“I’ll take my Fairway over the Prada store any day!” laughs Lily with a resolute wink. “I am not your typical Uptown Girl. I am the next generation!” Twenty-three-year old Lily Kwong lives on the third floor of a brownstone in the West 70′s in New York and studies Urban Studies and Sociology at Columbia University. “Columbia (reluctantly) relocated me up here and I totally fell in love with the area. Being at school in New York City is a magical thing. Columbia really grounds me. Getting to fashion out and nerd out at the same time is pretty rare – and I really savor it! I only have one more semester left so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.” Even more so because, at heart, Lily is a real California girl. “The slower pace and the proximity to Central Park make sense to me. Downtown can feel like a concrete canyon sometimes, and it’s good to remember there are still trees in the world.”
Lily’s father is Chinese and her mom Irish-German. She grew up in San Francisco and moved to New York after high school to pursue her dreams. She got an early start in fashion when her cousin and roommate at the time, designer Joseph Altuzarra launched his brand in 2007. “It really was a better education than going to any design university. I absorbed everything like a sponge. It was still a very small company – basically Jos, my aunt (who is still the CEO of the company), and close family friends. I was the fit model for the first collection, but also functioned as a kind of studio manager.” Now Lily alternates her academic life with escapades on the New York social scene, writing and hanging out with her boyfriend Simon.
So what better place to take a not-so-conventional-Uptown Girl shopping than Rare Vintage on 57th Street, the day after her birthday? Rare Vintage is more than just a store; it’s an experience! Every piece, from dress to shoe, is either hand-picked, or shipped from Europe, or brought in from an estate sale, all preciously impeccable and exceptional. The fifth floor store is air conditioned, with glass accessories cases, white walls and designer furniture. Needless to say it’s not the cheapest place but you walk out feeling like a million dollars. Self-described ‘California Cool Dresser’ Lily used to do nothing but shop vintage in San Francisco. “You can find the most outrageous things there! Because of that whole hippie culture in the Bay, there are pretty wild gems on any vintage rack. My girlfriends and I didn’t have any money to go shopping, so it forced us to be really creative. Most of the time we looked ridiculous, but there were definitely some golden moments.” And today, on this glorious Memorial Monday our West Coast girl would make any Billy Joel croon.