When I walked into Dana Foley’s store at 174 Ludlow Street in New York City, she was in mid-shoot with three of her sales girls. Her cohort of young, trendy downtown women aren’t just her in-shop reps—they’re the faces of her brand, Dana Foley NYC. Bo, one of the models, was instructed to “act drunk” while her friends Ivy and Mimi pulled her down the street—all three of them adorned in Dana Foley NYC original and vintage goods as Foley carried a single point-and-shoot with flash and snapped several photos. They looked fabulous.
Foley has been around the downtown scene for longer than many. Having sold her old company Foley & Corinna several years back—after losing interest in the fashion world—she found solace in returning to buying and selling luxury goods in a more intimate way. Her shop is comprised of both custom-made designs—all by Foley herself—and an immaculate collection of vintage goods. A true gem, the Manhattan store attracts both loyal devotees and girls on the hunt for unique trends.
Below, Foley speaks to COOLS about her shop, her return to the fashion industry, and how social media has changed style—for better and for worse.
How did Dana Foley start? Why is it unique in the New York fashion scene?
Dana Foley: “I had a business for many years that I sold. I was done with fashion for a while, but I kept running to midtown to buy ostrich feathers because I had some personal projects. I also had a storage unit full of vintage that I had collected for years that I decided to get rid of—which is unheard of. I boxed everything up, brought it to my house, and started doing parties where I’d sell things. It was really fun and kind of exciting again—that aspect of making people happy and seeing people trying stuff on they normally wouldn’t. I was doing that for a while when I figured I should just do a pop-up shop. I did that, and then I started making things again. And here I am. I truly believe business has to be organic and brick by brick. You gotta let your customers do business alongside you.”
You had another brand prior, Foley & Corinna, which was a huge success. How does Dana Foley NYC borrow from the designs or feel of that project?
DF: “It feels like my old brand in that it is still my company, just without a business partner. It’s different, since it’s both vintage and new designs, but it’s still very much based on the customer. The customer is the It girl. It’s not like you try and reach out to the It girls and celebrities—here, everyone that comes in fulfills some type of dream. That’s the big idea. You can come in here to play; you’re encouraged to play, and it’s more intimate than the old business. It’s more personal. I’ve created it so that it’ll never get big. I want a small business. I want to keep it local and creative.”
How is your store different from so many of the other shops popping up across downtown Manhattan?
DF: “Mine is different in that I also design—there are new designs, as compared to the other vintage stores that are popping up. We have a high/low price point and also, this store is a party store, whether I intended for that or not. You come here for something special. The more sparkly the better; the sexier the better. The identity is that it is sort of a glamorous tomboy store. It’s stayed on that track. You wouldn’t come here to get a T-shirt; I don’t have them. It’s tricky, you have to cater to your neighborhood girl.”
How have the girls (and boys) you’ve dressed changed over the years?
DF: “They haven’t changed. Everybody wants to be sexy. Maybe the fashion has changed, maybe the hemline has changed, but everybody is going to a wedding or going on a first date or is sad and wants something sparkly.”
How has social media changed the landscape of buying, selling, marketing, and collaboration? Would you consider it a pro or a con?
DF: “You have to do social media, which I love. It’s really fun, because you get to build your brand. But I also feel like it’s important to have a store. It’s hard to maintain, but it’s essential to create a [physical] world. It’s important to have both.
“I haven’t seen the cons of social media right now just because I find it really exciting. I think if I didn’t have a store, I wouldn’t know how to navigate a new brand online, because a big part of the online presence is the girl who shops in the store. Again, I think you need both. A lot of people don’t even go to stores now, but I think it’s really cool to have pictures of girls shopping in these stores. It almost gives you that way in if you can’t physically be there. It gives you a little edge.”
What are some of your favorite brands right now?
DF: “I don’t know a lot about new brands but I want to know more. I love how certain people photograph their brands, like Lucia Zolea and Shop the Break. Maimoun has a good aesthetic. I like when brands represent themselves well and you can see their own specific creative personal eye. I get really excited when people nail that.”
What are some things you always look for, when designing your custom-made Dana Foley pieces? What is the kind of lifestyle you want to sell?
DF: “Simple. Easy. Sexy. Classic. With a little bit of rock and roll.”
Who would be your dream girl to dress? Who do you design for?
DF: “She comes in everyday.”
What do you see for the future of Dana Foley NYC?
DF: “Keep it small and local. I went big and here I am. I’m where I want to be.”