I’m About to Reveal a Secret Spot. Sorry Not Sorry.

I’m About to Reveal a Secret Spot. Sorry Not Sorry.

At James Veloria, a tiny vintage shop, you can revisit the clothes you yearned for before Y2K — if you can find it.

James Veloria on East Broadway is the place to reconsider the clothes of the 1990s.CreditStefania Curto for The New York Times

“Katherine is going to ruin a store tomorrow,” my friend said the night before we went together to James Veloria, a tiny vintage shop wedged deep on the upper floor of the Chinatown mall shaded by the Manhattan Bridge on East Broadway.

I’m not the first to write about it — since it opened last July, James Veloria has had two pop-ups in Opening Ceremony — but the shop’s current space is small enough that 10 bodies constitute a swarm, so I understood my friend’s concern. The store is the best place in New York to quietly survey and reconsider the hits and strays from the runways of the 1990s and early aughts.

“We don’t get much foot traffic up here,” the saleswoman said, a claim as understated as a pair of washed gray 1990s Helmut Lang chinos ($70) I spotted right away.

Here’s how you find the shop: Walk into the New York Mart, locate an elevator (see the supermarket? That’s too far, go back) and take it upstairs. Walk past about 10 glass storefronts, including a cool bookshop called 2 Bridges Music Arts that also sells cassette tapes, past the door labeled Philosophical Investigation Agency.

You’ll know you’re there when you see a flash of silver. The walls in James Veloria are covered in tinsel strands that rustle if, say, you are breathing heavily, overly excited at a 2003 Margiela dress ($300) or a fur-trimmed Prada Sport fanny pack ($250).

I’ve done my best to bury the lede and get a few readers bored on the trail, to honor the wishes of those who may see this as a betrayal of a cult secret.

But now, I must share: James Veloria is a truly special store, a joyfully assembled archive that has clothes you yearned for before Y2K, clothes for the new summer you, clothes you’ll actually hang up at the end of the night, clothes that summon memories of when you could see runway collections only in a magazine you spread open on your bedroom carpet, clothes you hoped the future you would clothe you in.

The owners and real-life partners Collin James Weber and Brandon Veloria Giordano are treasure hunters whose selections are nostalgic and entertaining. I’d watch an action movie in which they thirst for thrift, Indiana Joneses looking for a Gaultier grail. (I think I bought it from them: a 1994 Gaultier blazer with silk lapels that melt like Dali clocks into long strands you can tie.)

By the way, on Grailed, the men’s fashion resale site, a similar pair of those Helmut Lang chinos is twice the price. Another is $499. Mr. Weber and Mr. Giordano know what they have — almost every piece in the store notes the collection in which it debuted — but choose to keep their finds affordable. Thy are clearly in the business to share the love.

Like love for a 1990s Helmut Lang collared sweater that makes me feel like autumnal Meg Ryan ($140) — I bought it, though; sorry — or a 1999 Comme des Garçons skirt with orange and pink trompe l’oeil starfish ($140) or a mesh Miu Miu top from spring 2000 ($70) that truly might have been exhibited at the Met in 2012. If it wasn’t, I know pieces from the Prada spring 2010 collection were, and there was a set of short shorts with side ties from that show here for $70.

My friend held up a Cavalli ruffled skirt with tropical flowers, “just for the joy of it.” I touched a Comme des Garçons men’s shirt that looked as if it were dip-dyed in fruit punch ($120). If I closed my eyes, I could feel a breeze.

The fitting room is a red bulb on a stand behind a thick pink velvet curtain. It’s a bit like getting changed behind a tongue, so pretty soon my friend and I were just trying things on in the middle of the store. I wiggled into a Tom Ford-era Gucci tube top ($150). (A pink version is $396 on 1stdibs.) It falls open on the sides and looked cool over the white tank I was wearing. No one would look at it today and think, “Gucci.” What does it take for a time to be different?

I tried on a navy Comme des Garçons skirt suit from the late ’90s ($250). It was a little long. My friend held up the hem. Still a little too power aughts lawyerly. We decided it looked “too Miranda,” then shrieked because Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York.

The store hours are written on the door in neon marker, the “O” a smiley face, the “U” just a smile. “James Veloria” is spelled out behind the counter (a vintage bar) in handmade stuffed letters. You get the sense that the whole place could be dismantled and wiped clean in 10 minutes, as fleeting as a party, yet full of everyone you ever wanted to be.


Top Shelf

Our critic’s picks.

Image
Jean Paul Gaultier trench ($250)CreditPhotographs by Karsten Moran for The New York Times
  • A faintly iridescent Jean Paul Gaultier trench with button-up sleeves, pearly enough to wear itself as an evening piece.

  • A two-tone Martin Margiela dress, left, with raw edges and a tacked-up hem, a timeless piece from spring 2003.

  • Muted 1990s trousers, a Helmut Lang signature, can be yours for the price of contemporary spill-proof Dockers.


James Veloria, 75 East Broadway, No. 203A, 510-229-2862; jamesveloria.com

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