We all have them. That favorite ol' shoe, favorite beyond broken-in pair of jeans or favorite old piece of furniture that has by traditional Western standards hit their shelf lives. Meaning it's time to make the trip to the store to replace the worn and the ragged with the new and the pristine. However, what if you altered your vision in a way that measured these threadbare sundries as having greater value intrinsically than physically. Maybe that shoe, as worn as it may be, reminds you of the dance floors it once tore up. Maybe those jeans, as 'air conditioned' as they may have become, remind you of the happier days of your thighs. It could be that that old club chair has the commemorative glow of every time you've leapt off of it playing a superhero, cried in it over a love lost or lounged in it canoodling with a potential 'the one'. There is something to be gained by attaining something new but there is also something to be gained by maintaining the idea and experience of something old.
Many people think that it's just for the look but the look only supports the desire to know that there were grand, emotional and special times associated within each wrinkle formed, each thread bared, each impression made and each color faded. That's what many a company and their designers bank on. It's the idea that perpetuating something new as old with character will ignite a memory, a story within our psyche that creates a new longing as if we are recapturing something familiar , once lost or once yearned for. That is the whole idea of the vintage appeal in art, fashion and interior decorating and the beauty of things repurposed. I am a big fan of the wabi sabi aesthetic within Japanese culture which states that there is beauty within the impermanent, the imperfect and the incomplete. We see a bizarre juxtaposition of it reinterpreted into fashion and interior decorating all the time.
I was intrigued recently when I visited a small store front in East Harlem that seemed to be taking the wabi sabi aesthetic and strategically imposing it upon Western retail, interior and fashion ideals. Co-laborative Laboratory is a collective upstart by two Philly natives who share a passion for clothing and interiors and the way in which we experience them. They've temporarily taken up residence at 218 East 125th St until mid June to showcase their love for repurposing items of American history that may be in our psyche through past ownership or recognition and presenting them in new visually intriguing ways. The restitched outerwear and knitwear, the conjoined shabby chic furniture and the crude yet sophisticated melange of culture, beliefs and innuendos on everyday personal possessions are what adhere to the aesthetic of there being much desirous inner-value to our seemingly empty flea market finds and throwaways. However, far from being trash, the items they repurpose for lack of an update due to more contemporary offerings, have new life breathed into them in new and innovative ways without really stripping the wrought and seasoned value of the items. To walk through the space in Harlem was an experience that takes observation and creates dialogue as to the ideas and thoughts behind the mixing and functions of such unique creations. The experience of walking through is part of the idea the designers had in mind to fully capture the idea of the beauty in repurposing and remixing. However, if you plan to stop by then go soon. All of the items are one of a kind and several are for sale. Available to peruse and experience through mid June at 218 East 125th St.