The Meticulous Imperfectionist
Eight years ago, Taavo Somer came to New York to be an architect. But he soon got mixed up in other things (bawdy parties, witty T-shirts, funky restaurants), all based on an effortless blend of high and low culture. Somer understood and fed a market for modern realizations of an idealized past, and before long, his evolving sense of retro style—symbolized by taxidermy, thick woolen shirts, unkempt beards, distressed signage, and classic rock—set the tone for all of downtown.
THE GUY ON A BIKE
He hosted parties at Pussycat Lounge, a seedy strip club in the financial district, distributing fliers all over downtown on his lowrider bike.
He designed his own t-shirts with silly slogans and started selling them for $88 apiece at Barneys. When the silly-expensive-T-shirt business suddenly boomed, Somer moved on to other pursuits.
In an alley off Rivington Street, Somer started a restaurant called Freemans that ignited a citywide craze for antlers. Next door, he opened a shop called Freemans Sporting Club that sells old-fashioned men’s clothes and includes a retro barbershop for that rare occasion when a man needs a shave.
THE HOT ZONE
Somer’s newest creation is The Rusty Knot, an assiduously art-directed dive bar in the West Village that perfectly replicates the thrill of slumming it (without involving anything close to an actual slum).