As this procession continued, another one came down Spring Street from the other direction: the Department of Sanitation Pipe and Drum Band, bagpipes blaring, its members decked in dark-green kilts and berets. The fashion people, the bagpipers, and a number of other Department employees—almost all men, almost all dressed in khakis—converged in the entrance to the shed’s courtyard, which was lined with a number of vintage sanitation-worker uniforms. The oldest one was from the sixties, light tan, and had a space-age logo on it. The newer ones are green and consist of T-shirts and canvas work pants. This display, according to a museum-style plaque, had been curated by Preston. “My team built those,” one Sanitation employee, a carpenter, said, pointing to the wooden frames the clothes were pinned to. “Those are my boots,” another added, pointing to a pair on display, which he’d taken off just a few minutes before.
“I’m seeing these girls in here,” a kilted musician sipping a Budweiser said, as a woman wearing a shirt made out of netting walked by, nipple piercings glinting underneath. “And I’m wondering, Are they going to be wearing the clothes and doing a show?” They were not. The pieces in Preston’s actual collection were arrayed on hangers along the wall: more pop-up shop than fashion show. A series of embellished, secondhand Sanitation T-shirts, such as the one Preston was wearing, were going for sixty to a hundred and twenty dollars each. Shoppers held up the items and compared them—the orange trash-collection uniform versus the green one—and tried out large purses made from reflective safety vests, which cost twelve hundred dollars. “I have thirty years’ worth of those clothes at home,” one sanitation worker said. “Wish I’d known I could bring them here and make money.” A woman wearing blue lipstick, after buying three shirts, asked someone near her, “Do you know who the guys in the kilts are? They’re kind of the best-dressed people here.”
Another woman, who introduced herself as “a celebrity stylist” and her companion—a star of the CW’s now cancelled “90210” reboot—as “my client,” expressed admiration for Preston’s collection. “He’s collaborated with Kanye, and you can see the inspiration,” she said. “Like, I noticed one of the T-shirts had a rip on the side, so there’s that edginess there.” It soon became evident that she was talking about the display of sanitation-worker uniforms and hadn’t seen the actual collection. Someone pointed them in the right direction, and she and her client went off to look at the racks.
Later in the night, a rumor circulated: Kim and Kanye were on their way over for a quick photo op. The fashion people gathered in anticipation near the entrance, taking selfies and sipping their last drinks. When it became clear that the couple was not going to show, people began throwing their disposable cups, responsibly, into the plastic-recycling bin. A sanitation employee, watching them, mentioned that the cups were actually made of a special plastic that was meant to be composted, not recycled. That batch of recycling, he said, was now contaminated, and would likely end up in the trash.