User Experience: Gucci Wooster in SoHo
If I Can’t Buy a $600 T-Shirt, Then I Don’t Want Your Revolution!
- Text: Olivia Whittick
On the day after Karl Marx’s birthday I visit the new Gucci store in SoHo. It is the first day 63 Wooster is open to the public, following the Rihanna-attended party held in the space the evening previous. Phones are out; champagne circulates on silver trays. I hear one woman ask frantically if the store is a pop-up or a permanent fixture. It feels weird to call this place a store—it seems more like a boutique hotel lobby—and they probably don’t want me to anyway; “store” connotes sale, where in the luxury model words like “space” are now used instead to imply artful appreciation, an immaterial exchange involving experiences shared.
"This place feels like an affluent fortune-teller’s boudoir"
Entering the white, plain Céline-corresponding entrance, I am struck by the old-timey opulence. Autumn-orange velvet theatre chairs are lined up facing nothing in particular, satin scarves are tied over the heads of the mannequins that sit in them; wooden, recalling figure-drawing aids, they have deep red manicures. Jewels on everything. Brass luggage racks display open, monogrammed suitcases with loafers and signature fragrances tucked into every pouch. The impression is of arrival at a destination, and they’ve erected pseudo-domestic dioramas to guide me into envisioning my life as a Gucci customer. Despite my attempts to remain critical, I feel it working. I feel a want.
I follow the snakes-and-ladders floor deeper into the store, and start to realize you can buy everything you see. There is chinaware, upholstered chairs, cabinets, embroidered throw pillows, wallpaper, room dividers in metallic brocade and fruit punch plush fabrics. Signs reading “AVAILABLE FOR ORDER” are attached to everything by grosgrain ribbons. The shoes stand on their own little satin stools. Wherever possible, rope tassels dangle and trim. This place feels like an affluent fortune-teller’s boudoir (I love a materially wealthy mystic), or a set from The Grand Budapest Hotel (I’m having a similar feeling of whimsy-spurred unease). To understand the amalgam of references, you might picture if Noel and Liam Gallagher forgave each other and replaced the Edies in Grey Gardens, singing over their old records in jeweled-brooch headwraps, tracksuits, and trainers.
"A heritage brand that tries to challenge the inherited wealth and social positioning that the word “heritage” encompasses."
The opulence here is slathered on so thick it tips over into gaudy, taking “old money” signifiers and draining them of frump and hate by way of camp. Gucci’s type of fancy is confidently ostentatious, nouveau riche and proud, flashy with a self-made spirit. Maybe that’s what Gucci means by “DIY.” Buy It Yourself. Along with the ability to individualize totes and sneakers using AR (an iPad at the entrance lets you add custom lettering), it’s all a push to make luxury feel accessible, to make Gucci feel “for the people.” This paradoxical alignment is aided by collaborations with artists and designers like legendary Harlem tailor Daniel Day. A few decades and a few lawsuits later, Dapper Dan has become a collaborator of a luxury brand he made a name off “knocking-up” in the 80s and 90s. A heritage brand that tries to challenge the inherited wealth and social positioning that the word “heritage” encompasses. What can be made of that?
The 63 Wooster retail associates are not called retail associates, they are “connectors,” a qualification I assume has something to do with possessing some measure of credibility in some kind of scene. I wonder what they are going to connect me to. One obvious thing to connect to is a kitten-eared headset, which I put on to watch a preview of Into a Space of Love, Wu Tsang’s installment in a documentary series made by Gucci in collaboration with Frieze. The film features icons like Kia LaBeija and Venus X, who ironically (entirely appropriately) appears wearing a fake monogrammed look, styled by Kyle Luu. The series will also include contributions by Jeremy Deller, Josh Blaaberg, and Arthur Jafa, all on the influence of the UK acid house movement, which apparently celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The roster of talents involved in this project is truly impressive, and creates a dissonance I’m learning to accept.
I try on a few pieces from the Dapper Dan collection because it’s debuting here and won’t be available elsewhere for a couple months, so it feels like a small scoop. It’s amazing, but I don’t look very good in it because I’m not even a thimble-full dapper. I want to try on the cut-up tank top that reminds me of the almost identical cut-up tank top I had in the mid-2000s (a bootleg, obviously) when I was in the throes of my own (mortifying to reflect on) attempt to connect to a movement I was never organically a part of. This is a relic from those years you were most likely to see a nipple. It’s cut low in the armpits, it reveals the clavicle and the sternum, a barely-garment impossible to hide a bra under. It belongs on the dance floor, in front of a DSLR in the early days of party photography, on a body that can hold it in place with its sweat. My discomfort with reflecting on the fashions from this era of my life tells me they’ll soon be resurrected full-force.
"The commercialization of everything I consider cool and my unrelenting suspicion towards this makes me wonder: Am I uncool?"
I leave the heavy-curtained fitting room and do one more circuit of the store. A video of model revolutionaries raising their fists and vandalizing buildings with their statements of protest plays on an enormous screen. One of them reads a flaming newspaper. The hashtag #GucciDansLaRue appears like a title. Fin. It’s an apparent homage to French New Wave films, but it’s also a curious editorializing of May 1968. “It’s the first week of May, why not?,” someone might have thought, dreaming up the next lived experience to turn into a cute outfit. The commercialization of everything I consider cool and my unrelenting suspicion towards this makes me wonder: Am I uncool? Has everything smooshed together and resigned to move culturally clockwise? I don’t like this campaign, but I do love the white bejewelled motorcycle jacket and the free champagne. I try to remember that Marx quote but maybe the bubbles have gone to my head....To be radical is to grasp things by the root...and to be fashionable is to keep the tips manicured? I conclude that Gucci loves to celebrate birthdays, which makes sense—a commemoration is an easy way to create an association where there otherwise would be none. The dead aren’t likely to protest.
Olivia Whittick is an editor at SSENSE. She is also managing editor at Editorial Magazine.
- Text: Olivia Whittick