Alife Rivington Club
Past the clubby cherry-paneled walls of Alife Rivington Club, the original purveyors of high sneaker culture, there is a courtyard that in agreeable weather is only sometimes open to the public. ‘‘A lot of people might be hanging out, but you might not even know that,’’ explains Matt Fontana, the general manager of the Alife brand, which includes the eponymous lifestyle store next door and a creative agency. ‘‘There might be one person in the sneaker store but 20 people out back.’’ Fontana describes a time when the popular singer John Mayer dropped in and improvised on a graffiti-painted guitar while the hip-hop producer Just Blaze contributed beats (both of them, of course, wearing highly covetable sneakers) without ever having met each other before that evening. ‘‘You never know who you’re going to catch back there,’’ Fontana says. ‘‘The sock man rolls through, and you can cop three pairs for $10.
Nom de Guerre
The founders of this fashion collective decided that the only relevant neighborhood left in New York City that could serve as a location for their next store was no neighborhood at all. So they went underground — into a basement without any sense of place, below the mainstream hustle of Lower Broadway in the crease between east and west. Marked only by a modest sign, Nom de Guerre is a destination for the creative accomplices who make up an art scene that crystallized at the parties thrown at Isa, the store’s Williamsburg predecessor. ‘‘I’ve been told that we’re a little intense,’’ admits Holly Harnsongkram (center, in gray sweater), a partner. ‘‘I don’t think in a bad way. We all just have definite ideas and aesthetics. Everybody that we hang out with is pretty respectful of other people, so it’s not like you get into these crazy bar antics where somebody falls over and someone gets hurt.’’ She adds, ‘‘I wouldn’t even call myself a drinker.’’
‘‘The streets used to be the clubhouse, but obviously you can’t hang that way because of the authorities and everything,’’ says Aaron Bondaroff (center, on bike), also known as A-Ron, who runs his business from a storefront in the lightly gentrified extremities of the Lower East Side. ‘‘Kids have blogs and Web sites, but if you don’t exist on the streets, you’re not a real thing. There always has to be a place for people to come together, a meeting spot.’’ His mission, or ‘‘final war,’’ as he describes it, is to unite the subcultures of Lower Manhattan against ‘‘the meatheads and squares’’ he sees appearing in his neighborhoods. ‘‘We all have to stick together and become more of a power,’’ he says. The former mixed-nuts-and-dried-fruits shop carries the creative contributions of a crew that is motley by necessity. ‘‘It’s definitely mixed nuts and dried fruits,” he says of the skaters, musicians, designers and a rotating cast of minor characters, artists recognized by the museum establishment, members of the new voguing scene and ‘‘washed-up cool guys like me.’’ www.anewyorkthing.com
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