Brooklyn the Brand

Vientiane, Laos

When I talk to people about Seoul, I talk about how much it has changed since I first went there, in 2001. But I suppose Brooklyn — my home ever since that sojourn in Asia — has changed almost as much in that same time. Maybe I noticed it less, being there day to day, whereas with Seoul I didn’t go back until 2009, and then again in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

I first discovered Brooklyn in the late nineties, when my friend Daniel moved out to a place on Sackett Street in Carroll Gardens. His place served as a kind of stoner artists’ collective, with a rotating gallery of roommates and hangers on and a regular habit of ordering in from Zaytoons.

Brooklyn wasn’t much then — certainly not in the brand sense. No one had heard of Williamsburg. Smith Street was just beginning to turn into restaurant row. DUMBO was an eerie, photogenic post-industrial wasteland with a few intrepid artists staking out studios in the ruins. Taxi drivers didn’t much like or even know Brooklyn. There was no Brooklyn Bridge Park, no concerts at McCarren Park. There were no Brooklyn bands. Brooklyn wasn’t yet a thing.

Well, now it’s a thing. NYC has always been a brand, and I see it everywhere in the world, but Brooklyn? It’s a surprise to see the name plastered on clothing and accessories across Asia. Apparently Spike Lee’s ad agency noticed too.  They’ve made a film to showcase the Brooklyn brand that’s being co-opted by companies around the world that have no connection to the actual place. It’s fun to see my town, and to see a couple of people I recognize. It’s not exactly Bitter Sweet Seoul, but it’s a nice little look at some of the cool things about the place I called home for more than a decade.