Oh, Christ! Indie Designer Goes Mobile

Across the street from the Imitation of Christ show during now-thankfully-over Fashion Week, the label’s brand-new “store” was resting right in the middle of the Sixth Avenue sidewalk: a clear, Plexiglas phone-booth-style box with a red canopy over the top to protect customers from the heavy rain. Inside the phone booth, one lone ivory dress was hanging dolefully, on sale for $7,000.

“I want it to tour like a rock band,” said I.O.C.’s designer, Tara Subkoff, who has been swanning around like a bit of a rock star herself recently in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, etc. “I had an idea for a store that was completely minimalist, completely functional and completely nomadic, so that my shopkeeper could pick it up and run with it down the street if need be.”

Ms. Subkoff’s “shopkeeper” is her brother’s best friend, Jed Miner. He was standing inside the Plexiglas in a pale suit and tie, with angelic golden locks, delivering a steady stream of banter. The “Imitation Store” was slated to hit 30 New York City locations in one week, Mr. Miner said, with a new item each day, and is ultimately destined for Los Angeles, Paris, London and Tokyo. “And my bedroom is an additional location, for all you groupies out there,” he murmured.

But seriously, folks: “I will be doing my best to uphold the fashion-design sensibilities of Tara Subkoff,” Mr. Miner said. “Rich people really do want to show the rest of the world that they can spend $7,000 right next to the hot-dog stand.”

Several days later, Ms. Subkoff showed up at Bottino on 10th Avenue and 24th Street—following Daniel Subkoff, her brother and creative partner, by a few minutes—and ordered lunch (brunch was no longer available, much to her chagrin). She was wearing a one-sleeved silver-gray work shirt and suede shorts, accessorized by Roman-style sandals that came all the way up her lovely calves, and she was accompanied by a small entourage that included Mr. Miner. Her blond hair was slicked back in a bun at the nape of her neck in a Grace Kelly style. The designer said she had tried to avoid negative press by braiding her hair in cornrows for the show—”by having them put me down rather than the ideas,” she said. “By having them completely make fun of me and my hair style.”

After her salmon arrived, Ms. Subkoff began discussing I.O.C.’s runway show, which had begun with a small child reading the Pledge of Allegiance aloud, while photographs of women and children in Iraq were projected on the back wall and four American flags hung from above. Ms. Subkoff alleged that it wasn’t a runway show at all—despite the presence of male and female models parading up and down the catwalk in clothing of her design—but “a complicated social experiment.”

And what was the outcome of this experiment?

“You saw it, you came, you were there,” the designer said flatly. “I’d rather you explain it than I.”

Then she relented a bit. “I think this President we have now should be impeached,” Ms. Subkoff said. “He’s atrocious. The only area of influence I have is the fashion world. If I changed one person’s mind, then I think all the bad reviews would be worth it.”

Of her new retail venture, Ms. Subkoff said: “I’m not trying to start a movement—I’m just trying to have a completely original branding experience. I think my store is the most democratic store that ever existed! We have no security guards, and our salesman is lovely to everyone equally.” And then, with commendable exuberance: “I think we have the most American, patriotic store that ever existed on the planet!”

One of the store’s first stops had been amidst the throng on Grand and Wooster, right outside the Deitch Projects opening of Terry Richardson’s revolting Terry World. “Terry—who is a dear friend, who was such a good sport …. ” Ms. Subkoff said, then trailed off. That evening, the Imitation Store sold a $400, vintage-1930’s pair of glass eyeballs, which had been worn by the same man: one in the daytime and the other at night.