Like most underground hotspots, walking past The Garment Room is a very easy thing to do if you don’t know it’s there, especially because it’s literally underground. Located in the lower level of 112 Greene Street (between Prince and Spring Streets), the façade of the building is extremely unassuming and its only form of advertising are a poster in the window reading “The Garment Room” and a sign stand that says “Vintage Vintage Vintage.”
Though advertised primarily as a boutique featuring highly sought after vintage garments from haute couture designers, The Garment Room is not merely another trendy SoHo clothing store. In fact, it’s probably the one of the larger and more diverse testaments of street art in New York City. This becomes evident as you descend the staircase into the lower level (where you are first hit with an explosion of grunge-style art and are swept back into what a punk club or a subway tunnel must have looked like in the 80s). Inside The Garment Room, the juxtaposition of haute couture with the colorful street art is definitely unexpected.
Once known as the infamous 112 Workshop in the 70s and 80s, 112 Greene Street originally offered exhibition space for the first generation of conceptual and performance artists who emerged as the Vietnam War and racism were ripping the country apart and the economy was tanking. It was there that new genres of art such as installation and performance were invented and some of the most influential artists of the day came to create and collaborate. Most of the work was made on site and artists were given almost complete control to curate their shows and create works to challenge and inspire the public. Embodying the very nature of street art, artists used found and ephemeral objects to site-specific installations, accepting that their work would probably not last the week.
About a year ago, before The Garment Room moved into 112 Greene Street, monster street artist and Harlem native Royce Bannon (a central figure in the Endless Love Crew collective) curated a show with music producers Steven Loeb and John Robie that was intended to allow the space to reclaim its original purpose: being an alternative space for the exhibition of art. This show, in effect, created the backdrop to what would eventually become The Garment Room. The show “Work to Do,” featured dozens of street artists (many of whom are also associated with the Endless Love Crew collective), remained intact as the property was transferred. With paintings on the pillars, walls, floors, and ceilings, The Garment Room continues to be a veritable explosion of visual stimulation. Rather than delete this important part of 112 Greene Street’s history, owner Tiffany Nicole has maintained the pieces as a tribute to the spirit of collaboration and lively discourse inherent to this space. In this way, The Garment Room definitely stays true to the idea and history of 112 Greene Street.
The Garment Room’s website states that they have worked to fuse the “respect for expression and color, passion and dreams, hustle and triumph, and most importantly, respect for those who dedicate their life to the creation of beauty. The Garment Room is a tribute to any and everything creative. We are the sanctuary that welcomes the freedom of exploration and originality, a refuge void of restraints where nothing matters but the irrepressible passion for art and the desire to immerse oneself into the world around it.”
Tiffany Nicole is not only the owner of The Garment Room, but curator of current art exhibitions there as well. Staying true to the ephemeral nature of the space, she is constantly updating the space by inviting artists to add their creativity to the space by spraying on the walls (such as NME and Leif), creating installations (such as with the lightwork of Dean Radinovsky), and showcasing their artwork (such as Victor Koslov and Fernando de Souza) in The Garment Room. Adhering to the tradition of creation, a section of The Garment Room has even been retained as an exhibition room and active studio space for visiting artists.
Most people go to 112 Greene Street with the intention to shop, but to those who come specifically to look at the paintings and installations, the employees are very helpful in assisting with inquiries and are as knowledgeable in talking about a piece or an artist as they are in talking about clothes and designers. They let you poke around and explore the hidden corners of the shop which is covered to the last square inch.To take pictures, they ask only for a small donation that will go to funding visiting artists. I talked with Jason, who was able to give me some insight into the history of the establishment and point out some of the pieces, and Dean Radinovsky, an artist who dropped into The Garment Room as we were talking.
Although we can’t characterize this collection as street art because it does not influence the urban landscape, it is worthy of mention and a visit not only because the work of several dozen urban street artists are prominently featured in this space, but because it represents street-artist collaboration and a non-traditional collection as well. Whether you enjoy art, design, or fashion, there’s something for everyone who values culture to enjoy there. Normally open Friday to Sunday 1-7, The Garment Room is definitely worth a visit.
Special thanks to my good friend Ryan, who came exploring with me and took about 70 awesome pictures of this space. I only posted a selection because you really need to see this place for yourselves!