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Flea Market Brings Brooklyn Style to Chelsea for Fashion's Night Out

By Mathew Katz | September 7, 2012 9:01am

CHELSEA — Milk crates stuffed with old-school vinyl records, T-shirts made out of vintage bed sheets and styles so loud they shout Brooklyn.

No, it isn't Williamsburg.

Artists & Fleas, Williamsburg's mecca for all things odd and stylish, screamed onto the scene for Fashion's Night Out with a flea at Chelsea Market Thursday night.

Between the chunky vintage bling and the canvas bags plastered with expletives, the scene was far from the couture-covered runways of Fashion Week. 

But the flea market's originator, Ronen Glimer, prefers it that way. After co-founding the flea market in 2003, he's looking to bring Brooklyn — as a style and a brand — into Manhattan.

"Brooklyn, it feels like a state of mind. It's synonymous with independent, creative artisans," he said. "They're enterprising, entrepreneurial. There's an independent creative sprit we want to bring across the river."

The Fashion's Night Out market was not the first time Artists & Fleas ventured across the East River. It's previously been at Chelsea Market over the holidays and in the spring.

But last night's festivities were the biggest show most of the 30 designers and collectors have taken a part of.

"Traditionally, I've been a Manhattan snob — but I learned my lesson," said GoLLy, a bespectacled man who cuts out superhero and cartoon designs from old bed sheets and sews them to T-shirts.

"The market in Williamsburg really helped me with this, and now that we're here, it's going to be big."

Because of his success at the market, GoLLy said he's entered the home furnishings world. A lamp plastered with the "Super Friends" — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al. — was one of his latest creations.

GoLLy's partner, Tony Sdinkmeta, said that the shirts were part of old-school Manhattan culture from the East Village and Meatpacking District's grimier past.

"That part of New York City life was pushed into the river," he said. "Now we're bringing this edge back to Manhattan."

Collector Tenisha Light-Caba of Brooklyn Bleu had a similar take. She hopes her vintage collection of jewelry and clothes from the 1950s and '60s will inspire what's trendy.

"I like bling. I like chunky," said Light-Caba, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. "I'm like that. Beyonce. J-Lo. Rihanna. I like that fearlessness."

She pointed toward her clothing collection and said much of it reflected a Brooklyn style.

"You have to take a lot of risks," she said, donning a vintage black leather coat. "This is funky. It's edgy. This is so Williamsburg."

Another vendor was hedging her bets on making the leap from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Lavai Maria, the design shop by Vania Scharbach, just opened a brick-and-mortar store in Williamsburg but came to the Chelsea Market flea to promote its brand in Manhattan.

"It's helping a lot. Anytime you get Manhattan to Williamsburg, it's a good thing," said Alex Brown, who was working the Lavai Maria display on Thursday.

"We're here with our Brooklyn friends. We're showing Manhattan that it's not scary over there."

Glimer, the fleas co-founder, is hoping for similar success.

Artists & Fleas will open a shop with the same vendors on the 10th Avenue side of Chelsea Market from Sept. 19 to Dec. 31. For Fashion's Night Out, he's hoping for exposure — including buyers from some of the bigger designers who may get inspired by one of the vendors there.

Being "Brooklyn," he noted, doesn't preclude being successful.

"All those words: 'bespoke' and 'artisinal' feel tacky," he said. "But at its heart, Brooklyn — it's about independent, creative people who are making it."

Whether it will work is yet to be determined, but self-described "experienced fashionista" Erica Ridel said she would likely buy some of the clothing she looked at.

"I like the stuff, I really do," she said. "But I don't know if I'd go all the way to Brooklyn to get it."