The James A. Farley Post Office, which occupies two blocks on 8th Avenue, across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, is New York City's cathedral to mail. The massive building, the first half of which was constructed in 1912, then expanded in 1934, by the then Postmaster General, James A. Farley, its namesake, was open 24 hours until 2009, when the economic downturn caused its windows to shutter at 10 PM. The building's facade, composed of a Corinthian colonnade, prefaced by an unbroken flight of steps that run the full length of the front half of the structure, is as iconic as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the Fifth Avenue branch of The New York Public Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The building is an imposing edifice, inside as well as out, with a lobby that is a throwback to an era when the United States Postal Service was the city's main artery of communication. The ceiling is grand at 40 feet high, with intricate wood paneling that tricks the eye into believing it is made of gold, and magnificent wrought iron hand rails and low hanging light fixtures create a dramatic Beaux Arts effect. The most astonishing aspect of this building, however, is the fact that most of it sits empty.
Construction is currently underway for the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan Station, which will be an extension of Penn Station, phase 1 of which is slated to be completed in 2016. Meanwhile, the vast empty offices and sorting rooms are being used as event spaces, with many innovative businesses and individuals taking advantage of the converted space to host fashion shows, parties, events and exhibitions. One particularly unique exhibition is currently on view on the 3rd floor, with access from the 31st Street side of the building. Byronesque.com/OFFLINE A Fashion Retrospective You Can Buy is running until Sunday, December 15th. Billed as a multimedia retrospective of fashion and its influence in contemporary culture, the exhibition presents rare and original vintage pieces from some of the most important designers of the past decades, including Pierre Cardin, John Galliano, Issey Miyake, Stephen Sprouse, Vivienne Westwood, Katherine Hamnett and many more. Climb the wide staircase up past windows overlooking the pubs and fast food joints of the neighborhood surrounding Penn Station and you come to a red lit corridor filled with a seemingly infinite selection of closed doors. Follow the low hum of music and a delicate whiff of lovely scented air to the end of the corridor and you will find an open door on the left leading to a huge space temporarily kitted out like a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of art, if the Met had drop ceilings and chipped tile floors.
Through the iron gates of a cavernous former vault, an array of grey mannequins seem to stand at attention, each wearing a unique example of a particular designer's aesthetic. There is a fern leaf patterned unitard from the eco-conscious designer Katherine Hamnett, circa 1991, a colorful knitted coat from Kansai Yamamoto, circa 1971-1975 and a magnificent Claude Montana coat from the late 1980's from the exclusive collection of the Parisian vintage connoisseur, Didier Ludot, who has put his entire Montana collection on show and for sale through the Byronesque OFFLINE event. A stack of vintage TV monitors broadcasts interviews with various luminaries from the world of fashion, among them one of the first fashion bloggers, Diane Pernet, who is the creator of the fashion blog A Shaded View On Fashion and the fashion editor of Ninja, a fashion, art and photography magazine that is printed in French and English. In another 'wing' of the exhibit stand two long racks of vintage garments from the likes of Norma Kamali, Moschino, McQueen as well as an enviable assortment of rare rock t-shirts, each one a testament to a life less ordinary, with fabric worn so thin it is practically silk. The telephone number of the collection's owner, Patrick Matamoros, of Chapel NYC, is rumored to be on the singer Rihanna's speed dial.
Byronesque's CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Gill Linton, says "Byronesque.com/OFFLINE is a celebration of the people who inspire us to stand against the banality and mediocrity of pop culture with a more meaningful alternative to fast fashion and outdated nostalgia, something more polarizing and provocative. Mods, punks, skinheads and new romantics each had a point of view and you were either with them or against them. They created a visual tension that decimated and inspired in equal measure, which rarely happens today. The vintage items in this exhibit have their own special history, and the scars that tell their stories have inspired and outlived landfills of imitations. This is why we believe that vintage is the future of fashion".
December 12 - 15, 2013
11 AM to 8 PM
James A. Farley Post Office
421 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10001