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NEW YORK — “I like to shop, but I really love to hunt,” says novelist Erica Kennedy, standing over a table piled high with embroidered Mexican blouses, wooden Brazilian sarong clips and other beach accoutrements at her best friend Aisha Salmon’s West Village apartment. “If you go into Bergdorf’s and buy that shoe or that bag that’s in every magazine, what have you really accomplished? But if you go into H&M and find that thing that’s so cute for $10, you’re like ‘Yes!'”
It’s that very thrill of the chase — not to mention hunt for a bargain — that spurred Kennedy to team up with Salmon to create Diego Garcia, a sort of traveling trunk show stocked with all the essentials of a perfect vacation wardrobe. Salmon and Kennedy’s first sale takes place today and Friday at Chelsea Studios (151 West 26th Street). They have another one slated for July 3 at Salmon’s house in Bridgehampton and plan to continue selling their wares privately to friends and acquaintances.
The fledgling venture actually had an unconventional start three years ago when Kennedy found several tie-dyed dresses at a tiny Fort Greene shop for the pair to wear on their frequent trips to Salmon’s husband’s hotel — the Rockhouse in Negril, Jamaica. There, “people, like the head designer at DKNY and the personal shopper at Prada would constantly ask where they were from,” explains Kennedy. After the Fort Greene store closed, Kennedy and Salmon tracked down the manufacturer and placed an order for the Rockhouse’s boutique, where the dresses quickly sold out. The duo briefly considered selling them in New York, but were too busy with other projects to pursue the idea — Kennedy with her second novel and Salmon with her two young boys.
Last summer, inspiration struck: Kennedy came up with the idea of a sample sale — using a rented space, racks, tables, mirrors and e-mailed invites. The name, fittingly, comes from a perfectly worn-in vintage T-shirt that Kennedy found in Miami printed with the name Diego Garcia.
In addition to those original, much-loved dresses, which sell for a mere $35, they’ve amassed a collection of goods gleaned from across the globe. There are rich-hued, striped Indian dresses shot through with gold threads imported from Kathmandu, bright mesh beach bags from Mexico, gorgeously graphic kangas from Africa and even a wide-brimmed sun hat that falls on the right side of Hepburn-esque. Their Mexican tops and dresses are the sort you dream about happening upon in a Tulum market, if one could just get there. And most items are reasonably priced; the most expensive pieces are the patchworked denim skirts, which go for $100 to $125.
Meanwhile, Kennedy, a music journalist whose first novel “Bling” detailed the colorful underbelly of the hip-hop industry, jokes she is in hiding from her agent, who is anxiously awaiting the completed manuscript of her second book. “He is not into this at all,” she laughs. “But this is a summer thing. I have to do it now. I just try not to tell him too much about it.”