Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
The act of getting dressed each morning is known to absolutely everyone. We all engage in some sort of cognitive process as we decide what attire to don that day. There is an important expressive communicative function to our clothing, and regardless of our awareness we are all engaged in it. Yet, we rarely discuss the cultural mediation that we have all internalized and present in this process.
There are conventions to dressing that change with cultural norms: where the silhouette breaks, what colors lead a trend, how much skin we can show. We are lucky in this country for the freedom that exists in the absence of strict sanctions on our style of dress. Yet, it’s a mystery that we see so little originality in dress when we are so extraordinarily different as human beings. In many ways we are enslaved by the style of dress spoon-fed to us by the media and fashion industries as well as by social convention and long-standing personal rituals. The ultimate answer to this mystery may actually be that we fear our own creativity.
Cultural norms have a tremendous influence on the way we perceive clothing and the method of how we acquire them as consumers. Shopping for clothes is a ritual we learn early in life and through our transition to adulthood, yet changes very little whether we grow to favor high fashion or fast fashion. While we are always making individual choices about how to dress, most often they fall within the guidelines dictated by economic and social forces.
What would happen if designers or retailers took a radical or even subversive approach by providing the space (in every sense of the word) to broaden our fashion choices and even the way we shop to make them?
Such an experiment already exists in Brooklyn, New York. Graymarket is a bold attempt to provide a space where we are encouraged to broaden our concept of clothing, our shopping experience and to even think more deeply about how we express our identities.
Nestled in quaint Williamsburg, Graymarket is in one of the most burgeoning neighborhoods in the world where each day new businesses move into empty warehouses, promising to add something new and hoping to be noticed. Graymarket, on the other hand, shows no interest in entering into the fight for your attention. In fact you’re likely not to find it. Its entrance, recessed from the street, discourages access from wandering tourists. But if you have the sense to walk through its portals you will discover with the excitement of unwrapping a gift inside two boxes, the unusual treasures inside.
Once the door closes behind you, you’ll find yourself in a space defined by its sterile simplicity and simultaneous elegance. With only a few eye-catching punctuations, like the white neon sign with the name Graymarket spelled out in Chinese characters, the emphasis is on the clothing. You will most likely find one of the two owners sitting at the desk. Their sweat and tears have clearly gone into every inch of this aesthetically and philosophically driven project.
The racks are filled with archived clothing, each selected for its successful interplay between the artisanal process, palette and structure. Each garment represents the unique vision of the shop’s owners–for example, an experiment in the “diversity of blackness.” With nearly all the clothes devoid of color, the emphasis is instead on the fabric and unique construction of the garment. For the tactile obsessed, the clothing realizes a heavenly dream. Delicate, laser-cut, and stiff, heavy leathers; muslin, jersey or waxed cotton; tweed or boiled wool, the spectrum of each material in some way represented. No two garments look or feel the same to touch.
Unlike conventional boutiques the inventory at Graymarket transcends gender expectations, challenging us to think beyond stereotypes. On the men’s racks are long t-shirts that fall almost like dresses and pants with kilts attached. And while the women’s clothing is definitively more sexy and feminine, both male and female clients are encouraged to traverse the racks to create a more androgynous look, broadening their perspective and decision-making experience.
As a point of philosophy, the clothing at Graymarket transcends trends and fashion prescriptions. Each is regarded as an object to be collected in the same vein as art: a rare fabric, an esoteric designer, a unique method of production, and variation on structure. Graymarket encourages us to abandon the conventional elements of our current wardrobes and to curate our aesthetic toward the expression of our true identities. Therefore, Graymarket essentially reverses the direction of our relationship to clothing, encouraging us to dress with individuality and to show our deeper selves rather than allowing the fashion industry to dictate our presentations for us.
242 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn