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As chain stores rise and legendary local designers close their doors, New York's edgier fashionistas have to look a little harder for those unique pieces that shout "fabulous" over the DJ's thumping beats. Enter House of La Rue — clubby, kitschy, and packed with bright, bling-y items that catch the eye and invite visitors to stay awhile and browse. Tucked in the back of 106 Thames Street in Brooklyn, the shop occupies a modest space that still manages to house everything from unisex French fry leggings to drag-level makeup supplies to Michael Jackson-themed jewelry.
The pocket-sized wonderland of retail is the first New York outlet for veteran shop owner Alan Cancelino and a natural evolution of his other fun, "street-to-stage" focused stores. House of La Rue was born in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Cancelino has a seasonal pop-up shop and a cult following with customers like filmmaker John Waters and RuPaul's Drag Race star Jinkx Monsoon, the latter of whom would often stop in for items both fun (Divine-themed coasters) and work-related — like neon-colored, cosmetic-grade glitter.
Encouraged by his customers to open a place in New York, Cancelino, a long-time Chelsea resident, went looking for both a space and a neighborhood that complemented his vision. The Village seemed too tame and Williamsburg too crowded, but Bushwick, with its up-and-coming nightlife and shopping scenes, seemed just right. Nearby likeminded outlets, such as ? the Store and House of Yes, are also trying to bring back the artist-centric downtown vibe of the 80s and 90s.
For House of La Rue, the location seems to be working. Although tucked away in the back of the Shops at the Loom, the store's developing a following from both pedestrian stop-ins and those already in the know. A composer himself, Cancelino's years in the theater have given him an eye for both dramatic stage wear — stocking a corner with sequined bras and hot pants — and the everyday, peppering the racks with trendy hoodies and hats.
The smaller space actually works well for him and the way he likes to do business, as Cancelino explained to us, because it allows him to buy in smaller quantities and keep his stock novel and ever-changing. The prices are also kept within reach, which means only items like hand-sculpted wigs are over the $100 mark.
The opening comes at an interesting time, he admits, with the shuttering of the longtime nightlife emporium Patricia Field that has long stocked edgier designers and took a more gender-fluid approach to merchandising. Cancelino is not sure he's exactly heir to that legacy, but is game to pick up where she left off. "Pat Field, those are some big shoes to fill," he joked, "but we do carry heels to size 17."