Many of us who were in New York media—and many of you who weren’t—at a certain time can remember raging around the Lower East Side’s then dirty and much-underused streets of late-’90s/early-’00s. Its center, “Hell Square,” was a mix of filthy sidewalks, filthy bars and restaurants, and filthy bloggers. The Hat, the Magician, Welcome to the Johnsons, Dark Room, and others were no great shakes, but they were certainly ours.
Then came a turning point in what was an already ongoing process of gentrification. More money arrived, along with the late Schiller’s and The Hotel on Rivington, and, in more recent years, high-end boutiques, more trendy restaurants, and Soho House. A once family neighborhood with an edge became a stopover for tourists and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. While the filth, drunk young people, and some of the bars may still be there, the LES is no longer quite the playground for the underpaid-yet-ambitious creative set it once was.
Which brings us to the opening of Louis Vuitton’s current menswear pop-up on the corner of Ludlow and Rivington.
Another product of Virgil Abloh’s already impressive tenure at the brand, the green-screen green temporary shop is just down the block from Iggy’s Keltic, offering a striking juxtaposition between the heights of luxury and contemporary style and crumpled beer-and-a-shot happy hours. It would be easy to sour on this mix if not for what Abloh actually has on offer here.
While, yes, an outlet for and presentation of the big-ticket items in Abloh’s Fall 2019 collection, there’s interesting connective tissue to the old LES. Take the mannequins—as coated in green as the floors, ceilings, and the fire hydrant and mailbox outside—with their local ’80s b-boy styling and transgressively feminine hints. They would appear to belong on the LES more than most of the second-generation gentrifiers who currently reside there.
Abloh’s monochrome format—which signals back to his all-pink capsule collection released in conjunction with his exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and his all-orange efforts for Vitra and others—breaks up the growing visual monotony of an area that was once famously coated in graffitied signatures and distinctive shops. For a moment, it’s a virtual return to a more colorful time, even if it’s a return that comes with a high price tag. Pardon us for thinking that, yeah, this just works.
You can decide for yourself and pick up exclusive products sure to 10x their value on the collector’s market from July 12th to July 21st, 2019 at 100 Rivington.