Last month, Refinery29 held their second annual self-proclaimed “Art & Fashion Funhouse” titled 29Rooms, which has now quickly become one of New York Fashion Week’s most coveted and talked about free general-access events.
The 29 Rooms (28, actually, since the number 29 was mysteriously absent and labeled as “To be continued…”) were all packed inside a 80,000 square-foot warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The installations, which were mostly interactive in nature, centered on themes such as fashion and beauty, art, design, identity, self-expression, self-acceptance, technology and even the impending presidential election.
Each room was sponsored either by an artist, a celebrity or a brand, including but not limited to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation (#ShoutoutKindness), Radiant Human (You-niverse, a space-inspired room where visitors could take pictures of their aura in a Kirlian camera) and Hillary Clinton for America (Vote Your Values, pretty self-explanatory).
The 29Rooms experience is definitely worth the hype, despite how obnoxiously Instagram-worthy it is. Although there were rooms that more interesting than others, the idea of creating a space that allows genuine interaction between visitors and brands is very powerful in and of itself.
Artists have found different ways to share their messages in creative ways — often incorporating technology. See you, by Daniel Rozin, tells visitors to take a “good look in the mirror” if they need a hero, friend or muse and encourages them to step into a room where sensors detect movement and create shapes — producing visuals that serve as the room’s art.
The Art Hoe Studio, by The Art Hoe Collective, on the other hand, took an approach that almost seemed retro in comparison: the room merely had a big table, chairs, thousands of differently-colored papers and as many crayons imaginable. It felt like going back to kindergarten, and you could see the delight in the visitors’ faces as they created crafts and made drawings that ranged from positive and self-accepting (“Just Open Up”, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”) to politically and socially relevant (“Black Lives Matter”, “Equality For All”, “YES HOMO”). It was by far my favorite room in the funhouse.
Since 29Rooms is an event that’s only available for a weekend each year. The line to enter was unbelievably long. I went on Saturday, and when I arrived at around 12 pm (the opening hour of the funhouse) and there were already people lining up around the block. I finally was able to get in at 4:30 pm after standing for four and a half hours in the unrelenting sun. So here’s my advice if you want to go next year: arrive as early as you can, or you won’t be able to get in at all.
Hopefully Refinery29 will find a more efficient way of managing this event next year. It would best if they issue tickets that can still be free and accessible for everyone, but will still restrict access and make the waiting time more tolerable. Because honestly, how can you post a selfie on Instagram if you look all sweaty?
29Rooms is a fun, colorful space where art, fashion and technology can coexist seamlessly, while also allowing NYFW, an event that has always been surrounded by an exclusivity aura, to be more approachable. Honestly, you can’t beat culture plus free admission.