“Sometimes. Always. Never.” Harlem Haberdashery’s Trend Specialist, Louis Johnson muttered his disappointment as he eyed my friend's blazer with its two top buttons closed (luckily his bottom was not), a closed breast-pocket on his chest, and one of his two back vents sewn together. As the man who maintains wardrobe in the newly opened boutique in Harlem, Mr. Johnson refused to leave my friend in pieces and he was put back together quite nicely, with a pocket square neatly folded in his pocket and only the middle button fastened.
Mr. Johnson is meticulous when perfecting style, pulling collars down and rolling up sleeves for the store's associates that work at the store located on the corner of 122nd Street and Lenox Avenue. Everything he knows, as he would say, came from Mr. Guy Wood, part-owner of parent company 5001 Flavors from which the Harlem Haberdashery is spun. A mix of a positive Bumpy Johnson and Ralph Lauren, Mr. Wood has been styling celebrities and athletes for the past 20 years and decided to open his own store to give back to the community.
As for Mr. Johnson’s finishing touches upon my increasingly fashionable friend, perfection was necessary as we prepared for the wedding ceremony between the Haberdashery and Sofistafunk, a line of skirts made by local designer Miss Arlinda McIntosh. Her concept is flash-forward fashion from the 40’s--classic, floral and simultaneously modern.
Miss Arlinda, articulate and cool, keeps a bright and loving energy while maintaining a special diet, staying away from anything unnecessary or harmful-- if it doesn’t have a purpose for her health, she won’t eat it. But what she does cook may stir up a design or two. Who says dishes can't be mannequins? “I only have white plates,” Miss Arlinda explains. “Every week, I have a color that I eat for that day. Monday everything is green—whatever green, whether it's green fruit, or vegetables, and always water. But also, I’ll look at whatever’s on the plate, and a lot of the times I’ll see my food and design something from what I’m looking at. I have a skirt where my inspiration is broccoli.” Just by glancing at the designs worn by the women in the room you could picture how plenty of pineapples, strawberries, and even cabbage once sprinkled color on plates and tastes on palates to be finally turned into a fashionable statement piece.
This boutique ceremony was the brainchild of Louis Johnson and Miss Arlinda. Mr. Wood explains. “They came together with a great concept to marry the two companies and let the world know that we’re in business together, and I thought it was a great, great idea,” said Mr. Wood. And a wedding it was, through and through. Men were donned in tons of linen, seersucker suits and saddle shoes as the women wore sheer gloves and peacock feathers. Couples and witnesses gathered around to hear the two stores take their vows. Woods' son, Guy Wood Jr., was also in attendance, and with two clothing lines under his belt already he's not off to a bad start to one day take over the family business.
The love between family was palpable at the ceremony, as the passion of business and fashion between father and son lends something different that other boutiques do not have. Guy Wood Sr. greets shoppers at the door with a handshake and “Welcome to the Harlem Haberdashery.” These personal touches give you a sense of home while pictures of Mr. Langston Hughes, Madame C.J. Walker and other Harlemite legends fill the blue walls to the brim. It is these details that help recall what Harlem truly is.
For more photos from the wedding, see below:
Photos: Diamond Bradley