One March morning, Emma Rogue got into the black Nissan Rogue she shares with her brother and pulled out of a parking lot across the street from her vintage shop in Lower East Side, Rogue, and dropped her Waze in front of the Goodwill in South Hackensack, NJ
She had recently updated the voice on the app to Christina Aguilera. As she drove down Allen Street it came up: “Red light camera reported ahead – they’re trying to make fun of us.”
She arrived half an hour later. Wearing orange Nike/Supreme collaboration SB Air Force 2s and baggy jeans, she nodded to some store mates on her way in, put her hair in a ponytail and got to work sorting through chaotic bins of clothes. It was the start of a frugal day through northern New Jersey stocking up for her store, which will celebrate its first birthday next month.
In short, Rogue has become one of the most profound and unpredictable new retail adventures in New York. It’s where the famous TikTok liquidate their closets, where sensuous young clothing designers host runway and pop-up events, and where the studious mismatches find their signature pieces. Every weekend, Rogue hosts at least one event, building a community one baby t-shirt or rave pants at a time, resulting in a curious, vibrant, eclectic, and chaotic energy that hasn’t gone down since the mid-2010 height of VFiles. more can be seen in the retail sector in the inner city.
“Rogue is bigger than just vintage,” she said later that afternoon, serving chicken and cornbread at one of her favorite restaurants, Boston Market. “Yes, vintage is where we started. But my vision for that is that we empower the next generation of creatives. We are the springboard for who is next. Whoever we have in our shop has the valid check, you know?’
Refreshingly, there is no dominant style in Rogue’s group of fashion buffs. Its expanded community is less tied to specific aesthetics, eras, silhouettes, or ideologies. Many of the most adventurous sideboards boldly combine styles, fabrics, periods and shapes, less tied to subcultural identification and more comfortable with fluidity.
“People are starting to dress in ways that make them happy or express different parts of themselves in one outfit,” says Clara Perlmutter, aka @tinyjewishgirl, one of the most vibrantly quirky dressers on TikTok. Speaking between greeting fans at a cabinet sale she held on a chilling Sunday in Rogue in late February, she compared the current style moment to the hybrid nature of post-web art: “It’s almost like collage, and you’re the canvas.”
Ms. Rogue’s own style is accessiblely exaggerated, a fun-house take on Y2K. She often wears at least one oversized piece of clothing and often wears giant boots. (She has a specific dealer for that.) She dyes streaks of hair and leans toward theatrical eye makeup.
After an hour or so at the Goodwill bins, Mrs. Rogue, 26, went to a warehouse-sized thrift store not far away. In just half an hour, she donned a number of vibrant items: half-black half-leopard-print jeans; a patchwork denim maxi skirt, a black top with a gold logo from Ed Hardy’s intimates line, a t-shirt from Avril Lavigne’s defunct Abbey Dawn line; a likely flammable white mesh turtleneck sweater decorated with motivational phrases (“Choose Happy,” “Make Yourself Proud”); gracefully faded baggy jeans three or four steps past the recent revival of True Religion.
Bella McFadden, aka Internet Girl, who rose to fame as a Depop seller in late 2010 and now has her own brand, iGirl, met Ms. Rogue a few years ago while working at Depop and watched her break out on her own.
“She’s definitely taking advantage of the 2000s revival, very nostalgic,” said Ms. McFadden. “A lot of her pieces are things we would wear when we were kids. Right now we’re leaning more towards the 2010s and Emma is definitely playing that too.”
Born Emma Rodelius, Mrs. Rogue grew up in New Jersey, first in Jersey City and later in the sleepy town of Bedminster. Both her parents worked in real estate. In high school, she turned to science, hoping to become a plastic surgeon one day.
But by the time she arrived at New York University in 2014, she was ready to shake off her sheltered village experience. “I don’t think I realized how much outgoing I was until I went to NYU,” she said. She eventually ended up with a group of skateboarders who introduced her to Supreme and other streetwear – her gateway fashion education.
When she graduated in 2017, she hadn’t quite settled on her personal style yet. But in early 2018, she started selling items she saved on Depop. Later that year, she worked as the store manager of Depop’s retail location in NoLIta, where she watched her items sell in real time and began expanding her offerings beyond the Y2K items she personally liked.
“Even if I didn’t wear it, if I could imagine someone else wearing it and looking like a bomb walking down the street in New York City, I would understand,” she said.
In the summer of 2019, Danielle Greco, who was then the head of content for Depop, put Ms Rogue in front of the camera to host content for a Depop/VFiles collaborative runway event. “She had this formula that allowed her to teach other children,” Ms. Greco said. “She had the know-how and spoke at their level. She is approachable, passionate, friendly and she has a good style.”
That year, Rogue also became a regular on the streets of New York City, with a carefully curated mix of styles. It was at one such fair in Bushwick that Brian Procell, the macher of downtown vintage sellers, first met her.
“She created a mix of brands for people her age, as well as discerning New Yorkers like myself,” says Mr. Procell, one of Ms. Rogue’s main inspirations. (She routinely wears the muslin Air Force 1s he released with Nike in 2019.)
“She gets the Westwood, Rick Owens and also the Mandee meets Wet Seal, then the No Limit, Ecko Unltd. – all these things came together, “continued Mr. Procell. “But it’s her specific presentation that sets her apart, and the ability to bring it to the TikTok generation.”
Social media has been critical to Ms. Rogue’s rise from selling a few dozen items a week on Depop to the downtown agenda-setter. Early in the pandemic, she started filming TikTok videos where she would carefully pack people’s orders. There was something soothing about seeing the sometimes chaotic garments methodically and lovingly sent to new homes.
Although Ms. Rogue has hired sales staff and has help with social media, most of her operation remains a one-man show. While rummaging through the racks in New Jersey, she was pulled away to approve social media content to be posted, and received a call about a stylist making an unannounced visit to pick up items for a television show. She also posted photos of the items she bought on her Instagram story and polled her followers about their likes and dislikes.
“It’s like an agency that has an internal department for all these things,” Mr. Procell said, “but it’s just her.”
Her turnaround time from the decision to find a physical location to the store’s opening day was about two months. “It’s amazing how bold she is, the fact that she thought she could open a brick and mortar,” Ms. McFadden said. “I thought, ‘Why would you do that when everything is happening online?’ But after I saw her move, I thought, “Wow, brick and mortar is still very much alive.” Jonas, the musicians Steve Lacy and Holly Humberstone and others.
But Ms. Rogue is more focused on her inner circle, cultivating a creative group from the start. “Emma is honestly one of the best networkers I know,” said Ms. Perlmutter, “but she’s also generous about sharing the spotlight and helping bring everyone’s audience together.”
Part of her magic has been staying relentlessly on top of fast-moving microtrends – “What was Addison Rae wearing in a TikTok that went viral yesterday and everyone is commenting on?” — and to anticipate what the most forward-thinking dressers want to wear months in advance. She described a recent find, a relatively simple intoxicated “blessed” shirt, as “2012, 2014 high school student, but on a model I can already imagine it. I see it with the low-rise jeans. I’ll put that on the floor, and we’ll see if anyone gets it.”
She added: “It’s so corny, but it’s good.”
ms. Rogue has also made a habit of tracking down styles and brands from the not-so-distant past that have fallen out of the spotlight but are relevant to the moment.
After coming across a cache of dead stock from the mall brand It’s Happy Bunny, which combines cute illustrations with sharp sentences, she contacted Jim Benton, its creator. He sent her some items from his personal archive to sell her in a one-day pop-up.
“Honestly, she’s a force of nature,” Mr. Benton said. “You meet people who have a bright inner light and think, ‘You’re going to be great.’ She’s one of those people.”
Mr. Benton was in New York from Michigan for the event, which drew approximately 300 people. The store, he said, was “a cuteness magnet.” Buoyed by Gen Z’s interest, he is in the process of bringing the brand back later this year.
Such crowds have become de rigueur for Ms. Rogue. On weekends, her block — Stanton Street between Eldridge and Forsyth — can seem like an impromptu runway show. Lately she has been interwoven with New York Nico’s tapestry of colorful city figures. He took Post Malone to the store, where he bought piles of vintage T-shirts, donned a denim shirt with a patchwork leather of the Louis Vuitton logo and embellished with a belt – made by Ari Serrano, one of Rogue’s designer friends – and exclaimed : “This place is amazing!”
In the future, Ms. Rogue wants to bring more of her independent designer friends, and perhaps some clothes of her own design. And her plan extends beyond the retail location. She has nearly 575,000 followers on TikTok between her personal and store accounts, and she has become a street interviewer, talking to the people who come to her store about their outfits and style preferences.
She sees that as the beginning of a media platform. She also envisions a location to build a cafe where her crew can hang out all day and party at night—an all-in-one Rogue experience—and plans to host a Roguefest. keep up with clothes sellers, musical performances, panels and carnival games.
“I don’t want to operate on someone else’s terms,” she said. “Sometimes my mind just goes too fast and I get these crazy ideas that I know I can’t execute right now. But I want so badly.”