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NEW YORK — When the legendary Gallagher’s Paper Collectibles shuttered its East Village doors in 2008 due to escalating rents, founder Michael Gallagher semiretired to the Catskills with his million-plus library of vintage fashion magazines, books and photography prints. He stored his unparalleled collection of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Flair and more arcane titles — some dating back to the 1860s — on a property he dubbed Fashion Farm in Greenville, N.Y.
Now Gallagher’s is back, reopening today in a sleek new space at 12 Mercer Street. The shop will offer a small sliver of Gallagher’s archives, with the rest available by special order. The space is located adjacent to the offices of VFiles, an online social networking site launching in April that is a partnership between V magazine and former V executive editor Julie Anne Quay.
“We are in the middle of building VFiles and we were looking for incredible content and Mike has the biggest collection anywhere of fashion magazines and photographs and paraphernalia,” said Quay. VFiles brokered a deal to incorporate Gallagher’s material onto the new digital site, as well as open the retail space, which revives a New York institution.
Gallagher’s first opened in the late Eighties and became known for drawing the cream of the fashion world to its basement bunker. Steven Meisel, Anna Sui, John Galliano and Donna Karan were regular customers. As his reputation grew, Gallagher curated entire fashion libraries of magazines and books for the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs. He recalled Catherine Deneuve sitting among his aisles, perusing old titles.
Along the way, Gallagher — a sociable former child actor and model — befriended many in the fashion world. The late New York Times fashion editor and Old Navy pitchwoman Carrie Donovan bequeathed much of her library to him, as did Costume Institute curator Richard Martin. He was close to Richard Avedon, Francesco Scavullo and Henri Cartier-Bresson, who gave him reign to dig through their basements and archives.
“I met everybody. It was a family. There were only, like, 200 people working in fashion back then,” recalled Gallagher, who buys continuously at flea markets, estate sales and online.
In the light, airy new shop on Mercer Street, there are neat stacks of the usual suspects like international editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar from various decades, as well as specialty titles such as Versace: The Magazine, Wet and Actuel. There are also old issues of Spy and a curious magazine called Teens’ and Boys’ Outfitters, which dates to 1968.
An 1865 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in newspaper format, can be had for about $100. “They’re actually not that rare. What’s rare is the Twenties and the Art Deco years,” explained Gallagher, adding that eBay and the Internet have driven up prices. “Now there’s vicious, vicious competition. Fashion really sells.”