The “Captain” Queen of Vintage

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There may be no better story suited for these pages than that of Nicole Katherine Alexander, aka The “Captain” Queen of Vintage. It was she that became my guardian goddess when I arrived back in Brooklyn after my year teaching and writing in Korea, feeling rather lost and in need of someone to shed some light onto my life and help me to distinguish the direction of my path. In essence, by example, it was Nicole that helped me get my feet under me and start finding my way as the creative hopeful I was in the big city. I had arrived back to NYC in the late summer of 2010 and came to work during the fall at the local Brooklyn boutique, A. Cheng, where Nicole was the manager at the time. My memory of those days is filtered through bright orange mornings, the sounds of gated store fronts clattering open and the smell of Gorilla Coffee. Nicole would always arrive to work in some vision of vintage: full skirts, dramatic capes layered over functional wool sweaters to protect against the growing cold and statement pieces of jewelry either collected or created by her. We spent our days tending to the shop and, in the moments of calm that occasionally came, talking about life, art, womanhood and our city at large. Nicole was perhaps one of my first examples of a life perfectly curated. What I witnessed in her was a cultivated balance of self-love and an outpouring of creative energy that is really, in many ways, the inspiration behind Naked City Style.
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Autumn and the weeks leading up to Halloween will always remind me most of Nicole, given the fact that it is when we first came together so many years back, but also because nobody brings the fire to a costume party like she. I once attended a Halloween party with Nicole where she was dressed in a fabulous outfit carrying a giant cardboard cut out of a phone. When people would ask her what she was dressed as, she would confidently reply, “Shhhhh….I’m on the phone.” Her humor, sense of style and craftiness make Halloween the ultimate playground. This must have been on our minds when I visited her Bedstuy apartment for this shoot, because our photographs took a turn in the direction of all things witchy and whimsical. I had asked Nicole how her vintage collection was coming along—perhaps one of her longest running passions for which she has an indestructible gift—and without missing a beat she asked, “Well, do you mean clothing, shoes or bags?” Anyone who has a collection thriving enough to necessitate breaking them down into succinct categories certainly has a lot to teach the rest of us. And so, without wasting time, she began to dive into said collection to pull out the choice pieces that are featured here. Nicole tried to suggest that she wasn’t the most comfortable being photographed. The camera immediately called her bluff. If there is one thing I’ve always known about Nicole, it is that her contagious (and seemingly unceasing) energy demands attention. 

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In fact, in the years after working at A. Cheng, Nicole has found her way to the stage. A place, in my opinion, she was born to inhabit. She and her team, Solarium, perform every third Saturday of the month at The Triple Crown Alehouse & Restaurant on the border of Chelsea and Midtown. But Nicole also occasionally performs solo, like during the recent Blood Moon Kaleidoscope. There she improvised monologues initiated by the audience, all in the name of sister witches, the moon and comedy. I asked her if styling is a big part of her performance, and, while she confirmed that she has done some prop building and costuming for her shows and for the shows of friends, it would seem as though her attention to dress is a part of her life that simply and happily permeates all that she does. Spending the day at her home was a performance in and of itself, watching her flit about piecing together enviable ensembles of vintage Versace, vintage Norma Kamali and a bounty of other treasures found on Etsy (she is a self-proclaimed “Etsy Sleuth”!) and across the United States.

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It is this contagious spirit, this laughter and love of life and inherent sense of style that make her such a prime example of supreme womanhood. But, moreover, it is her fierce femininity and her desire to help bring other women up that make her an idol. In addition to her incessant vintage collecting, her improv work and her days spent at the incredibly hip LES outpost of Love Adorned, Nicole also works as an organizer for the company The Artful Bachelorette which hosts parties at which women learn how to sketch live nude male models. Her business cards read (only naturally) Nicole “Captain” Alexander.

This beauty is a beacon of serious girl power vibes each and every day of her life. The world is lucky to have her.

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In closing, it felt only appropriate that I should ask Nicole to share some of her sage knowledge with us here, straight from the unicorn’s mouth:

What are your top 5 rules of wisdom that you would share with your 10-years-younger-self or a freshly landed creative about chasing dreams? 
1. Be your own best friend. This world is cruel and filled with people that will want to tear you down…be kind to your inner self & be forever encouraging, only you can stop you.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst thing that can happen is a no – but I have found that in most cases, when you are clear about want you want and your intentions…the universe makes a way for it to happen.
3. Do some fucking push ups or something man!!! (I’m) slowly getting flabbier…(I) really should have gotten that base layer muscle in my twenties…
4.  Travel more. While I love the work that I do…I get ULTRA committed to it. I love being successful in my work, but am still working on that perfect balance.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN. Why didn’t I do this????? Ladies & gentlemen, wear that shit everyday. Even though I have lived a life out of the sun more than others (I tend to burn), I still see the effects of sun damage (and old age).
When the little voice inside of you says “you’re not good enough” what do you do to quiet it?
This is a very good question…and relates back to “being your own best friend.” I’ve practiced this type of thinking since high school – and honestly it has been a saving grace in so many of life’s darkest hours. I am also sure to tell myself that everyone has to start somewhere – and if I do feel a lack of ability/confidence…I WILL FAKE THAT SHIT TIL I MAKE THAT SHIT. Then I always end up making it – truly, I do always have faith that I will. By now, I trust myself at 34, to get it done. I am very excited about what life is yet to bring…and the projects that I have yet to take on.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what are the most important items you’d take with you?

– Weed plant & weed pouch
– Beach boys ‘Friends’ album (with record player b/c they are married)
– A monkey best friend (will also accept a feathered tropical bird friend…or dolphin)
– SUNSCREEN – we talked about this
– Three HUGE shipwrecked crates of peanut m&ms
For more advice, to book parties with The Artful Bachelorette or to have the sleuth track down your most coveted vintage item, email Nicole at nka.brooklyn@gmail.com.
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