (aka Louge Delcy) doesn’t disappoint. We’re not afraid to call him one of the best-dressed men in New York, who also happens to have one of the best style blogs. For the Flatbush-born, Sheepshead Bay-raised Delcy, it goes far beyond just wearing the perfect outfit; photography is his real passion, and the gorgeous photo spreads he shares betray how deeply talented he is in that medium. It’s impossible to imagine seeing any of his artfully arranged fashion shots and not wanting to be a part of it.
You know how a few years ago you started seeing women everywhere wearing rings stacked up to the first joint on their fingers? It can be hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint the origin of trends like that, but, well, that was all Rony Vardi, you guys. And all those other jewelry trends that have swept Brooklyn, from rings sporting cat ears to delicate chain bracelets? Those are also Catbird. Oh, we’re not saying that Catbird is the only game in town when it comes to jewelry, but we are saying that, in the decade that Catbird has been open, Vardi has made clear that she has one of the keenest eyes in the business, always seemsing to know what we want before we want it. As Vardi and Catbird have gained international acclaim (we love the tiny, jewel box-like Bedford Avenue outpost, but stick to online shopping on the weekends because THOSE CROWDS), you’d think that maybe the brand would be diluted or that focus would be shifted away from the host of local designers that Vardi features. You’d be dead wrong. Instead, Catbird remains an ultra-reliable source for some of the most unique jewelry pieces made in Brooklyn and beyond and retains the feel of an undiscovered gem of a shop. Albeit one with over 100,000 followers on Instagram. Be sure to check out the newly opened Catbird Wedding Annex for a look at how Vardi does bridal jewels. (Spoiler: you’ll want one of everything.)
We’ve long been fans of Dusen Dusen, but we know this isn’t the most rare of opinions. After all, once your designs are regularly sported by Lena Dunham and Malia Obama, it’s pretty hard to deny that you’ve got some influence. And when that influence comes in the form of wearable pieces that feature bright colors and whimsical, yet minimal designs, you can be sure that it will only continue to grow. Because who would’ve a shirt speckled with pieces of fruit would be so covetable? And yet, it is. Perhaps because it so precisely juxtaposes playfulness with quality, allowing the wearer to not only look good in the clothes, but feel pretty damn good too.
As we noted a little over a year ago, Kelsy Parkhouse is something of a fashion wunderkind. She started receiving attention from major fashion writers like Cathy Horyn while she was still an undergrad at Pratt, and she parlayed her senior thesis project into the inaugural collection for her line Carleen. But that was well over a year ago (so basically an eternity), and yet Parkhouse hasn’t lost any momentum. Her latest collection not only features some of the luxurious hand-quilted pieces that got her noticed, but also has a vibrantly colored maxi dress, super-wearable pants and jackets, and a sweatshirt sporting a crocheted label bearing the word “UTOPIA” that we pretty much have to have. We feel pretty confident in predicting that this wunderkind is going to be around for some time. We talked with Parkhouse below:
Reading is one of my favorite downtime activities, and it ends up in my work more often than you might imagine. I just finished Women in Clothes, which was a great mix of the pragmatic and the fantastic. I am from Californa, and some iteration of “the west” is a perennial source of inspiration. I also turn to artists for inspiration. I am a former art history major, and though the finer details and date recall have left me, I still love visiting museums and thinking about art in broad strokes, or I’ll get really excited about a specific artist for a little while.
I really love my studio, which is a shared space and open floor plan. Even though the space I rent is pretty tiny, there aren’t many walls and it feels like there’s room to breathe. All of my studio mates are fellow makers, so there’s always someone to ask for an opinion or a solution, and it’s a 5 minute walk from my apartment! The only way I could possibly like it more is if it didn’t take me 40 minutes to get into the garment district.
Currently ? The jeans from my FW14 collection! I know that sounds like a plug, but I honestly wear them 4+ days a week and they’re breaking in so nicely. Probably my longest-running favorite clothing item is a vintage grey cashmere Pringle of Scotland cardigan handed down from my aunt that I’ve had since middle school. It’s pretty worn out so I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement but I’ve never found anything else that’s quite right.
I have dreams of opening a storefront, the idea of being able to represent my designs in a context that I create is so seductive, but that might be more of a 10 year thing than a 5 year thing. I really respect and admire Rachel Comey and how she was so patient about waiting for the right time and place to open a store. And now she has and it’s so perfect and beautiful.
Simply put, Pleet’s designs are the ones that come up the most frequently whenever we ask Brooklyn’s most fashionable people what the go-to piece in their own closets is. Pleet’s dresses just fall on the body in the soft, flowing way that makes you feel like you’re wearing your clothes, rather than the other way around. The draping of each piece is never less than exquisite and we’d feel comfortable wearing her dresses at the opera or at a stoop sale. (Which, literally, we once saw Jemima Kirke wearing the Tabernacle Dress at a stoop sale, so, you know, we know of what we speak.)
Beyond having one of the best names in the boutique-owners business, Swords has a keen eye for the designers that we all want to wear. She carries everyone from Rachel Antonoff to Samantha Pleet to Samuji in her South Williamsburg store and despite the fact that she’s a relatively recent arrival to the Brooklyn boutique scene, Swords has an aesthetic that manages to both reflect and enhance the current trends on the street.
Monsiuer Jerome was actually a fashion editor here at Brooklyn Magazine for a while way back in 2012, but that’s not why we’ve put him on the list. M. Jerome has an impeccable eye when it comes to men’s fashion and his website and Instagram are bellwethers of what you’ll be seeing everywhere in months to come.
Metz’s aesthetic tends toward a romantic, Biba-inspired look. You know the one: all long hair with messy bangs, dark, encircled eyes, flowing clothes, open necklines. It’s a look that defines a certain Brooklyn set, and nobody exemplifies it more than Metz. We spoke with Metz below:
I find inspiration everywhere, though I suppose history would come out as my number one source always. I will always appreciate the detail and humor in vintage and antique clothing.
The camaraderie, I imagine it could be quite easy to fall into a pit of jealousy and competition but that is not the case here. The designers I know here are close friends and support one another and manage to work rather closely without stepping on feet!
I think my number one is a silk lilac victorian blouse my aunt gave to me. It’s boned and has the most incredible details and plump purple tassels. I wish I could wear it without feeling like I’m destroying a treasured bit of history!
Winter dressing! I love getting cozy in layers but sometimes resent having to sacrifice fashion for comfort. Every year I wonder if it might be time to get myself a pair of Sorels and a one-piece snowsuit like I wore when I was a little thing.
I never have a very clear idea of where I’m headed because my circumstances are constantly changing. I have a very foggy idea of what I’d like and right now that is to have my own line on it’s feet, The Loved One continuing to sell a mix of vintage and lingerie and possibly a wee babe to bounce on my hip while I work!
Antonoff seems like the ur-Brooklyn designer, after all, her clothes and accessories (remember that collaboration with Bass? we sure do!) have long been sold at all our favorite Brooklyn boutiques. But Antonoff is actually a relatively recent BK-transplant; until early this year, she was still sharing an Upper West Side apartment with her brother, Jack. But we’re glad to have here firmly ensconced in Brooklyn now, not least because her clothes have a wit and appeal that is rare and always welcome.
GIRLS costume designer
Is there any other TV show airing that could be said to be more representative of and influential for young women in Brooklyn than Girls? Well, maybe! (See below.) But Girls is definitely up there. And as much as most of the media tends to only cover when Lena Dunham gets naked on the show, we notice what it is that Lena and co. are actually wearing. Why? Because the clothes are always perfectly spot on, even when, you know, they’re not always things we’re looking to wear ourselves (we’re thinking of a pretty specific pair of bloomers, right now). The genius behind the wardrobe for Girls is none other than Clinton Hill’s own Jenn Rogien, who scours Brooklyn’s most beloved vintage and retail shops to find just the right clothes for all the characters—even when those clothes sometimes fit the characters all wrong. But even then, that’s ok, because Rogien’s goal is to make the clothes look “realistic for the character” and she does this by considering where each one is in her life at the moment, and what she’s actually be trying to pull off. We think she does a spectacular job of it, and we’re not just saying that because we want to know where she found that black dress with the strap-collar that Jessa wore when she worked at the children’s boutique. (Although, also? Where is that dress from??)
Broad City costume designer
Ok, hear us out on this one. Ilana Glaze and Abbi Jacobson, who combine to make up the genius comedy duo Broad City might not not really be known for being fashion influencers, and Broad City, despite having some mighty fine fashion moments (yeah, we’re thinking of you in that blue dress, Abbi!), is not really the new, like, Sex and the City. But. Well. There’s a big but here. Because there is one item of clothing that Ilana Glazer wore on the show that made every woman we know run to Google in search of the exact same thing. We’re talking, of course, of Ilana’s LF Stores lattice bra, which must be the single most covetable item of 2014, at least among a certain set of Brooklyn women. And this is all thanks to the BC costume designer, Staci Greenbaum, whose work on the show is deceptively simple because of the inherently casual nature of the wardrobe. Greenbaum’s genius wasn’t only on display in that bra, though. We should really never forget Ilana dressed up as a cater waiter on route to a wedding. Or what she wore when going to a fancy restaurant. Or when she went to that party thrown by a girl she knew from NYU. Or her shirt that was mistaken for a napkin. Or anything really. God, we want that show to come back.
The Okpo sisters are the stylish force behind womenswear line William Okpo, sold at Opening Ceremony, among other places. Most recently, they collaborated on designing sneakers for Puma with Solange Knowles in her new role as creative director for the brand. (And, hey, Solange would be a Brooklyn fashion influencer too if she, you know, actually lived here anymore.)
Daniel & Brenna Lewis
Is there a nicer sight than seeing someone in a well-made suit? We can’t think of one. And some of the nicest suits being made anywhere in Brooklyn right now are coming from Brooklyn Tailors. This small company—which has recently made a big splash in its partnership with GAP—makes gorgeous off-the-rack and custom suits that give the wearer one of the nicest silhouettes we’ve seen. It’s no wonder GQ named them one of the best menswear designers in 2014.
Peterson is a writer, who also happens to have an unerring sense of what is, to put it simply, beautiful. Although not specifically involved in the fashion world, she clearly has a real sense of the importance of style, art, and, yes, fashion. Check out her Tumblr or her Instagram and be prepared to have your breath taken away. And then check out her writing, and get influenced in a whole other, powerful way.
Zuniga operates one of our favorite Brooklyn boutiques, Electric Nest, in which she sells her line of clothes as well as an assortment of home goods. Zuniga’s clothes are beloved by the most fashion-forward of Brooklynites and have that lovely, billowy quality that we all need a little more of in our life.
Clogs are everywhere now, which is funny to us, still, because we always thought of them as being simply “mom shoes.” But then again, our moms didn’t wear Nina Z. Nina Ziefvert’s eponymous line of wooden-soled footwear predates the current clog craze and also manages to be much more affordable than similar brands. Ziefvert got her start in Brooklyn fashion by selling vintage clothes at the Brooklyn Flea, but transitioned into her own company back in 2008, before eventually being able to quit her day job and design clogs full-time in 2011. And while Ziefvert’s clogs were initially made back in her home country of Sweden (production costs were too high), she now has moved production for some models of the shoes to Brooklyn, and has plans to continue to shift production here. Plus, Ziefvert still sells them in the same place she got her start: Brooklyn Flea.
Erica Weiner jewelry
Not only does Weiner make some of the loveliest—and most affordable—jewelry available in Brooklyn today, but she also has a flawless eye when it comes to spotting antique gems. Plus, she’s a third-generation New Yorker, whose paternal grandmother’s birth year served as the inspiration for Weiner’s gorgeous fine jewelry line, 1909. Weiner’s also the kind of person who is connected to and supportive of many other Brooklyn creatives, and works out of the haven that is Dobbin Mews in Greenpoint, where many other designers and makers have also set up their studios.
Mike Kuhle and Adele Berne
This Smith Street store is not your typical menswear store. It’s not, actually, your “typical” anything store. Is it, after all, “typical” to have such a high quality in-house brand as Epaulet does, or to have much of the rest of the merchandise comprise Epaulet collaborations with such beloved companies like Alden and Gitman Brothers? This is clearly a store where every last detail is thought through over and over. And it shows. Not just in the beautifully curated collection of clothes, but in the way a man looks when he’s dressed in Epaulet clothes. There’s a difference. Trust us.
While perhaps best known professionally as an interior designer with her firm Rawlins Calderone, in recent years, Athena Calderone, has opened the door into her own homes with her lifestyle blog, Eye Swoon. And it’s true that the food she prepares and the crafts she makes are definitely swoon-worthy, we must admit that we’re often just as interested in the outfits she has on! Calderone has been named to many best dressed lists, and her style manages to be haute even when she’s at home cooking with her pre-teen son. This is no small feat, consider us impressed.