Brooklyn fashion does not refer simply to hoodies, artfully distressed T-shirts, and neon-colored eighties styles worn by waifish androgynes. There’s a small but productive community of designers who live in the borough for its homey, neighborhood feeling, the supportive network of free-thinking retailers, and, of course, more space for the money—particularly important when you’re cutting out patterns on the kitchen floor. And there’s a distinct lack of backstabbing.
“We are all in this Brooklyn endeavor together,” says jewelry designer Thea Grant. “In our own small East Williamsburg neighborhood, we’re pretty tight with other young designers, retailers, even marketers, who are in the exact same phase as we are in growing our businesses.”
“Many of the Brooklyn retailers are also designers, so they get it and are far more accommodating and flexible,” says Andy Salzer, the founder-designer of Yoko Devereaux. “Their customer tends to be from the neighborhood. Power shoppers are not as common here, for sure.”
Being “a hundred miles away,” as Grant puts it, also gives designers more leeway to experiment, more freedom to play. When you’re not shipping every six weeks to a department store, there’s no obligation to tag every seasonal trend. (“Empire waist, check. White eyelet, check.”) In Manhattan, fashion means the latest, most expensive big-designer name. In Brooklyn, fashion is spontaneous, handcrafted, unique. Here, five fashion designers and three accessories designers who embody the movement.
The Designer: Lily Raskind, a RISD graduate with a textile-design degree.
Inspiration: “Friends, and street fashion.”
Signature: Simple streetwear basics with generous, airy cuts that are delicately figure-enhancing.
The Designers: Parsons classmates Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai; they’ve been designing together since graduation in 2003.
Inspiration: Style icons like Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Deneuve; designers like Jean Muir, Paul Poiret, and Claire McCardell.
Signature: Lightweight silk fabrics and distinctive print details, like a black scallop print on peach silk.
The Designer: Helena Fredriksson, a photographer turned self-taught designer.
Inspiration: Nature (as one might expect from a photographer).
Signature: Hourglass shapes, floaty tops over structured skirts, photoprints.
The Designer: Caroline Priebe, a former stylist.
Inspiration: Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, late-sixties mod, her grandmother Fritzi.
Signature: An all-knitwear line that takes basic shapes (T-shirts, tank tops) and gives them a girlish personality with Victorian-inspired details like ruffled hems and puff sleeves.
The Designer: Andy Salzer, who started with a line of T-shirts in 2001.
Inspiration: Helmut Lang, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein.
Signature: Street-influenced sportswear with classic tailoring and hidden details.