I’ve been in this house before. As a matter of fact, I am here quite often. Because it’s my sister’s apartment, or to be more precise, William’s, her roommate. It’s a grand old Williamsburg loft, with rackety wooden floors, walls of exposed brick, the world’s most threadbare carpet and space for days. “I love that he has store-bought magic tricks next to his magick pagan altar to the universe,” smiles Elizabeth admiringly when we discuss the overwhelming disaster in William’s bedroom. “He has a multitude of bizarre things covering many different peculiar realms. It’s the loft that you see in movies about New York, except every part of it is genuine.” Well, only a loving girlfriend would be so congratulatory, because this is not your typical mess. It’s explicit and weird and cluttered but if it looked any different, neither of them would belong here.
By New York standards, Elizabeth Ammerman is a fascinating girl, and no more an outcast than say, your upstairs neighbor who trudges to the deli in women’s underwear and a teddy bathrobe every morning. Who are we to judge? But to the people of Amarillo, Texas, where she grew up an only child, she was persona non grata. “The vibe [in Amarillo] is Christian, conservative, suburban”, she describes with slight contempt. “Church every Sunday, and youth group on Wednesdays type. People there didn’t really understand me and rejected me; the usual small town – weird kid dynamic. I focused on my studies and art so that I could come to New York as soon as I graduated from high school.” Her dreams of becoming a veterinarian vanished the minute she realized her squeamishness over blood and guts overrode the cute animal factor, but fashion, she knew, was a constant draw. She glued jewels on her cheekbones, applied dramatic streaks of black eyeliner “like Siouxsie Sioux” and dressed up like the girls in her fashion magazines. “I looked like an alien against the Abercrombie & Fitch army,” she laughs.
Today, in the safe and nonjudgmental city haven, Elizabeth is at the tail end of her Lolita/Punk/Schoolgirl phase. She’s prepared her looks meticulously, from the vintage children’s velvet dresses she’s obsessed with, to the frilly lace socks, the dramatic chokers and the green lipstick she just bought. And oddly, she reminds me of Drew Barrymore… “I’m slowly moving to 80s religious prom goth though,” she thinks looking down at her pistachio-colored prairie dress. “And I’m thinking of copying my partner Eric, and doing red liner for a vampire doll look…” Okay. Does this have anything to do with all the pentagrams? “I’m fascinated with the occult,” she explains, “and have been studying it for years. I’m into Wicca, Faeries, Qabalah, Thelema, Kundalini, Tarot, aliens and pretty much everything else. The pentagram has either a negative connotation with most people as satanic, or it’s seen as a symbol to make you seem “like… dark and stuff”. To me it represents the power of the earth, the power of the elements and the potential power within each individual. It represents the material plane, which we are all trying to conquer.”
The house is quiet, except for the occasional, invisible rustling on the floor. Somewhere, an elusive black and white rabbit is sabotaging my plans to capture the ultimate, adorable family portrait. “I adopted her a couple of years ago from a shelter,” whispers Elizabeth when Bun finally hops over to her feet. “She came from a hoarding situation originally, was rescued, then sent to a poultry/animal market until the shelter re-rescued her.” This looks like a scene from Alice in Wonderland – even better! – and any minute now we will be sucked out of the rabbit hole back into reality. Like how, tomorrow, Elizabeth will return to her normal job at Dover Street Market. And when she’s done with that, how she’ll go back to designing for Ammerman Schlösberg, the namesake fashion brand she started with said partner Eric. But wait! There is nothing ordinary about their clothes! “We are influenced by costume and cosplay, as well as pretty much every subculture. We celebrate ideas that have been rejected by society, and the individuals that reject society back. Costumes create meaning for characters, and I like to think that clothing creates meaning for situations and individuals in real life.”
I leave the loft with mixed feelings. Happy on the one hand because Elizabeth was a breath of fresh air. She’s different. Shy at first, but oh so profound, genuine and sweet once you peel those dark, goth layers. Sad on the other hand because I’ll miss this house. This might very well be the last time I hear that metal door shut. Because my sister is moving out today and there is no rabbit where she’s going…