Apr 20, 2016
One Big Happy Family: Inside Bushwick’s House of La Rue
After years of hearing “you should really open a store in Brooklyn,” Alan Cancelino finally did just that. House of La Rue, which opened three months ago in the Loom Shops in Bushwick, actually came to life seven years ago in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Born out of the need to supply “a tiny, artsy, gay tourist mecca at the tip of Cape Cod that explodes with color every summer” with wares, House of La Rue is right at home in an area that explodes with color every day—Bushwick.
After scouting locations in the East Village and the Lower East Side the decision to open up off the Morgan L stop was a no-brainer. “I love the raw and creative aspect of the neighborhood, and the already present and growing drag scene is spectacular” he explains. He especially found that the club kid aesthetic of Bushwick was reflective of La Rue’s style, which leans more drag than a more traditional pageant model. And, of course, it’s not just drag queens he’s serving, but the highly artistic community of Bushwick on the whole. From burners to young kids looking to stand out, it’s “just a lot of people serving looks,” he adds. The store also sells heaps of fun, cheeky items. Think, Rubik’s Cube earrings, Katy Perry-approved wigs, and myriad other items from independent designers as well as the house brand. “The common thread for all of our merchandise is most of it can’t be found on a mass level,” Cancelino explains. As for those who dither in their sartorial brazenness, Cancelino’s favorite response to “I love it but where would I wear it?” is “Everywhere.”
And if you aren’t involved already in the drag scene, don’t worry: There’s no snobbery or sense that you can’t shop at House of La Rue or don’t belong. Clients range from guys doing drag for the first time (“the heels part is always fun” Cancelino notes) to burlesque performers, people shopping for dance parties, musicians, as well as long-established drag performers.
In keeping with the inclusionary attitude House of La Rue extolls, Cancelino likes that in Brooklyn “the younger generations buy what they like ignoring the male/female intent of the design. If it fits, it fits.” There are no gender boundaries at House of La Rue: the goal is personal expression.
“Drag shows are no longer limited to gay bars,” he adds. “Everyone out here has been super friendly and welcoming,” Cancelino says of the local scene, adding “we’ve already participated in events at TNT, Macri Park, and Metropolitan Bar with some of the best queens in Brooklyn—Horrochata, Merrie Cherry, Alotta McGriddles, Elle Emenope, Crimson Kitty to name a few—and a super fun fashion show at the Cygnus party by Jem Productions last week at Bizarre Bushwick.”
When it comes to sourcing for his stores, Cancelino likes to stay ahead of the curve. He works hard to do so, sourcing “in small quantities and often buying only a style or two from a company. It’s a lot of work, but it keeps the shop fresh, versatile.” He seeks out local designers when possible, and his commitment means that if he can’t find what he’s looking for, he’ll personally find someone to make it or help out. As for trends? Cancelino has no interest. “I buy what I like and don’t really care about labels. Which again reflects our customer. Life is a performance and we’re all on stage at any given time,” he says. “Some people choose to wear suits, and some choose sequins or feathers.”
Photos by Alex Srp.
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