Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting two alternative fashion spaces: The Library: Fashion Athenaeum and Pop tART Gallery‘s latest venture, Dope Shit. The taste makers and pattern painters behind these different spaces share a common gift–the ability to filter the past to reintegrate the present. Meet style shamans of Los Angeles, Shaye McKenney, the inspirational woman behind The Library, and Sebastian Hull, founder of second-hand boutique, Dope Shit. To me, Shaye and Sebastian divine the hidden beauty of fashion. They share the magic of style by appropriating dated or discarded fashions and channel their glamour through creating communal retail experiences dependent on collaborative participation.
Opening LA’s first edition of The Library last year, Shaye is an Oakland transplant whose global travels emanate her all-encompassing personal style and infiltrate the eclectic atmosphere that make the library so charming and inviting. Housed in an actual former library in West Hollywood, The Library is a floating archive of vintage treasures. Like a private book library, The Library provides a selection of inventory–with access to thousands of coveted collectibles–in exchange for membership. Divided into three tiers–Bronze, Silver, and Gold Lamé– each determines the amount of merchandise to be checked out at one time. The least expensive option is just $25 per month and awards a $180 credit, while the premium tier of $150 per month provides a $2,500 allowance. Shaye also offers the ability to avoid trading monetary currency all together, awarding credit equal to the value of traded goods.
The Library is innovation in the industry of fashion, the phenomenon of pop-ups, and evidence of a cultural movement valuing collaborative consumption over individual ownership. Not to mention this is an all-around genius idea in a place like LA brimming with stylists, photographers, and die-hard fashion aficionados who surely would welcome access to an amazing (and nearly unlimited) closet at the cost of “owning” an item only temporarily. A native Angeleno myself, I can’t count the infinite number of times I’ve had to listen to a stylist friend burst into tears over the tireless task of unloading beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces to places offering a meager percentage on sales out of a desperate need to diversify options for an upcoming shoot or cash-in on their own personal wardrobes. The Library offers an alternative to those wasted, Wasteland tears.
A mobile pop-up space since it’s initial LA inception–as well as those Shaye has helped to open in Sweden, Mexico, and San Francisco–the West Hollywood incarnation is unfortunately a vintage memory (for now at least). Closing it’s doors last Sunday–but not without a super sale slashing 20-50% off selective merchandise–The Library is set for a temporary hiatus in Oakland with the hopes of securing a new LA location in the interim. What I did not know until reading this touching LA Weekly article profiling Shaye and the labor of love The Library has been–is the need for creative partners to help keep this space afloat and running. A young ethereal beauty, Shaye masks an 18-year old battle with stage three lyme disease under a stoic welcoming presence, soft-spoken warmth, and refined taste for designer threads. Ultimately, she would like to “plant the seed” she has worked tirelessly to nurture and currently seeks collaborators interested in sustaining The Library‘s LA branch in the future. I have already pledged to help keep this place around–and one of those ways is by forging connections among a new generation of creatives dedicated to sharing style with the masses.Meet 20-year-old Sebastian Hull, self-professed “thrift addict,” native of Fargo, North Dakota, and founder of second-hand boutique Dope Shit. Inaugurating its first semi-permanent location in Koreatown Saturday evening, Dope Shit is a repository of discarded and resurrected dope duds. Enthralled by the “thrill of the hunt,” Sebastian has an eye “hopelessly addicted to patterns” and an uncanny ability to anticipate what his diversified clientele may be after. Setting-up at various off-the-grid locations since early 2012, Dope Shit was initially realized as a pop-up shop appearing at flea markets and late-night dance parties all over underground and overground LA.
Like Shaye, Sebastian has created a platform for sharing fashion in a communal and fun way. If Shaye has created a fashion library, Sebastian has created a fashion party. Dope Shit‘s current flagship is set within (and currently encompasses all) of Pop tART Gallery. Gallery owner and founder is none other than the face of LA’s infamous Club Rhonda, the multifaceted and talented creative persona, Phyllis Navidad. Once matte, white gallery walls are now a glossy black, paralleled by metallic silver floors throughout. Sebastian’s sea of second-hand silhouettes are accentuated by unique accessories: oversized crystal necklaces, extravagant headpieces, and personal touches from a creative posse of designers and friends. At the opening on Saturday, guests danced to live-dj sets and shopped while sipping cocktails from the open bar.
Both The Library and Dope Shit are pop-up spaces where personal style is found as a result of carefully curated and redirected shared resources. These unique temporary venues pose evidence of a new cultural movement–one valuing collaboration and a sense of communal infrastructure. There will always be a niche and market for overpriced, specialized, or run-of-the-mill designer boutiques, but these style makers spread a love of fashion beyond the superfluous guises of their counterparts. Instead, they offer what any shopper in the post-internet age desperately needs: a feeling of authenticity and community in an age of consumer monotony and limitless selection. Like the best intermediaries or messengers, the makers of these spaces present solutions to problems permeating the fashion industry and afflicting the greater world economy in favor of a new system favoring borrowing over buying and attainability over inhibition.
It's not too late to save The Library! Contact The Library // Website: library-fashion.com // Email: firstname.lastname@example.org // Like on Facebook // Follow on Instagram Shop Dope Shit at Pop tART Gallery // Hours: Tuesday - Friday 11AM-7PM; Saturday 1PM-7PM // 3023 W 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90010 // Email: email@example.com // Like on Facebook // Follow on Instagram // Follow on Twitter