Issue 4 out now!

There are still a fleet of fashion destinations sitting on the economic chopping block due to their status as tangible, brick-and-mortar businesses.

By Marissa Lee.

In early January of this year, word got out that the beloved fashion retailer and specialty store Opening Ceremony would be closing its brick-and-mortar doors and moving their operations online. After being acquired by fashion platform the New Guards Group, the multi-floor, international millennial fashion dreamhouse would halt the sale of any brand that was not their private label and re-emerge after some time strictly in cyberspace.

The announcement caused ripples in a pre-COVID-19 world, and was met with dismay from fashion savants everywhere. It appears now that this was the right move, and a timely one too; whatever crystal ball Carol Lim and Humberto Leon consulted prior to the pandemic was all too clairvoyant.

Although Opening Ceremony is in the clear – at least for now – there are still a fleet of fashion destinations sitting on the economic chopping block due to their status as tangible, brick-and-mortar businesses. We’re not talking about the big guys, as the Chanels or the Zaras of the world with serious corporate infrastructures will likely live to see another day.

Instead, we bite our nails at the thought of the grassroots community favorites succumbing to the second most deadly result of the coronavirus pandemic: bankruptcy. We peak between our fingers at the little guys, walking the wire in a fearsome game of COVID-19 cat-and-retail-mouse. For us, it’s the independent archive and consignment stores that supply the grails and fashion-fixes, that serve as the colloquial mom and pop shops of mode.

Two major casualties have already come to the fore. Early in July, the fashion community caught wind of the news that affordable archive favorite Need Supply Co. and its upscale sister store Totokaelo would be closing their doors. Sure, the clearance sales that resulted were mega, but we were soon after left with an epic Totokaelo-sized void in our hearts (and in our fashion rolodex).

There are a number of stores of similar ilk to Need Supply and Totokaelo, ranging from consignment stores like Ina and A Second Chance to curated vintage spots like Round Two and Procell, none of which are necessarily safe from the effects of the pandemic. In this same vein, New York archive and consignment mainstay Tokio 7 is one asset we could not bear the thought of losing. Ask anyone remotely interested in fashion in New York City and they’ll likely be able to supply you with a personal anecdote about the consignment store. (Mine goes a little something like having to try three different credit cards before successfully acquiring my now-beloved Comme des Garçons tricot blazer vest.)

The beauty of these stores is the community that surrounds them. Their existence is so different from the corporate fashion giants, so entirely authentic, so beloved by their communities, that it results in the real and voluntary frequenting of patrons. While their lack of corporate backing and mass propagation may be a factor in their vulnerability, it is also perhaps the key to their survival. Shoppers have decided that they will in fact survive without Neiman Marcus and Barney’s, which have met their untimely demise, yet are willing to put up a fight for their community favorites.

It’s comforting to imagine that if, heaven forbid, something were to threaten the existence of our beloved Tokio 7 (or any of the other neighborhood favorites around NYC), the community would take drastic measures to save a community pillar (similar to how they did with the legendary and independently-owned Army Navy Bags, thanks to the help of New York’s unofficial talent scout, New York Nico).

We’re not to say if Tokio 7, or anyone else for that matter, is or isn’t on the COVID-19 chopping block; it’s simply now a habit – a new normal if you will – to err on the side of realism when it comes to brands and businesses. It’s important to support small community businesses the best we can, and hold onto the hope that we will all make it out of this ok. (Although in the meantime we would like to get in contact with Opening Ceremony about that crystal ball.)