The gym in the back of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, on Mulberry Street, may be the last bit of the past among the ever-glitzier strip of blocks known as Nolita. Before it gets its inevitable makeover, however, the classic wood-lined basketball court had the distinction of hosting a clothing line launch on Monday—a collaboration between The Gap and the brands anointed by GQ as this year’s Best New Menswear Designers in America.
“They’re actually changing things at the end of this week, but we begged them to hold off,” GQ Creative Director Jim Moore said, as he looked around the giant anachronism of a space. “We wanted to have this ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ vibe.”
Appropriately, then, the scene looked like a grand upgrade on the old high school dance: Servers offered bites from mouth-watering Umami Burger and pale ale tallboys from Bronx Brewery, the boys wore bespoke letterman jackets, and the girls pumped enormous pom-poms in the air.
It’s nice to see a scaling back of the duds for dudes. We will gladly wear your simplified take on Americana, GQ.
“I was the class of 2010, I think,” designer Richard Chai said as he checked out the looks. “It’s always good to come back and see what the new kids are up to.”
Joe Jonas was drinking a beer by the analog scoreboard, casually acting as though he never played in an enormous world-conquering boy band. He’s a fan of Aviator Nation, one of the brands in the collaboration.
“Out in L.A., I would go there all the time, because they have a ping-pong room in back,” the Jonas Brother told us. “We had a party there one night, where we hung out with the girls who work there, and they’re all these beautiful surfer girls, and we had these beer mugs, so we got them signed by the girls from the store. We still have those mugs.”
Mr. Jonas seemed to have partying on his mind on this night as well. “I was saying to my brother”—Kevin Jonas, standing a few feet away—“I was saying, ‘How can we throw a party here?’”
As designers Kenneth Cole, Michael Bastian and Italo Zucchelli—the men’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection—milled around the room, Jim Nelson, GQ’s editor in chief, held court at the center of the room.
“I know this is going to be a success,” he told us. “It’s very American, and it also has a diversity of styles. When it lands in the stores tomorrow, I think it’s going to look incredibly natural. It’ll be in the doors, in the windows; you will hear about it!”
Mr. Nelson also had kind words for Drowners, the scruffy band about to take the stage. Sure, the crowd wasn’t the most attentive, but no matter. Don’t all the greats get their start gigging at sock hops?
“They remind me of The Libertines, that thrashing energy and dashing looks,” Mr. Nelson said.
And when Drowners took the stage, menswear be praised, they were all clad in jeans and tees.