As it turns out, lifelong hoarding can have its up-sides. When Brooklyn native, Mike Gallagher, began obsessively sifting through flea markets for fashion magazines and photography as a child, he never imagined a career developing from it. “I always loved photography, and felt that fashion magazines had the best images,” explains the charismatic old-school New Yorker, who grew up amid a family of photographers. “The images were sexy, glamorous and all about fantasy. In Vogue and Harper's Bazaar were photographs by Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Helmut Newton – the greats. I couldn't afford to buy the original photographs, but I could afford to spend one dollar on an old magazine... So, that’s what I did.”
Amassing hundreds of thousands of magazines, periodicals, journals, books and photographs over the years, Gallagher began storing his extensive collection in a basement on East 12th Street, Manhattan in the late 80s. That basement soon became the renowned ‘Gallagher’s’, a labyrinthine bookstore specialising in 20th century fashion photography. Within a year of opening, Gallagher’s Fashion Archive business took off, following the patronage of high-profile clients Steven Meisel and Anna Sui. “Word of the stash of fashion treasures in East Village trickled down to designers, stylists, hair and make-up artists and creative directors,” remembers Gallagher. “When I originally got the space in 1989, there were prostitutes and dealers everywhere. Three years later, designers like Donna Karan, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano were sidestepping local crack-heads to find inspiration from old fashion images for their collections. It was surreal.”
Fast-forward to 2007, and after more than 15 years supplying inspiration to fashion luminaries including Marc Jacobs and Peter Lindberg through to students and everyday fashion fans, Gallagher closed his iconic store. “NYU edged me out – they took over, and killed, the East Village,” says Gallagher. “The rape of the landscape by corporations like NYU has destroyed everything that made New York beautiful culturally. It's become an accumulation of badly designed dormitories and Starbucks – everything vaguely interesting has moved to Brooklyn. That's why I feel it’s so important for me to start up my independent bookstore again.” Schedule to open in 2012, Gallagher’s new downtown Manhattan digs will include a performance space, gallery and café alongside an estimated archive of a million publications, two hundred thousand books and countless photographs. “I got lucky, I see that,” considers Gallagher of his career, “Even today, when people ask me what I do for a living I say, ‘I don’t know… I just do what I love.’”
For regular updates on Gallagher's Fashion Magazine and Photography Archive click here.
Text by Indigo Clarke