Call it a cliche, but the cool folks of Manhattan are still loyal as ever to the downtown streets.
Here, a look at eight downtown creative types influencing the fashion and cultural sphere of New York in this moment. The twentysomethings are united through Masami Hosono of East Village hair salon Vacancy Project, where most of them get their hair cut, as well as relationships with illustrator Silvia Prada and casting director Arielle Berman, who says they are indicative of where New York is right now.
“I think the industry right now is kind of all over the place. I don’t think the industry knows who they are,” Berman says. “Obviously street casting is really relevant right now, but it can also be overplayed. Now, the industry is so flattened.”
Berman, herself in her mid-20s, says her interest lies in personality and confidence.
“It’s kind of like a friend group,” she says of the eight below. “They all have their own interests — they’re not people whose main purpose in life is to become a New York model. They all have their own things going on and they’re all intellectually strong people. And then they’re all just really unique looking. I think they are just people who know themselves really well. They don’t all want to be Instagram stars. They have their own ambitions.”
The ambition is central to a New York attitude, and also what makes such models — none of whom directly work in fashion — stand out.
“I think it’s important for people to not have all their self-worth put into fashion. [And brands] are definitely responding to that,” Berman says. “On a fashion scale, I think our fashion [in New York] is really commercial. It’s definitely harder to be creative because you have to constantly hustle.”
And at the end of the day, much of these connections come geographically.
“It’s Lower Manhattan, where it’s much easier to run into someone. No one is like ‘Hey, want to meet me on, like, 43rd Street?’” says Berman, who nonetheless scours all of Manhattan for potential models.
Below, meet the new class:
“OK so a little about me:
“I’m currently in the middle of moving out of NYC after living here for eight years. It’s something I never really thought I would want to do, and have honestly felt like living here has defined who I am. But now that I think about it, it’s like, ‘What the hell does that even mean?’ Like, I don’t have to live here to make ‘good’ art or be successful. And it’s so liberating; it’s really the most excited I’ve been since I moved here.
“I would say my biggest inspirations are my stuffed animals, Floppy and White Dog.
“Ummm, and a fun fact? I got kicked off the cheerleading squad and suspended from high school when I was 16.”
Photographer and Creative
“I’m an artist, who expresses himself primarily through photography and writing. I faithfully enjoy daydreaming, matcha and hanging out with my friends as we talk about our future fantasies and where we want to be within the next few years.
“I know an idea is great when I read through my notes and I’m still stimulated by the idea just as I was months ago when I first thought of it.
“Fun Fact: I frequently spend hours on YouTube finding acoustic/piano covers of my favorite songs.”
“I’m in my senior year at the Cooper Union School of Art, so I never left my home. My main focuses are photography and painting.
“Fun fact is that one of my dreams is to become a professional Latin dancer.”
“I wake up every day and I spend, like, six hours, sometimes more, writing and reading. I have a few projects in the works, so I work on the one that my brain wants me to work on that day.”
Model and Filmmaker
“I just graduated from NYU in the spring. I majored in film, I want to be a film director. I think there needs to be more Asian-American voices in film, and I’d like to create movies that are empathetic to an American and Chinese audience. It’s a hard time to be an Asian female filmmaker, but it’s the right time.
“Right now, I am Baz Luhrmann’s research assistant, and doing my own projects on the side. I love Wong Kar Wai and The Jesus and Mary Chain — they make me very happy. A book I read recently that I loved was ‘Sylvia’ by Leonard Michaels. My friend told me he’s the only man who can write about a woman well.
“Fun fact about me is that I’m a big nerd! I like anime and history and I can spend hours learning about something weird I learned on the Internet.”
Nicole Van Straatum
“I started ‘Suriname Journal’ in 2014, on a search to connect deeper to my father’s roots in South America’s former Dutch colony, Suriname. Through visual documentation, this ongoing personal project exemplifies the tiny country made up of over 550,000 people as a case study of multiculturalism.
“Fun fact: I love pineapple juice ;)”
Performing artist and actor
“I’m still exploring.”
Writer and Creative
“I am insanely good at lip-syncing and karaoke and I have great trousers on always.”
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