Started as a news website back in 2001, Germany’s BEINGHUNTED. has outstripped its initial aspirations to become a studio, brand and all-round creative tour de force.
In a new series, founder Jörg Haas — who also owned Berlin institution Firmament for a decade — flags up some of his favorite stores, brands, and cool oddities, sharing his experiences from years gone by and thoughts on current affairs. First up is a trip to old New York and a stop off at legendary rave emporium Liquid Sky.
To grasp the atmosphere and emotions connected with early ’90s culture, you need to try and imagine a world where the Internet doesn’t exist. That means no online shops, re-sell platforms, chat services, discussion forums (or Bulletin Board Systems — BBS — as they used to be called), email, and — most importantly — social media. Mobile phones were still a fanciful notion, while smartphones with GPS-supported maps and route-planning could be interpreted as some bizarre creation from a future sci-fi movie.
A trip to New York had to be booked through a travel agency or the airline directly. Credit cards were not available (or at least not to students in their early 20s), which meant having to exchange cash or (an even more antiquated ideal in hindsight) bringing travelers cheques. A printed map (in the case of New York, one that would fill a whole table) was a necessity. Addresses of shops, clubs, and restaurants could be scribed from magazines only found at international newsstands. Maybe you took the time to mark these addresses in the table-sized maps, or photocopied segments to avoid having to unfold and refold it while on the subway (doing so could arouse suspicion that you were “non-local,” aka ripe for robbing). Irrespective of having the addresses on hand, an acute sense of orientation to take the right exit, or walk the right direction when coming up to street-level, was invaluable. Uber wasn’t an option and Taxis were often too expensive.
So, as a tourist, finding a store such as Liquid Sky on Lafayette Street would have been an unlikely stroke of luck. Unlike today, that part of Lower Manhattan wasn’t the clean, touristy, boutique-y spot you would randomly go and explore.
The legendary emporium appeared on my radar through a magazine feature that covered the New York rave scene (it might have been i-D or The Face, or one of the many free German Techno zines from the numerous record and clubwear shops in Munich). Between 1992 and 2003, I tried to come to New York at least once a year, and as long as the store was open, I would stop by. Not just to bring “cool stuff” home (again — no international online shops, no secondary online platforms) but to pick up fliers for club nights, free magazines, and to talk to staff to find out where else to go during my visit.
Liquid Sky was founded as a cosmetics brand by Claudia Rey and Carlos Soul Slinger in the mid 1980s in São Paolo. When the couple moved to New York in 1989, they opened a store by the same name on Broome Street. After a fire in their building in 1992, they found a new location for the store at 241 Lafayette Street (X-Girl would open across the street and Supreme a few blocks north, a few years later). The store and brand’s direction had changed and became somewhat of a center point for the city’s evolving underground techno/rave scene. Astro Girl — the store and brand’s logo — symbolized the amalgamation of underground music, art, and design that thrived during the period.
As with many similar hubs in pre-Internet times, Liquid Sky brought together a group of innovative characters, either as staff, contributors, or just friends and family. Rita Ackermann created a mural and Tom Sachs had his (now iconic) shopping cart chairs on display and in-use. Calvin Klein showed up, as did many other soon-to-become influential designers, fashion editors, and creative directors.
Almost no story of early ’90s “cool kids of New York” would be complete without mentioning Chloë Sevigny, who joined the Liquid Sky operation early on, in a position that could best be described as “flexible,” helping with sales, sewing, or simply acting as a muse. Even though Sevigny had become somewhat of an “It Girl” years before, her appearance in Larry Clark’s film Kids boosted her visibility considerably, both locally and internationally. This also led to a considerable increase in foot traffic at the store.
By this point, the brand had also expanded and was distributed internationally through like-minded record or clubwear stores. The store’s basement was home to Temple Records, a focal point for the still relatively new genre of Techno music in the US at the time. It was run by DJ DB (a British expat who single handedly introduced drum 'n' bass to North America) and boasted close ties with other big names in New York’s still fledgling electronic music scene — think the likes of DJ Dara, club nights NASA and Save the Robots, and record labels Sm:)e Communications, to name but a few.
Liquid Sky “owned” and covered a full genre: retail, music, events. All of the above components — people, music, parties — added up to a lifestyle and attitude that was neatly represented by a small graphic mascot. If you were into the music, wearing an Astro Girl on a T-shirt or cap stood for all that: New York; drum 'n' bass; smart drinks. Think how Shawn Stussy’s signature on a T-shirt or how a pair of baby blue Sal Barbier 23s stood for their own respective scenes during the same years.
In 1999 Japanese functional fashion pioneer Final Home – also part of Liquid Sky’s brand roster before – took over the space for its first US flagship outpost. Even though I don’t have any background information about why Liquid Sky terminated its own retail business, I have a suspicion it might be linked to the commercialization of techno from the mid-1990s onwards. I remember the last rave I went to was a 20,000 capacity event at the old Munich airport — there is actually footage of me on YouTube where I’m telling the super-hyped DJ-turned-TV-presenter that I didn’t like it, that it was “too big, too warm, too much." By 1994, house/deep house became more popular which, style-wise, was a different aesthetic altogether.
Some years later, I discovered Japanese brands Goodenough, Hysteric Glamour, and A Bathing Ape (via Mo’Wax’ James Lavelle) that, to me, had a lot more to offer. While researching this article, I discovered Astro Girl still lives on, with Carlos Soul Slinger producing T-shirts and accessories under the name.