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A trip to New York city and back, Jeakyong Sim encountered creatives and businesses that are building a sustainable and stylish present for NY.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have touched every way of living. Fashion and clothing culture are no exception as they have always been a window into specific points in time, and they reflect the social changes that we live through.

The lockdown measures had an enormous impact on the industry from retail strategy, consumption pattern to design approach.

Arguably, in-person fashion retail was one of the most hard-hit sectors of the fashion industry. When the first lockdown measures were introduced, many of them had to close down for months on end. As a result, both the industry and the consumers had to adapt to e-commerce rather quickly to facilitate in the absence of a physical in-store shopping experience.

While many of us turned to casual comfort wear suited to a stay-at-home lifestyle, the high fashion scene seemed to continue one way or another. Unfortunately, the industry has proven how anti-climatic and tone-deaf it can be. From Naomi Campbell tossing away $4190 Burberry coats in an airport trash bin to Bottega Veneta’s secret runway show at Berghain in the middle of Berlin’s lockdown, we witnessed moments that were frowned upon by the public, yet oh-so-meme-able.

Also, the pandemic had a strong influence on people’s views on sustainability. The discussion regarding human impact on nature has become reinforced and accelerated.

People are expressing an appetite for a change in garment consumption more than ever. Yes, the pandemic has changed how fashion works in 2022. But I beg the question: how can the industry and the consumer sustain an increased political consciousness and environmental consumerism for the future? Is this all just a temporary trend, or is this a meaningful moment of change?

I believe I had a glimpse of what that possible future could look like in New York.

Artist and fashion designer, Tashi Fay

Part of the joy of the trip was to meet fellow fashion designers and artisans that were living and working in New York. One such delightful encounter was with Tashi Fay, a New York-based artist and fashion designer, and I asked her about her practice and the Young Fashion landscape in New York.

“I became a lot more aware of waste and the environment and wanted to make work that caused the least amount of harm. That’s around when I made rules for myself about what I could and couldn’t use as materials.” Fay explained.

“I love that with platforms like Café Forgot, one-off, more artistic clothing pieces are becoming desirable to a growing audience of people who care about what they are buying and the person or people who crafted it.” Fay explains. “I don’t really care about the larger fashion world, I’m not generally that interested… but the fact that so many young designers and artisans are making these beautiful weird things by hand - unique pieces that cannot be replicated - that excites me.”

Retail Pharmacy by Sophia Boli

Traveling during New York Fashion Week, a vast majority of my time leading up to being in NY was spent on sewing and packaging the products for Acceptance Letter. Since the possibility of going on the trip was last minute, the joy of thinking about what to do and who to hang out with was the last thing on my itinerary. Yet, looking back at the week spent in the city, the focal point of this trip was being introduced to an exciting ecosystem of fashion creatives. The most memorable conversation I had was with Sophia Boli, the founder of Retail Pharmacy. Her pop-up store took place on 56 Eldridge Street in New York, from the 10th until the 20th February. I happily participated in it.

Jakeyoung: Why Retail Pharmacy?

Sophia: Tired of not being able to buy any of the clothes I wanted online in person, I started Retail Pharmacy about nine months ago.

The longer I lived in New York, the more confidence I gained in my style and naturally, the more outrageous my outfits got. I quickly realized that there weren’t many stores where you can buy clothing by some of these more avant-garde designers that I would find on Instagram.

So when the opportunity presented itself for me to do a pop-up shop in my partner’s gallery, I quickly took it.

Jakeyoung: How is it looking for the future of fashion in New York? 

Sophia: It‘s quite bright right now. There are a lot of designers that I work with who come from the arts and not fashion, or no formal training at all. I love having this mix of (non)methods in my shop. I think that diversity in Retail Pharmacy is partly the reason why it’s successful.

Jakeyoung: Is it sustainable?

Sophia: To be honest I never set out for Retail Pharmacy to be a sustainable brand, but I think it inherently is.

A lot, if not all, of the designers I work with make their items in small runs so there is no waste. I would say about 50% of the items in the shop are one of a kind or made to order. Many of them are made from recycled or deadstock materials as well. I’m really happy to be working with designers who are trying to change the fashion industry into a more environmentally friendly place by using sustainable materials and ethical labor practices. We live in a consumer society and I think that that’s unavoidable. I’m just trying to give people better options for what they buy. I’m trying to give people a shop with things made to have and love for a long time.

Jakeyoung: Where do you see yourself going with the Retail Pharmacy? 

Sophia: I'm not sure where this is going.

Obviously, there will be more pop-ups. I’m shooting for the next one to be in May, followed by one during fall NYFW. I’m also trying to lock down a small studio/showroom space to grow the Retail Pharmacy website from and to have guests over for private shopping appointments and viewings between pop-up shops.

I think it’s really important to have a physical space where people can come and experience the pieces. I also just talked with one of my designers about collaborating together on a presentation of her new work so I’m really excited about that. One day I would love to open a permanent storefront but for now, I’m just hoping the web sales grow so I can build up more revenue to put towards future projects. I have so many ideas for things I want to do and I’m just trying to see how I can do them all with almost no budget!


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