Scott Moy is the manager of Heller's Cafe, a high-end Capitol Hill clothing store specializing in vintage menswear. The bulk of the inventory is impossibly rare: antiquated Levi's found in an old mining shaft, or a 1930s buckskin jacket in perfect condition. Heller's rents what is too valuable to sell, to brands like Polo Ralph Lauren—which studies the designs or shamelessly reappropriates them. Heller's collaborates with Warehouse Co., whose vintage-inspired line is available at J. Crew. And Heller's wrangles collectible jeans to sell to Japan, where the demand is especially passionate. (Several Japanese trade magazines are specifically devoted to Western-style work wear, with photos of garments carefully splayed like museum artifacts, some denims so aged they're dissolving. The pages are always loaded with images of Steve McQueen, presumably because he's sexy and reckless, and he seems like kind of an asshole—a thrilling potpourri.)
Scott has been with Heller's for years, but long ago, he had a gig in a rag house. A rag house is a special warehouse used to process donation centers' unsold stock, which is grouped at random and compacted into bales, resulting in "a mad mess of clothing. You have no idea what you'll get." A silk cut velvet gown from the turn of the century, perhaps, alongside a urine-stained karate jacket. As a picker, Scott's job was to hover over a conveyor belt as streams of clothing floated past, quickly identifying and pulling the quality items that could be resold at vintage boutiques. Most garments are left behind to be shredded, cut into rags, and sold—largely to third-world countries. "I have no idea why they would buy them. It's very peculiar," he says. What remains in America is wildly purposeful, it turns out. Construction sites keep buckets of these rags handy, for laborers to wipe their hands and delightfully sweaty bodies. And at a boxing gym, Scott was bizarrely reunited: "I was lifting a 70-pound punching bag on my shoulder. The top had a cheap plastic zipper that popped open, and all these old clothes came spilling out."
Scott can also make garments, and his repertoire is brilliant and weird. His designs, called Slasher Series, feature men's dress shirts with a hem torn apart, as though clawed, or a sliced shoulder that leaves the sleeve dangling. For Teatro ZinZanni, he created a complicated spandex unitard for an aerialist with strips of fabric in different colors pieced together and spiraling down her body like a barbershop pole. During fittings, she posed in standing splits—it was the only way to ensure the many seams met in a tidy line at the crotch.
Scott is from Minneapolis, where Prince lives, and for a time, Prince would call Scott's house frequently and at impolite hours: 2:00 and sometimes 4:00 a.m. Prince was looking for Scott's roommate, a beautiful model who was not interested. ("Don't answer it!" she'd suggest, unhappily.) If anyone other than her picked up, Scott says, "There'd be nothing. No voice. And then he'd call again."
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