Café Forgot, a self-described “high-school fashion club turned avant-garde pop-up shop” feels like a childhood memory of a place that maybe existed—or maybe you just imagined it. When I visited New York City from Texas for the first time at age 13, the Lower Manhattan boutiques I vaguely remembered—who knows where they were or what their names were—felt like endlessly chic clubhouses with weird and beautiful clothing that I wanted to grow up to wear.
That is exactly the atmosphere that Vita Haas and Lucy Weisner of Café Forgot want to create. “That kind of awe-inspiring feeling that I felt when I was younger and got a lot from fashion,” Lucy says. “It’s that feeling we were wanting to create in Café Forgot, especially working with so many designers that make one-of-a-kind pieces.” Designers who you won’t find stocked anywhere else—even online—are part of what makes Café Forgot so special. While Instagram allows them to document visits from customers and friends and show new pieces in stock, they don’t sell anything online.
While that may seem counterintuitive to any stat about e-commerce, Vita and Lucy actually may be ahead of the curve on this. Because e-commerce has made most anything accessible to anyone, it’s rare to feel like you’re being let in on a secret. Café Forgot is exactly that, and years later, there will be grown-up young people remembering that one storefront on the Lower East Side—or was it somewhere in Brooklyn—with Martina Cox’s window-pane jeans or Annabel P. Lee’s Valentine-hued leotard or Zepherina’s pink slip dress. They’ll try to recall that hazy, magical-world feeling.
I read that you guys have been friends since high school and had the concept for Café Forgot baking for a while. When did you first see it as a possibility to start doing something like this together, and what made you decide to start it when you did?
Lucy: “I guess we always spoke about it in high school, plus we did fashion club together. I don’t know, that was maybe the beginning, but I think that we had always spoken about working collaboratively on a fashion project. When we graduated from college, we were talking more specifically about what that would look like, and we came up with the idea for Café Forgot together because we were just surrounded by so many friends that were making things. It kind of morphed into this store project.”
What were you both doing before you were working together on this?
Vita: “Like Lucy said, we went to high school together, then we went to college together in Portland, Oregon. We both studied art history at Reed, we both come from art backgrounds. I started working in shops immediately after I graduated. I wanted to be a stylist, which I now am because we style all the looks for Café Forgot. But I was doing a lot of assisting, and for me, that kind of large-scale work, that wasn’t as rewarding really, and I didn’t have much creative agency.
“I always really loved working in stores and worked at my friend’s shop Mirth Vintage, where we actually ended up having a little temporary shop. After a few years of working for other people, we were finally ready to start doing our own thing together.”
And that’s a cool thing to be able to have this idea with a friend for so long and just kind of see it come to life.
Lucy: “I worked in galleries, but I feel like what I really like about being in more of a clothing context is that your interaction with the object is so much more personal just because you’re literally trying it on. That was one of the main things that I found really exciting about starting this project.”
That’s what makes Café Forgot stand out. It’s a great compliment to what you guys are doing if people feel like they can hang out there, and feel good and creative.
Vita: “In terms of fashion versus the art world—I hate drawing such a firm distinction between the two because I think that maybe our project overlaps in a lot of ways with both things. But I also feel like when you walk into galleries, it’s so quiet and it can be, often times, not very fun, or it’s kind of a cold space. I think that something about the interactive feature of trying on clothes makes it feel a lot more community oriented.”
What did you feel like was missing from New York retail—and also the fashion world in general—and what do you feel like Café Forgot brings to that space?
Lucy: “So much of the fashion industry has really shifted because of the accessibility that e-commerce provides, and I think that so many things in New York, in particular, are just so accessible as a result of that. We both grew up here, and I feel like there were all these really cool stores where you saw something that instinctually you felt was so amazing and unique, and not like anything you had ever seen before in your life.
“That kind of awe-inspiring feeling that I felt when I was younger and got a lot from fashion, it’s that feeling we were wanting to create in Café Forgot, especially working with so many designers that make one of a kind pieces. So like, literally we are the only place where they could find it.
“I think that in New York there used to be a lot more diversity in terms of shops and clothing, and now I don’t feel that as much. I think that’s because of the internet or e-commerce, and then also it’s really expensive.”
Vita: “We don’t operate by seasons or anything, and designers don’t have to make a whole collection and have us buy a bunch of things. We can just sort of sometimes take a one-of-a-kind piece from a designer and that allows us to sell really special pieces. That makes us different from other stores.”
What’s important to you in how you curate designers? What do you look for in terms of people you’d like to work with?
Vita: “It is so intuitive and, at the beginning, it’s just people that I know and love so much, that of course, I would love anything that they made because I think they are amazing artists. So you just sort of trust in that, and then I think as the project has progressed, I’ll be on the internet and Instagram, and find all this like crazy stuff that I’m obsessed with.
“We’re working with a new designer for our Valentine’s Day shop at Tuza, the name is All Is a Gentle Spring, and I just saw this—I don’t even know how I found it—but it’s this corset that has this toile pattern on it. I was just so obsessed immediately.
“I messaged her, and then she was like, ‘Oh my god, I am so obsessed with Café Forgot.’ It was really amazing to hear that, and I think often, things just click you know?”
Where does the name come from?
Lucy: “It’s actually the name of a nail polish—an Essie nail polish. When we were searching, trying to figure out what to call the shop, we had so many different ideas. We decided to look through nail polish names cause they always have fun, weird names.
“I always remembered that from growing up, there’s like Bahama Mama or like Hot Date. We wanted something playful, and then Café Forgot came up and we thought that was really funny and interesting and weird. It evoked something for us. It really captures the romantic quality of the shop and then Café means community. I think it ended up being a very good choice.”
Do you guys ever see yourselves having a long-term, more permanent location, or do you feel like pop-ups fit the vibe best right now?
Lucy: “I think we’ve always wanted to try for longterm—that’s always something we’ve had in mind. But what that would look like in terms of work schedule, it would maybe be a little bit different. Right now, we are continuing to do temporary shops because that has been a huge part of giving the project form and making it what it is today.
“But I’m excited to see how it develops and becomes a permanent shop, because a lot of this has a life of its own, we can’t plan it all out. We do really want it to become a permanent shop, and we also don’t want to lose the abstract almost magical quality that the shop has in its temporary form.”
I think it’s really cool that you guys obviously have a big social media presence, but also the shop is offline. I’m curious to know why that was initially and also why that’s an important part of the Café Forgot vibe.
Vita: “It’s a really interesting balance, cause, on one hand, we’re so online—we keep the project alive through our Instagram shoots when we’re not having a shop—and then when we do have the shop, we Instagram story everything and then have a little fun with real-time photo shoots with our visitors. But yeah, we don’t sell clothes online and that’s really important because we really want people to come to the shop.”
Lucy: “I think it’s just about striking a balance. We’re out making real connections with all these people and also interacting with them on the internet, which is kind of a nice combination I think.
“Instagram gets us there you know? But we always meet the people, it helps us get introduced to people, and it also helps us stay in touch with people, but we’re always able to really have meaningful encounters at the shop.”
What are some future plans that you can speak to for Café Forgot?
Lucy: “Well, one thing is, after this short pop-up, we’re gonna have a longer one. We’ll be announcing that pretty soon. Our Tribeca shop was two months, and we had a comedy show there and a temporary wine bar—we want to do more of that kind of thing. We want to do a feminist punk show.”
Vita: “I guess another sort of distant project that we’re working on too is making a fragrance. The date and the timeline for that aren’t really planned that much, but we’re in the process of developing it. We also want to have our own clothing line one day.”
What do you want people to feel when they walk in a Café Forgot space?
Lucy: “I feel like I want people to feel excited and really happy to be there, and just wanting to come and hang out.”
Vita: “I definitely want people to feel excited, that was the first word I thought of too. I think there’s this idea like that anything can happen, I love that. You don’t know who you’ll meet, you don’t know what you’ll find, you just don’t know what connection you’ll make with someone. We’ve introduced a lot of designers to each other at these shops, and we’ve made really meaningful friendships and collaborations. That’s something we really like to do as well. I like the sense of wonder.”