If walls could talk, there would be many stories to tell about 795 Madison Avenue. Today, it is home to our newly-opened flagship, but in the 1960s it was Paraphernalia, one of the world’s most exciting (and talked about) fashion stores.
British entrepreneur Paul Young was captivated by the retail explosion in sixties London, particularly the ever-vibrant Biba. Inspired to bring the same energy to New York he opened Paraphernalia in 1965, stocking it with up-and-coming designers like Betsey Johnson and altering the face of fashion retail forever.
Paraphernalia’s opening party was the stuff of fashion legend. Young enlisted Andy Warhol to throw the party, an achingly-cool event that saw the Velvet Underground entertain guests while Patti Boyd and Jean Shrimpton modelled Johnson’s designs and Angelica Houston and Lauren Hutton paced the catwalk.
The store became the place for New York’s hung-over partygoers to congregate by day, led by its most faithful patron – Edie Sedgwick. Customers could arrive in their work clothes, buy a new outfit, pop next door to Vidal Sassoon and head straight out for the night. Nothing cost more than $99 and the paper, plastic and vinyl dresses were designed to be worn all night and thrown away the next morning.
Perhaps a victim of its own rapid expansion, the Paraphernalia franchise died out in the 1970s when the store closed its doors for good. We may have replaced the sleek white walls with a more traditional and eclectic interior, but we like to think some of Paraphernalia’s game-changing spirit lives on.
Images courtesy of Life and New York Magazines. Opening party photographs: Nat Finkelstein.