Frocktalkers, I have just returned from New York City, and WOW, do I have a find for you!!! It’s the Albright Fashion Library, and before you start thinking of a musty space filled with old books and magazines, let me tell you: it’s pure fashion. Not a book to be found. This is a place that lends clothing, and not just any clothing – top-of-the-line, first-run designer fashion – and tons of it.
Opened in 1990 by stylist and collector Irene Albright, The Albright Fashion Library rents to designers and stylists who are working on film, TV, editorial/print and commercials. Their stock is INSANE. They have 7,000 square feet of space (cavernous by NYC standards), and racks are packed with every designer you’ve ever heard of, and some so esoteric you might not recognize.
I had the pleasure of a personal tour from the Library’s creative director, Patricia Black. She took me through racks and racks of stock, meticulously organized first by type, then by label, then by color. Have you ever seen a wall of Louboutins in LA, color coded, lined up like trusty little soldiers ready to march for you? I didn’t think so. We don’t have anything like this, and it is truly amazing.
The Library’s focus is on contemporary, high-end, designer daywear. They have the most beautiful blouses (racks and racks of them!), skirts, trousers, leather, outerwear, and a huge collection of dresses. It’s all beautiful stuff, in sizes ranging from 0 – 12 (American), shoes from 5 ½ – 10 (American).
The Library also keeps a great stock of ball gowns, evening wear and accessories for gala events. There are the gowns, of course (many/most of them retail upwards of $15,000), and there are cocktail rings, handbags, wraps, and delectable shoes to go with it all. Their stock is breathtaking.
Patricia tells me that everything in the Library has been purchased retail – this fact makes it easier to use the garments in advertising and print. Most designer labels have a list of celebrities they work with for free. If you’re not on the list, you can’t get a loaner dress for a premiere or other occasion. With the Albright Library, it doesn’t matter who is (or is not) on the list. Because the garment was purchased retail, anyone can wear it. It’s pretty brilliant.
There is fitting space available on the premises, which is very convenient, especially if you have need for very high-end, specialty, couture pieces. These garments don’t even need to leave the Library, and you can find something that is just perfect, all in one space. You don’t need to schlep five $15,000 gowns across town in the rain. What a relief!
I asked Patricia about their policy working with designers in Los Angeles or on location, and she told me that they are very flexible. Obviously a film is going to need the garments for a longer period of time than a photo shoot, and Patricia is savvy. She will work with clients to find a middle ground that suits everyone’s needs – low budget, high budget, sent via FedEx, whatever. This is New York. They can make it happen.
What’s more, the Albright Library recently opened a downstairs annex, called “Albright Downstairs” that features nearly 60 tall racks of designer women’s and men’s clothing, shoes and accessories at a lower price point. And by that, I still mean labels like Marni, Gucci, Chanel and Moschino. It’s gorgeous stuff, and also includes day and evening wear; it’s just less expensive to rent than the regular Library fare upstairs.
Mitchell Lorimer runs Albright Downstairs, and he is on a mission. Originally from Guildford, Surrey, UK, he is obsessed with building the men’s collection into a new paradigm for design and styling. In the four months since the Albright Downstairs has been in business, men’s clothing rentals have outpaced women’s three to one. He’s on to something, and he’s smart to bolster the collection!
The men’s collection is gorgeous – suits in sizes 38 – 46, tweeds, gabardines, plaids, prints, sequins, tuxedoes – you will never find a collection like this in Los Angeles, no matter where you look. It’s like racks and racks of $4,000 suits that you can rent for a fraction of the cost. Of course, you can’t cut them to alter them (like any rental house anywhere) but man, if you need a sharp-looking suit, you can find a loads of gorgeous options here.
One of Mitchell’s pet projects is making Tricker’s shoes available stateside. What are Tricker’s?! Well, they are a drool-inducingly beautiful line of shoes from the UK, and they are so solidly built that they last virtually forever, making them an ideal shoe for a rental situation, for one.
According to Mitchell, there is no place to buy Tricker’s shoes in the United States. They never go on sale, because they don’t need to go on sale – I was intrigued, so I asked some pertinent questions.
KB: How old were you when you got your first pair of Tricker’s?
ML: I think I was twelve years old? I didn’t even know what they were. I mean, they were my school shoes. They’ve always been somewhat expensive, but it’s due to the quality, how they’re made. I think I was quite a lucky boy to have them.
KB: Did you then graduate to wear your dad’s Tricker’s too?
ML: Yes. You know, it’s really funny, the graduation thing. You know the culture about the punk look and the ‘eighties and all that, Doc Martens. This is when you graduate from being a child, or a punk, to a proper boy. You didn’t have to actually change your style; you just bring it to another level. You can still be a punk, but like… you’ve got a job. That’s the way I see the “graduation” aspect of it, haha.
Mitchell went on to tell me all about how the Tricker’s brogue (perforated outer layer) was actually designed as insulation against rain. How the Tricker’s boots were part of the uniform of the Scottish Army regiments from WWI to WWII. How you can hike in them. How he wants to buy 200 pair for the Library. To say he is passionate about these shoes in to understate the truth. He lives for this, and is so knowledgeable about his work. It’s truly impressive.
I wish I could have fit the women’s collection at Albright Downstairs into my luggage, because I would have unrepentantly taken it home with me. It’s beautiful daywear, slightly more casual than the Library upstairs. Every piece seems thoughtfully chosen, and everything is in immaculate condition. As with the Library upstairs, Albright Downstairs can FedEx to wherever you might be. Brilliant.
In talking with Patricia, she told me that they will even pull for you, if you send them boards and reference photos. What a nice, friendly, knowledgeable group of people. Frocktalkers, I am seriously impressed. Next time I have a high-end ball or gala, or even a crowd of well-heeled socialites to costume, or if I even just want to rent some beautiful contemporary options at a fraction of the retail price, I know where to go! ALBRIGHT FASHION LIBRARY! Call for an appointment.
Albright Fashion Library
62 Cooper Square, 2nd Floor (at E. 7th St.)
New York, NY 10003 (NoHo)
Subway Stop: Astor Place (6)
32 Cooper Square, ground floor
New York, NY 10003