There's no place like Café Forgot
To celebrate their February residency, No Agency New York played dress up in Café Forgot's bespoke designer pieces. And you can too.
Photos by Tasmin Meyer Ersahin.
The racks at Café Forgot are filled with Merritt Meacham’s hand dyed snap tops, Kristin Mallison’s frilly, puffed sleeves and lace appliquéd mini dresses, and butt cheek-revealing, clear window pane-pocketed pants made by Martina Cox. These pieces might be considered some of Café Forgot’s signature offerings, but the now infamous New York pop up shop has made a name for itself that’s all it’s own. By creating a space for emerging designers to showcase their work and for eager customers to play dress up in their designs, founders Lucy Weisner and Vita Haas have put the fun back in shopping IRL. And there’s no place like Café Forgot.
Lucy and Vita met in their high school fashion club, and both studied art history at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Upon returning to New York, the fashion-obsessed duo wanted to create a space for all of their artistic friends making clothes and accessories to display and sell their work. In 2017, they launched Café Forgot as a pop up shop that would be open for a few weeks, with the hope that one day they could turn their collaborative venture into a brick and mortar retail store. Things went so well that Lucy and Vita stuck to the pop up model, opening a few different versions of Café Forgot, before signing a year long lease at their current East Village location on East 6th Street.
Now, the shop is open every other month and each relaunch features a fresh batch of bespoke pieces made by emerging designers around the world. The wearable art attracts a crowd of downtown art kids and fashion students alike who line up to try on the one of a kind pieces -- many of which can’t be found in any other shop. “We had so many friends that didn’t really have an outlet to show their work or weren’t creating full collections -- not working within the fashion system,” Lucy explains. “So, it was nice to give people a space to show things they were making, which I think is hard to find in New York”.
When Café Forgot is not open, events are held in the space that range from healing breathwork sessions to raucous punk shows. To celebrate Café Forgot’s February 2020 shop, they’ve collaborated with the talented artists and models of No Agency New York, who were photographed by Tasmin Meyer Ersahin in this month’s featured designs. A limited run of No Agency’s “What Part of No Don’t You Understand” slogan T-shirts are available for purchase at the shop, and together they are working on the Untitled Café Forgot Documentary, filmed by Cyrus Duff. “This documentary is shallowly about a new way of dressing, deeply about a new way of being and very deeply about a new way of seeming”, they said.
We took a little trip down to Café Forgot, where Lucy and Vita told i-D all about their dream collaboration with No Agency New York, the designers they’re most excited about featuring this month and their (fingers crossed) eventual plans to take Café Forgot global.
What made you want to collaborate with No Agency New York for this iteration of the shop?
Lucy Weisner: We wanted to do something with them around the time of fashion week, but not make it feel like it was necessarily part of fashion week. A lot of the girls that No Agency represents are artists in a similar sort of world as a lot of the designers we represent, so it just felt really fitting to do this whole shoot.
Vita Haas: We share a general punk ethos with No Agency. Alex [Tsebelis] reached out to me and I thought he wanted to sign me! I was like, “I can’t wait to be a famous model!” Like shit, I didn’t realize I was going to be beginning my modeling career at 26. But it ended up being really exciting. And we love the shirts. It’s great that there’s this other layer to this project because we work so well together. Alex is just so down for these weird ideas that we have and that’s so exciting.
Who are some of the new designers that you’re excited about this month?
Lucy: I’m really excited about these shoes -- [a black and white sculpted pair] -- that we just started carrying. We started working with Ruth [Neubauer] and she does a lot of upcycling. These are all one of a kind, so we don’t have size runs, but they’re interesting and exciting and very Café Forgot. She uses a lot of funky objects. That pair is called the dildo boot because it uses different parts from dildos, which is really crazy. So, that is fun.
Vita: Yeah, I’m excited that we have some new Japanese designers this time. My friend Marland [Backus] lives in Japan and she connected me with a lot of these people. We have knit hats by M. Hiramatsu, and these shirts, where you can snap on different things. It’s playful and fun. I really like clothes that are interactive. And we have this other designer Sparkle Diva. Her stuff is so fun for this shop specifically. We wanted to be a little Valentine’s Day-y for Valentine’s Day -- fun hair things and scrunchies.
Lucy: We started [selling] these crazy iPhone cases, which are so fun. I just want to touch them or I can’t stop looking at them. Her name is Joanna, but the line is called Crackers Time.
Vita: We have a lot of utilitarian objects that are just kind of funky. Like phone cases -- you have to have one, but why not have a really fun one?
Do you think that you’ll stick with the pop up model, open a more permanent shop or do something entirely different?
Lucy: Well, I think the way that it’s operating now is interesting where we’re in this space for a year. We’re open one month as a store and then closed and having different events. I think maybe that's the evolution of it. We still have this pop up ethos driving it, but we’re in a more permanent location. We do always think about doing shops in other cities. It would be great at some point to have a location in New York and do more temporary things outside of the city. That’s where I see that pop up model going, like LA or Paris or something.
Are the designers from all over?
Vita: As it’s grown, we have designers from more places. It started out just New York. But now we have Italy, London, Japan…
Lucy: I think this is our first time working with Japanese brands which is exciting because there’s such cool and interesting fashion there. I haven’t been, but I really want to go.
There’s always Café Forgot Japan. Did you guys have any new intentions going into this iteration of the shop?
Lucy: That would be so good I think! One of the things that we’ve always talked about is doing other projects in addition to the shop, so I guess I’m just so excited for the test screening [of the documentary] to happen at Anthology Film Archives. That’s such a New York institution.
In what ways do you think of the shop as a communal space for artists, designers and creatives to come hang out?
Lucy: So much of it is about trying things on. But I guess it’s just the fact that you can come here and feel super surprised by the objects you’re encountering. That’s a really good way to form some sort of community over this shared enjoyment of certain objects, clothes or accessories. Anything.
Vita: There’s also a good chance you’ll meet a designer when you’re here because they’re always here. That’s really cool because they can talk to you about the piece that you’re wearing. Our designers will do fittings here for some of our clothes. It’s a good meeting point.
Do either of you make anything that you’d consider selling in the shop someday?
Lucy: Well, we’re actually making a fragrance. We want to work on more of our own line. We’ve started with tote bags and socks that our friend has been helping us produce, and then we hopefully want to have our own more formal line.
Vita: Yeah, it’s definitely something down the line.
You both studied art history, do you feel like that’s influenced the aesthetic or the style of Café Forgot?
Lucy: The clothes feel very fashion, but they’re also art objects. Even the shoes feel like sculptures to me. It’s made me able to look at certain garments and appreciate them for what they are, versus having preconceived ideas about what a clothing item should be.
Vita: There’s this piece by Cindy Sherman that I’ve always been really obsessed with called “Doll Clothes”, and it’s a video of this paper doll trying different clothes. We’re working with this girl who reached out to me and was like, “I love Café Forgot. I’m working on this project with paper dolls.” And I was like, “Oh my god.” It’s inspired by that and it has magnets and drawings of key Café Forgot clothes on these paper dolls. That’s something I’m really excited for because I just want to play. I just want toys.
Lucy: It’s also just cool for this girl to reach out to us and be like, “I love Café Forgot. I’m doing this project inspired by your store.”
Vita: Yeah, like “Would you want to sell it?” Of course!
Is there a certain kind of aesthetic that you look for when you’re considering certain designers or things that you want to carry?
Lucy: It’s just people conceptually working in a similar way. Maybe they make clothes, or they’re learning to make clothes, but clothing is part of their practice.
Vita: A lot of the work has Renaissance or Baroque themes, but I wouldn’t say there’s a specific aesthetic.
How would you describe your personal style?
Lucy: I’m really low key. Maybe that’s the best word. I feel like I wear the same three things each day.
Vita: I feel like Lucy’s style is much simpler. I’ll just put anything on my body! Like I’ll literally put on a tutu, or a tiara, like, “This is cool!” We really balance each other out because [she] likes really well-made, nice simple things and I am like clutter freak. It’s good to have both when we’re selecting pieces.