Here's a taste of what you'll find stepping into Café Forgot's brand new storefront in the Alphabet City neighborhood of New York City: handmade metallic cat-shaped hair clips made out of glitter and clay, hand-dyed tights by the stylist Emily Dawn Long, supersized hair scrunchies from Room Shop Vintage and jeans with transparent window panes on the back pockets by Martina Cox. Simply put, Café Forgot is one of the best places to find weird (in the best possible way) fashion.
Founded by Brooklyn natives Vita Haas and Lucy Weisner, Café Forgot — named after an Essie nail polish — first started in 2017 as a pop-up shop to give emerging brands a platform. Haas, who has a background in retail, and Weisner, who worked in the New York City art gallery scene, met each other in high school; the idea of having a brick-and-mortar shop is something Haas has personally always dreamed of.
"It started out really just with our closest friends that made things," says Weisner. "Then from there, it was our friends who had friends and they introduced us. Once we opened up the shop, we would meet customers at the shop who made really cool things."
Since launching, it has existed in multiple iterations, occupying different locations around the city for short periods of time. "It just developed into this really organic link because we had so many friends that were making things," explains Haas. "There were other ideas that we were tossing around and then it kind of just evolved into this."
Today, people reach out to sell their items at the pop-up space. "We do get emails that are more like form emails that don't seem to be very specific to Café Forgot, but when we hear from people that are like, 'I make stuff, and I love your stuff,' their stuff usually really works," Haas says. The duo also finds some of their favorite emerging brands by combing through the depths of social media. "You just get deep on Instagram and you find the most beautiful things," she explains.
The shop stocks a range of different products, including earrings made out of real sugar cubes and metal by Anna Pierce, chunky metal necklaces from Rebakah Bide and herbal blends by 69 Herbs. And while you may not have heard of most of the brands in the store, a few of them have gone on to gain more exposure since launching at Café Forgot. "We were the first to sell Piera Bochner's candles," says Weisner. "She's my oldest friend, and now you can find her candles in other places."
The thing that keeps everything at Café Forgot consistent is the aesthetic, which Haas describes as "sort of DIY, with a Baroque element." Many of the pieces are handmade, painted or dyed by hand or even knitted by hand. "A lot of the people that we've worked with, they're artists, and their garments are just one of the things they produce," explains Weisner. "It's kind of like engaging with people who make different things."
With the current state of brick-and-mortar retail, shopping at Café Forgot is the opposite experience of shopping at a typical store. For example, according to Haas, about 90% of the pieces in the shop are one-of-a-kind — that's a conscious decision due to the kind of designers they're working with. "I think fashion in general is a really hard industry to participate in, especially as a young person, because to produce large quantities of the same thing requires so much money," she explains.
Because so much of their inventory is one of one, the founders of Café Forgot also believe the brick and mortar model is vital. "It's super important to have customers to see pieces in person," Haas says. "It's so easy to go online and buy something and never have to step foot into a store. But I think with our pieces, they just require more attention."
Café Forgot is the rare kind of recurring pop-up that has become cult-worthy in New York. With nearly 13k followers on Instagram, they're just as popular online as they are in real life. Haas and Weisner regularly host opening parties to meet with both new and familiar faces. "We have some customers who will come every time," says Haas. "Then there's a lot of people who really like one designer that they follow on Instagram, so they found us through them. More and more, when we do these shops in these neighborhoods we sometimes get walk-ins and that's cool too."
As of December, the transient New York pop-up is having its longest residency to date: a whole year. Located at 627 E 6th Street, Café Forgot will be open, transforming from shop to office to event space and more. It's also working on its own merchandise — totes, underwear, as well as its very own fragrance, which will likely be available in January — and, yes, eventually, an online store. The team is also looking forward to hosting unconventional classes, such as a breathwork series hosted by Maha Rose healing center in Brooklyn. "A huge part of the project is about like having fun and trying things on and meeting people," says Haas.