In 1961, at 17 years old, I moved into a floor thru pink brownstone on the corner of Bleeker and Jones Street in the West Village of New York City. It was heaven. There were cozy woodsy cafe houses on every street corner, The Figaro, The Fat Black Pussycat, The Gaslight Cafe. They were filled with college students listening to a brand new sound, folk singing.
The small Bleeker Street shops were stocked with goods from other folksy artists, either designing beatnick clothing, African ethnic jewelry or middle eastern patchwork home furnishings, including mirrored pillows and bongo drums. The Look was changing from sleek 50's post modern to a new Look called WHATEVER .....as long as it shakes and sparkles. Everything in these shops (now called "boutiques), looked and felt brand new with a new vibe, a vibe that sang of love, of freedom, and a vibe that reeked of sex.
The Village and it's cool inhabitants had also just discovered marajuana, that we all called POT.
Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, William de Kooning all hung out at the Cedar Street Tavern on University Place picking up all the wistful, young, long haired girls. Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce, performed at the Cafe Wha while picking up all the busty NYU literary scholars they could handle. Bob Dylan, still Bobby Zimmerman, sang at the Cafe Wha and I passed the hat for him and Fred Neil, our singer songwriter star ( who had launched Dylan).
I attended Parsons School of Design launching a brand, Fonssagrives -Tiel with my future partner, Mia Fonssagrives. My coffeehouse name was Peaches La Tour, a name given to me by Steve De Naut, my Cafe Wha folk singing sweetheart. Steve was the father of future actress Rosanna Arquette, then Lisa De Naut. To catch his eye I created see thru lace mini dresses, crochet tops and wrap skirts all styles that are sold again today in the Bleeker St shops.
In my pink brownstone I also sewed and sold fringed suede vests, skirts and handbags with my 6 inch fringe often beaded. The artists and folk singers I met in the cafés bought my clothes, especially my black or forrest green skin tight leather pants. Every which way you turned you felt you were in the center of the happening universe. The boring" Father Knows Best" fifties were a thing of the past.
Today in 2015 at 71, both my age numbers and myself have reversed. I have returned once again to live near Bleeker St but in the the East Village, not the West Village and after spending 45 years in the posh upper east side on E 63rd St making custom gowns for VIP's at Bergdorf Goodman, I once again am wandering the streets that so inspired me at 17. I prefer the East side as my beloved Cafe Figaro is now an ice cream chain.
I stay today in NYC with my dear Parsons classmate artist, Mary Alice Orito, who was just named President of NAWA, the oldest association of women artists. In 1961 Mary Alice worked at Margaret Moore on 8th st selling hippy chic jewelry, while a student, a block away from my brownstone my hippy-home-brick walled shop.
QUELLE COINCIDENCE...suddenly sixties and seventies fashion is back in Vogue and back downtown and so am I, and so is Mary Alice.
Our favorite hangout today is Agozar a Cuban cafe on 324 Bowery on the corner of Bleeker St in the East Village. Not only is it an outdoor people watching heaven, it also has Tapas to perfection and it has the city's best Piña Colata, topped sky high with toasted coconut. We can sit for two hours and see all of the cities fashion finest. In my youth the Bowery was a no-no, a no-go.
Fine Art had moved across town to the East Village and Bleeker St now houses one of the cities best contemporary galleries, Zurcher Gallery, at 33 Bleeker. They hold a mini art fair twice a year. The gallery is also also in Paris.
In the posh West Village under the Highline uptown artists and their expensive galleries have moved downtown from 57th st and escaped the high dollar rents which had made newly discovered artists unaffordable. Now galleries are moving across town to the East Village allowing even more unknown creative artists to display their work.
Salon Zurcher had a fabulous show highlighted by the Benischek Giant Levi Jacket, called "New Day Rising". It caught my eye.
The blue jean, is the only item of clothing worn nonstop from the sixties until today. Brad Benischek, a New Orleans artist, whose work will then be featured in Brooklyn at David Dixon's Cathouse FUNeral Gallery is a man after my heart combining fashion and art.
If you are to buy only one item today on Bleeker St, it has to be a sixties brown floppy hat. The place to go is City Hats on 63 Bleeker St. No other item so captures the feeling of the Bleeker St vibe then a floppy brown hat, be it summer or winter the hat said it all, we were easy breezy, we were cool.
Vicky Tiel began designing clothes 40 years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. See Vicky and her new collection on HSN and online. Her couture is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex and Fashion was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.
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