While walking on the lower east side in NY, I uncovered this little gem of a store: ANY OLD IRON. What first drew me in were the British Flag Coats (one of which I purchased), and the whole feeling of the store which has a Brit rock/punk feel to it. I was instantly mesmerized. I wanted almost every piece in the store and needed to know more. Here is an exclusive interview with Andrew Clancey, one of the owners and curators of the shop, ANY OLD IRON: a destination for the Brit rocker in all of us.
Cannon: Tell me about how you envisioned this store and how it all came together?
Andrew Clancey: I had a chance meeting with Christopher Melton who is now my American business partner. The week after our meeting, I was in New York. I moved here with my girlfriend with the intent of being a stylist. I met up with this guy again here in New York. I complained about the lack of decent menswear shops in New York, and Christopher said to me, “Why don't we open one?”
When we first opened, we were ninety percent exclusive to America. I started bringing over to New York from England what we don't have here. That's what I keep trying to do. I keep bringing over new British labels that no one has heard of alongside the ones we already have. I mix the sellers with the more avant garde. The direction is to bring in new designers. Every time you come in, there is something new and different. We only buy small amounts of each piece, so everything our customers buy is very unique.
C: What was your inspiration for the store?
AC: The inspiration with the name was from a family business, a scrap metal business called L. Clancey and Sons, started in 1872. I wanted to keep on the family business name. Any Old Iron means, “bring out your scrap metal; bring out your junk.” This was shouted off the back of the scrap metal trucks. There are people in England who still say this. It is also the name of a musical song by Stanley Holloway, about looking dapper in your suit:
Any old iron, any old iron, any, any, any, old iron?
You look neat – talk about a treat,
You look dapper from your napper to your feet.
Dressed in style, brand new tile,
And your father's old green tie on,
But I wouldn't give you tuppence for your old watch chain,
Old iron, old iron?
Now, we hide an iron into the images of our t-shirts.
C: Which celebrities have shopped at Any Old Iron?
AC: Blondie, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney’s son James, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, and Cyndi Lauper. David Bowie’s guitarist was in last week. I know there have been many but because I am not familiar with all the American celebrities, I don't always know who they are.
C: How do you find designers?
AC: I used to work with a lot of the graduate students when I was a stylist in England. I look at a lot of the graduates students' collections online, which is all published on Catwalking.com: St. Martin’s, Royal College of Art, Westminster, and Middlesex University, to name a few. Finding the hottest emerging designers is important. I also have designers sent to me from the PR agencies I used to work with in England. I also walk the streets of London and take notes of things I see and like. A lot of British designers are quite eager to get into America.
C: Tell us about the labels at Any Old Iron?
AC: Bolongaro Trevor is one of our best sellers. They are the designers who started All Saints. They do men’s and women’s. Red Mutha does very eclectic women’s suits and leather jackets. They have been going for ten years out of Brighton. Passarella Death Squad is a great cult T-shirt label for men and women. They use images from French and Italian cinema. London Undercover is a line of fashion-forward umbrellas with very unique imagery.
C: Tell us about when you were a stylist?
AC: I started out assisting my sister with styling, Julia Clancey, who is now a designer out of LA. We styled big bands in England, including The Stereophonics, and then my friend got a job with Ministry of Sound. So I started doing all their album covers. I then began doing Ibiza magazines, Spanish magazines, and lots of club work. Then went into editorial, and back again into music.
C: Were you nervous opening a store during the recession?
AC: I thought it was a good idea, because if you can make it work in the recession, it’s the worst it’s going to be, and it can only get better. I don’t believe there is ever a bad time to open, if you have something that people want. If we can get it going and keep it going when the times are tough, there shouldn’t be any future problems.
C: Do you think people are dressing as conservatively as they have in the past?
AC: In England, people are more open to dressing less conservative. Everyone looks different. I can see this happening in America. Guys are becoming more and more risk takers with their dressing. New York is becoming more experimental.
C: How do you think the British sensibility of fashion translates in America?
AC: Everyone’s got a preconceived idea of what British fashion is. They immediately think of Paul Smith or Ted Baker. No one even heard of All Saints when they came to America, and they were already a big seller in England for years. Americans think that the British dress with a stiff upper lip, and the British think that Americans dress in Ralph Lauren.
C: As a Brit; What are your thoughts on the McQueen collection since Sarah Burton took over at the helm?
AC: I think she has done a great job, being his left hand woman for such a long time has obviously created a designer in Lee's mold. Hopefully she can keep it up. Time will tell but the signs are looking good.
C: Are British designers still intrinsic with the British rock movement?
AC: They still are. All designers in here have music backing. Madonna and Red Mutha; Kings of Leon and Bolongaro Trevor. Unconditional is a line that has a lot of backing from musicians. The wide range of artists that have bought the collection include musicians Depeche Mode, Mr. Hudson, Mika, Skunk Anansie, Tinie Tempah, David Bowie, Kanye West, David Guetta, Royksopp, Kasabian, Will Young, and JLS. Women who have also bought the label include Gwen Stefani, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Kelis, Pixie Lott, Tori Amos, Cameron Diaz, Rihanna, and Madonna.
ANY OLD IRON
149 Orchard Street, New York