Brooklyn Gothic

Photo: Kevin Landers

If Edgar Allan Poe had gone into retail, he might have come up with Saved. Although I don’t think anyone is bricked up in its walls, this cozy new store (82 Berry Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-388-5990) has a delicious sense of mystery. At the very least, a feverish imagination is at work behind the mix of objets on display. The vogue for handicraft in art and fashion finds a charming home here, as everything from clothing to furniture is customized. A twenties chaise longue is not only beautifully restored but also has new artisanal upholstery (gray Valentino suiting fabric, to be exact) and a distinctive silhouette patch of a bird. Though there are no rugs for sale—yet—Saved is a fledgling ABC Carpet & Home for hipsters who like their creature comforts with a touch of goth.

Framed nineteenth-century etchings, Persian-blue ceramics (one piece, a fearsome hawk, is priced at $1,200), embroidered pillows, modernized vintage shirts, and black beaded necklaces all call out to be purchased, as if possessed. In this supersaturated display, it’s difficult to tell what’s old and what’s new. Heavy leather bags look like they could have been made out West during the gold rush. Cryptic labels add to the puzzle. After sniffing around, I found that Saved’s owner-designers, Noel Hennessy and Sean McNanney, make and remake most of the merchandise, young designers contribute some, and vintage dealers supply the rest.

The main motif is the silhouette. Angels, branches, and humans appear in black on many fabrics, from wool sweaters to seat covers. The artist Kara Walker’s racially charged paper cutouts come to mind, along with the design team Libertine’s silhouetted shapes on vintage clothes. But I don’t get the feeling that the Saved folks are referencing their contemporaries. Instead, all sorts of pasts are being summoned at once, including the early Ottoman Empire, Colonial America, and, most of all, Victorian England. The sixties and seventies, the usual crutch for design inspiration, are thankfully absent.

Somehow, these many influences hold a happy conversation, as if Hennessy and McNanney had brought together a like-minded group of collaborators to create their own version of a guild. Fittingly, there is no sign outside the store, just the Saved insignia: two hands, one holding a paintbrush, the other a needle, crossed over a hammer. In the middle, the letters SGAC (Saved Gallery of Art & Craft) fill out a heraldic crest.

Saved’s infatuation with the past extends to its business card, which promises “Clothing, Jewelry, Artworks, Antiques, Interiors, Sundries, Dry and Fancy Goods, Provisions, Imports, Conservation and Restoration, Tattoo Parlour.” The Provisions part of the list is a bit of a stretch, unless you call a $400 blanket with a silhouette patch a provision, which was the pitch when I visited. “That’s my rent,” said a dejected customer after hearing the blanket’s price, to which the helpful salesgirl replied, “You could give up your apartment and make a tent out of the blanket!”

Saved is a little incongruous in a Williamsburg where Polish grandmothers still dandle babies on nearby stoops and most of the young invading population buy their clothes at vintage stores on Bedford Avenue. But the tattoo parlor in back is a nod to the latter demographic, as are two other elements of Hennessy and McNanney’s diversified business—the nearby St. Helen Café, which serves delicious grilled panini, and the Saved (more silhouettes!) line of T-shirts. No doubt these more reliable moneymakers help underwrite the store, a wholly original vision that channels the romance of history, tweaks it, and makes you want it right now.

Brooklyn Gothic