Heaven, With Hangers

Photo: Leigh Davis

Sean Crowley
Tie Designer, Fort Greene

Tell us about your closet.
I share a brownstone with my girlfriend, but this closet is mine. The books are histories and photo collections. The suits and ties are mostly vintage and English.

How many do you have?
The number of shirts is a little silly—250 to 300. For suits and jackets, 40 to 50. And I have 3,000 ties.

Why so many?
My father collects everything from sleigh bells to oil lamps. We’re cut from the same cloth. Every Sunday growing up, we’d go to the flea market together. It was our way to bond.

Where do you buy your clothes?
Thrift stores, eBay, flea markets. It’s a little obsessive. It’s become almost a part-time job.

Do you ever feel guilty when you buy yet another tie?
Growing up with collectors, you become this master rationalizer. Say you have five red-and-navy striped ties.

Why do you need five?
Well, this red is darker. Why do you need ten pairs of striped morning trousers? I could rationalize it.

Can you rationalize in all areas of your life?
Absolutely. I should learn to restrain myself a little more.

Did you dress up as a little boy?
In eighth grade, my English teacher was a complete Anglophile. He believed that if you dressed better, you’d perform better. He offered bonus points on a test if you wore a tie. It was right when I first started watching Jeeves and Wooster, an English TV show set in the thirties, so I wore my grandfather’s tail suit. It started my interest in exhibitionism.

Why the love of England?
My family is from Boston, but we’re English in many ways. My grandfather always watched English television.

You almost have an English accent.
People say that. My grandparents are old-fashioned Yankees with that soft, gentle voice that has an Englishness.

Are you happy with the closet space you have now?
Yes, it forces me to have limitations. It’s like a goldfish that will get bigger if you put it in a bigger bowl. If my apartment were twice as big, I’m sure I’d fill it with twice as much stuff.

1. Sui’s closet is organized by color. Every shoe box has a Polaroid of its contents. “I used to memorize the boxes—Prada was dark navy, Miu Miu was pink—but it got to be too many.”
2. As an homage to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Sui framed her closet door with an armoire, cut the back out, and put mirrors on the inside doors.
3. Just around the corner: papier-mâché dolly heads that Sui collected from eBay and flea markets.
4. Enter Here
Photo: Leigh Davis

Anna Sui
Fashion Designer, Greenwich Village

What is the deal with your closet doors?
I had always loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and wanted my closet to open like that. So we cut out the back of an armoire and it leads into the walk-in.

Did you read the book as a little girl?
It was my favorite. My English teacher in sixth grade gave me an A-minus on my book report, and she said, “You have to start reading more adult books.” It broke my heart.

Did you follow her advice?
My next book was The Great Gatsby.

How long have you had this closet?
I bought the apartment on New Year’s Eve 1999. The guy was a prick. He called to say, “You have to buy it today or you can’t have it.”

Kids must love the closet.
Lisa Marie Presley came over with her kids. We were having a dinner party with tons of people, and the kids did a whole dance routine to “My Boyfriend’s Back.” They used the closet as a stage. We all sat on my bed and watched.

Do you decorate your closet?
There’s a stained-glass window and papier-mâché dolly heads, which I collect. I also have a geisha wig.

Do you ever wear it?
No, it flakes, but I love the shape. I saw it at the flea market but the woman was really crabby, so I didn’t buy it. I was like, “I don’t want to give you my $10.” Then I went back for a year, and finally she had it again.

Does everything fit?
I actually just bought a studio two floors up, which will be like another big closet. I knew I needed more space when the avalanches started. Things were falling on my head.

1. The chandelier is French and 100 years old; she found it in Freeport, New York.
2. Kamps keeps a host of perfumes, but her regular is Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel.
3. The hangers are from National Wholesale Liquidators and are always facing in the same direction.
4. When Kamps’s mother moved from her childhood home, Kamps rescued the Snoopy piggy banks.
Photo: Leigh Davis

Yana Kamps
Style Adviser, East Village

Tell us about your closet.
It was originally a guest bedroom. My architect said, “For resale, you should not get rid of a third bedroom.” But I had the last laugh. Vision is more important than numbers; I’ve turned the apartment into every girl’s dream.

What was the apartment like when you moved in?
You’d die; no, you’d die. Imagine Berlin after the war.

How would you describe the look now?
Old meets new. The apartment feels modern—my architects worked on the original Helmut Lang boutiques—but I kept the prewar charm in the moldings and furniture. It’s very Louis XIV meets Philippe Starck.

I love the chandelier.
It’s 100 years old from France, but since I bought it in Long Island, it was a fraction of what it would be in Manhattan. As soon as something crosses the Hudson River, it becomes five times more expensive.

How’s everything organized?
I’ve collected shoe boxes for years, and I fill them with stockings, leg warmers, veils, belts, and gloves. My flats are in boxes, but my heels are on the shelves. They stand tall like me.

How tall are you?
Do I have to say? After I moved here from Germany, I felt like Snow White in a country of dwarves.

What else do you keep on the shelves?
Family photos, board games, old Marlene Dietrich movies. And a Snoopy piggy bank I got when I was a child, since you always have a penny somewhere.

I also see old diaries. Are you surprised by anything you wrote?
You just think, “Thank God I got smarter.”

What about the boxes of Barbies?
My fashion-editor friend and I sometimes play with them and pretend they’re wearing the current collections. I even get outfit ideas from Barbie, but things always look better on her.

And you’re a stylist?
I like to say, “I give style advice and opinions.” Everyone today is a “stylist.” All these kids from Brooklyn put cowboy boots with a cocktail dress and call themselves stylists.

What’s your favorite part of the closet?
I like the frosted-glass doors. If someone comes over, you can ransack the apartment and throw everything in here. And it’s the only room boyfriends aren’t allowed into.

Are your friends jealous?
They don’t need to be—they’re all invited in! In the middle of parties, my friends will sometimes say, “I want to be wearing something else.” So we change.

1. Rodin collects vintage silk flowers at flea markets and uses them throughout the apartment.
2. She recently started a line of essential oils for skin that she sells at John Derian.
Photo: Leigh Davis

Linda Rodin
Stylist and Entrepreneur, Chelsea

These clippings are amazing.
I have boxes and boxes. What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m thinking of covering a whole living-room wall.

What kinds of things do you hang up?
There’s no rhyme or reason. A picture of a sphinx. The first letter my niece ever wrote me. Vintage flowers and postcards by the billions. My jury-duty slip. I’ll steal napkins from restaurants. Most of all, I love anything aquatic: shells, turtle, waves.

Why aquatic?
I’m a Pisces. Growing up, my favorite movie was Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. I think I was a mermaid in a past life.

How lovely.
I have this thing about the sea. People do yoga, but I collect shells to relax. Just give me a beach and a bucket and I’m happy.

Is that why your closet’s turquoise?
Yes, and pink because it’s like the inside of a shell. I even have a turquoise tattoo. I went to a famous guy in L.A., where it takes two years to get an appointment. My wrist says NICK, after my nephew who was in Iraq. I never wanted a tattoo in my life before that; it has to mean something.

Why do you have so many basset-hound photos?
My best friend, Laetitia Casta, gave me a basset-hound puppy for Christmas eight years ago. She just said, “Merry Christmas!” His ears were hanging out of her coat. That was the end of my life.

This closet is your home office. What are you working on these days?
I make a skin elixir with eleven essential oils. The formula is written on a little piece of paper stuck in a book hidden in my apartment. Only I know where it is.

What’s in the boxes at the top?
At first, I was very organized, but now I can’t remember what’s up there, other than a million cassette tapes. I don’t even have a cassette player.

Where did you get the beautiful chandelier?
An old lady died in my building years ago. The super told me I could go in and take anything I wanted. That was the only thing I took.

1. Library ladder Photo: Leigh Davis

Maneesh Goyal
President of an Event-Production Company, Union Square

Your closet is gorgeous.
It has all the bells and whistles: laundry hampers, a library ladder, a three-way mirror. When you open the doors, lights turn on. The shoe racks have movable heights, so you can store ankle boots or tall boots.

What’s the deal with the bench?
It’s opposite the shoe rack. I use it every morning to put on my sneakers. The Missoni fabric is a throwback to my Indian heritage. My apartment has this “Bollywood threw up a little” look.

The closet is built in a mirror image so two people can share it. Is your mom like, “Where’s the woman?”
She’s still waiting, poor thing. She knows better than to ask. Also, I’m gay.

The windows are great, too.
I’m on the second floor, so it’s a public apartment. I love looking up from the street and seeing my closet.

Can strangers also look in?
When you go up and down the escalator at the Union Square movie theater, you can see right in. My sister says that’s the No. 1 highest-grossing theater in the country. I’ve definitely been seen in a towel, but I don’t mind.

What do your friends say?
Even straight men are like, “Holy shit, this is your closet?” This is a city of 30 million people, but no one else has a closet like this.

Photo: Leigh Davis

Alex Roy
Retired Rally Race-Car Driver, East Village

What was the birth of this closet?
When I moved in, my apartment was rawer than raw—like tough-guy raw. No AC, no heat. Just a toilet and spigot. The first thing I did was make closets.

Was it worth the splurge?
I hired Melanie from Clos-ette, and it’s the nicest room in my house. People are always migrating there. Closets are the new kitchens; it’s where people hang out at parties.

Nice helmets.
I’m a retired rally race-car driver. My record for driving from New York to L.A. is 31 hours and four minutes. Our average speed was 90.4 mph. That includes stops.

Isn’t rally race-car driving illegal?
Well, officially, I never did it. I’m also meticulous about planning my drives: I have six GPSs and thermal night-vision cameras so we can drive without lights at night. When I broke the record, I couldn’t tell anyone for a year, until after the statute of limitations.

So you keep your gear in your closet?
My helmets, police badges, and expired registrations are in the front. I organize it so that when people walk in they think, “Oh, cool guy!”

What else does your closet reveal about you?
I have a milk crate of ex-girlfriends’ stuff that I couldn’t identify but couldn’t bear to throw away. When my male friends get married, their porn collections come to my house. I keep them in a secret hatch and use the videos to tip delivery guys.

Speaking of manly, do you have tons of fans?
I’m pretty famous here in New York. C-minus famous, but famous. I’m even more famous among law enforcement.

You mean infamous?
Actually, they love me. A Brooklyn narcotics director said, “I read your book to my son in bed; I love it.” I was also in the wedding party of a New Jersey sheriff. He was a fan and just called me up.

Has your closet helped your own dating life?
I’ve had a fantastic collection of girlfriends over the years, and the first thing they all say is, “I can’t wait to have a closet like this.”

So you’d recommend it?
In the old days, you’d buy a fancy car as your bling. Nowadays that’s tacky. You get a nice closet.

Heaven, With Hangers