Two designers creating a roadmap to a simpler more fulfilling lifestyle
Thursday, July 16, 2015
THE RETURN OF DL CERNEY
A NEW POP-UP ON NINTH STREET
It wasn't quite the perfect evening in New York City but it was damn close. The opening was scheduled for six, the time most art openings start. The Pop-Up shop was on East Ninth Street on a tree-lined block between First and Second Avenues. It's amazing how many blocks in a borough in New York can go undiscovered. You'd think, given the size of Manhattan that eventually you would have traveled over each of them, but then you remember change, the change that happens in every city, big or small, as new buildings are built and others are torn down. The way city blocks change as storefronts move in and out or redecorate their windows for the seasons. The way, I guess we all change, sometimes to the demise of nostalgia but mostly to make way for the future.
I started walking over around quarter to six. I'd dressed for the occasion, black slacks, a seersucker white shirt, a natural linen sports coat with a grosgrain detail running around the lapel. The weather that day was a appreciatively balmy having slipped in between several days of high humidity and heat. I had put on a pair of new shoes that pinched my feet with the hopes of breaking them in before our looming vacation. I hadn't realized how far east I was going to have to walk to get to the block where DL Cerney's Pop-Up was having its opening.
DL Cerney opened its original shop almost thirty years ago making the most exquisite men's and women's fashions out of vintage tweeds, wools, gabardines, linens and cottons. Flattering fashion designed by Linda St. John and Duane Cerney with the help of Linda's daughter Suzie. Fashion that took its cues from old Hollywood, swing dresses and James Dean jackets.
Then in 2012 the trio decided to take a break and their doors were shut, the iron gate came down and the for rent sign went up on their East Village shop on Seventh Street nestled between Cooper Union and McSorley's, New York's oldest Irish Pub.
When I reached the block on Ninth Street where a new sign, although temporary, with the words DL Cerney in bold black letters on a white field now hung. There was a sense of both deja vu and revelation. There was a sense of coming back to that old Seventh Steet block, a sweet little block of tiny shops that only got rowdy the day of the Santacon club crawl, but it was also a revelation of an equally attractive block I most likely would never have seen if it weren't for the invitation to the opening. The block on Ninth Street between First and Second Avenues is adorned with shop after shop of independent designers and vintage clothing shops. It was a perfect fit for the Cerney crew and their impeccable wears.
Once I'd walked up the stoop steps leading into the Cerney shop there was Suzie arms open, eyes as big as bakelite coat buttons and a smile that wouldn't stop. Dressed like the engineer on a train she tooted the shops whistle and drove me right into the store. All of them, Linda, Suzie and Duane, are as crazy as they are talented, sweet and prone to disaster.
So apropos to an opening event, the room that wasn't any bigger than a cable car had no air-conditioning or working bathroom The toilet had developed a leak earlier in the day.
For that reason I decided a half glass of champagne was my designated limit, but the spread they put out was very impressive.
It's hard to keep your hands off the fabrics that line their shop. Their texture and pattern appeal is like candy to someone with the kind of fashion sweet tooth I possess.
I pulled out piece after piece and would have succumbed to trying something on I couldn't justify purchasing with a big vacation less than a month away if it hadn't been from the sweat I was starting to produce as I stood too far away from the one fan blowing in hot air by the window.
If I hadn't known how particular our nineteen year-old daughter is about fit and style I would probably have dropped a couple of dresses near the register along with a credit card I've also been trying keep at a low balance for that upcoming trip.
As it turned out there were enough buyers there I didn't have to feel worried that their opening would turn into a bust.
It was at about this time that I was finally able to get close enough to Linda St. John to say hello and hear her Southern Illinois twang jump from under her shock of flaming red hair. If I could figure out how to phonetically capture that twang I'd reproduce it here in words you couldn't find in Funk and Wagnalls. Linda was in high hostess mode and we talked for several seconds before the next guest crossed the threshold and the twang started all over again.
Linda is the mama bear of this organization and has dipped her toe into more than just the fashion swinging on the hangers around the room. No, in addition she's an artist creating mini-menageries of little fashion people with dresses made from fast food wrappers and golden angles made from clothespins.
She's a painter dabbling in cray pas paintings that hang from the walls all done on black paper referencing her childhood,
and she's a writer with a book she wrote about her stranger than strange journey to adulthood, Even Dogs Go Home to Die.
So here's the scoop. If you find yourself in New York City between now and the end of August take the time to visit Linda, Suzie and Dewayne and say hello from Rick, Lee and Emmy
Civil Rights Series, A Street in Albany, 1962
Danny Lyon, Photographer
Represented by Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta