A t-shirt designed by the artist Pablo Power (Photo: Courtesy of La Petite Mort)
The last time we checked in on the Lower East Side-based boutique La Petite Mort
, owners Kara Mullins and Osvaldo Jimenez were facing eviction
from their 37 Orchard Street location. In an attempt to save their shop, the pair launched a GoFundMe campaign
that proved successful: They were able to raise $15,000, way above their minimum goal of $7,200, and settle their case with their landlord in court. “We’re basically on a payment plan now,” Mullins explained. “As long as we pay our bills on time, we can stay, and hopefully for a long time.”
The newfound stability has allowed the couple to finally pursue a new project: HILOVENEWYORK, a cheeky play on those ubiquitous “I Love NY” t-shirts that litter the stalls on Canal Street. Mullins and Jimenez describe the “sub-brand” of La Petite Mort as an art concept that tries to reinvent the humdrum, depersonalized souvenir t-shirt by adding a personalized twist.
“I’m pretty sure you’ve gone on vacation, and you’ll go take a photo of Eiffel tour, go to a few restaurants, buy a souvenir, and then go home,” said Jimenez, a born-and-bred New Yorker. “But just imagine you went to Paris, met a local, you fell in love, and he took you all over the place and showed you around. And then, when you left, you’d take one of his t-shirts with you. Just imagine how much more valuable that shirt would be to you than any tacky souvenir you’d find in an airport gift shop.”
This concept of an “alternative souvenir” fueled Jimenez’ idea for a more personalized approach to mementos. “I would go to thrift stores in different parts of the city and I’d find this collection of shirts no one would pay attention to, but to me they were unique because they were shirts you’d only get if you lived or worked or went to school in the city.” He began collecting t-shirts from union meetings, concerts, local sports clubs, and more, all of which would then go on to form part of HILOVENEWYORK’s vintage collection. “These items of clothing are honest and true to the people here,” he said.
A jacket from the HILOVENEWYORK collection (Photo: Courtesy of La Petite Mort)
The collection is available at the shop and online. Jimenez also plans to feature limited-edition shirts created by different artists every two weeks. “They’re going to make their own interpretation of what a New York tourist t-shirt should be,” he said.
Another vintage t-shirt from the HILOVENEWYORK collection (Photo: Courtesy of La Petite Mort)
In addition to creating a collection of unique vintage souvenir shirts, Jimenez and Mullins are planning a variety of pop-up events at their store around the concept of “personalized New York.”
“We’ll be collaborating with people on films and art, and we’ll have music outside the store on certain nights,” Mullins explained. On June 21, in collaboration with Make Music NY, La Petite Mort will be hosting the bands Tiger Tooth and Sunshine Gun Club for a 3pm concert. “We’re collaborating with ‘Magikal Charm,’ a yearly independent film festival, and working with them on future film screening,” she added. Another current project is a solo show in the shop for the artist Pablo Power. In order to stay informed on upcoming events, Mullins recommended following them on Instagram (@HILOVENEWYORK and @LAPETITEMORTNYC).
(Photo: Courtesy of La Petite Mort)
The couple hopes that their store and their events will help change the perception many outsiders and newcomers may have of the city. “I want to rebrand the concept of what people think New York as a whole is,” Jimenez said. “Everyone talks about how New York is dead, but if we support each other, and if we’re each others life support, then how can it die?”