Every city has its own patina. The grand sum of its parts. A tangible spirit that can be felt in those initial few steps along the sidewalk. All our senses taking in new scenery.
The moment I arrived in New York, I was greeted with a familiar feeling, as if I were once again embracing an old friend. I have been lucky enough to get to know New York over the last four years and it’s a city that’s found its way into my heart.
A variety of images always come to mind when conjuring up thoughts about New York. Whether it be food, fashion, arts and culture, the buildings, and its people, there is no way for me to specifically put my finger on the magic of this city. Although I am confident that it’s charm is found in its unique diversity. With over 600 languages spoken there, it is unarguably the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Founded in the early 1600s, its had a lot of time to grow and become what it is today.
Due to this incredible diversity, I personally find myself experiencing a sense of freedom that I don’t often feel in my home city of Toronto. For me, one of the main ways this is represented is through fashion. On a single L Train ride, I saw a woman wearing a leopard print jacket, a floral dress, sneakers and a studded toque. She stood next to a woman sporting a black leather cap, a fur-lined leather jacket, flared jeans, purple velvet shoes and 70’s glasses. They both looked comfortable and confident in their unique presentation. For me, this is exciting and encouraging. It’s an everyday, ordinary thing to make a visual statement. Anything goes, in fact, it seems welcomed here. It’s no wonder that this city gave birth to the Advanced Style movement with icons like Iris Apfel leading the way. How can I not be crazy in love a city that embraces such eclectic fashion statements? Therefore I take every opportunity to visit the Big Apple.
One of the things that brings me to New York, is my friend Julia Knox from East Village Hats. Julia is a talented milliner who has a hat boutique in the heart of the East Village. She stocks the shop from a tiny studio space tucked into the back of her storefront location. She is the perfect example of someone who is prolific regardless of square footage. I am especially a fan of her fedoras, as she sculpts them with an expert hand. She is also a powerful force at creating community. She brings milliners from all over the world to teach in her shop. It’s a busy little place and a joy to spend time in.
I don’t usually make a strict agenda when travelling to New York. I have rough ideas of what I would like to see, but mainly you will find me walking and exploring the neighbourhoods at a leisurely pace. That way I can stumble upon little surprises that I might not otherwise find. Although I did manage to dedicate some time to shop for turban materials in the Garment District. An area of the city located in Midtown where there is an abundance of fabric stores to peruse. Many of the stores are hidden on the second or third floor of a building, completely out of sight from the sidewalk. So it’s good to look up addresses ahead of time. The Garment District, an area of the city marked by a sculpture of a needing threading a button, is the location where all things fashion related have taken place. From luxury showrooms to manufacturing garments, this was the centre of it all during the early part of the 20th century.
In addition to fabric shopping I also discovered some well-stocked consignment shops in Brooklyn, visited the FIT museum, stopped by The Hat Shop in Soho on a snowy day, and spent most mornings in contemplation while writing in whatever quaint coffee shop I could find.
As I prepared for my departure, I took in a few deep breathes of the dense city air. I was grateful for the adventure. I recognized that I was taking away a little gem, a nugget of wisdom small enough to fit in my pocket. New York was the perfect reminder that our unique expression is what makes the world colourful. Embrace it, have fun and walk with confidence. All sorts of amazing things are about to happen.