EZ Does It
Ezra Wine wants to give SoHo the movie it deserves
I remember the first time I went to Ezra’s loft in SoHo in the mid ‘90s. It was a house party atmosphere on a school night with Ezra and his brother Jonah holding court with all of their friends. Copious amounts of Polo and North Face strewn about. I was wondering why Ezra and Jonah had the camcorder out filming everybody. Now I get it.
J.E.: You’re working on a movie.
E.W.: Yes, I’m proud to announce that I’m currently making and editing a movie about our shared experiences growing up in downtown New York City in the 1990’s. It really was a time and a place. Back in high school, I bought a Sony Camcorder at J & R Music World that I used to capture video at various parties, hip hop shows and art gallery openings. We used to interview art gallery owners, or strangers on the street and even got some random footage of classrooms at Beacon, my high school. The movie is a mix of my own archival footage following my group of native New Yorkers navigating through their teen years. Illustrating how a group of friends explore hip-hop, house parties, graffiti, fashion and drugs.
E.W.: It’s my love letter to downtown Manhattan showcasing the end of the SoHo art scene, and the birth of SoHo as the luxury retail fashion hub. It’s a story about change, progression, class and survival. We have interviews with art gallery owners documenting how downtown was evolving into a fashion area, as we have footage of the opening of SoHo boutiques and just showing how so many clothing stores started replacing old art galleries.
E.W.: We would go to a lot of hip hop shows and we captured footage of showing live performances from Fat Beats and Wetlands from 1996-98 with Company Flow, The Arsonists, Bushwick Bill and many more. I used to bring the camcorder to house parties and get footage of us downtown kids just being kids. Sometimes it was all love with a make-out party, other scenes show how beef can pop off, even among friends. Close friends of mine would occasionally pick up the camera and get footage of a party room I was not in, which I love, because it’s a whole new perspective and voice for the footage. I don’t want the final cut of this film to be only my story, the goal is to really tell ‘our collective story.’
E.W.: There are so many differences in the old footage compared to how our friends interact these days. In the ‘90s footage you see us kids talking, really engaging with each other. Distractions like a cell phone was a rarity. The language we used is interesting too. We spoke differently then, but even with the disrespectful words, it was all love, unless a kid took another’s last beer or last cigarette. One of the risks you see and hear in the documentary footage is that as much as we wanted to capture footage of people on the streets, at night, that made you a target for anyone that wanted to steal the camcorder itself.
E.W.: There’s hectic Grafitti bombing footage of us on the streets, but also low key moments of kids writing quietly in their black books. My goal is to really capture the era and show all of the different elements of music that we embraced, but also elements of downtown, with art galleries and the party scene.
E.W.: Drugs and alcohol use also plays a role in the story. You can see how the kids evolve from 9th graders experimenting with their first beer or joint, and laughing through it all. Compared to later scenes in the movie where the same kids are seniors in high school and have moved on to harder drugs and are struggling with their addiction. There’s lots of weed footage at the parties and in the street scenes, which is similar to today. The main difference is herb was still illegal back then and kids were getting locked up for having a nickel bag on them, so there was more risk overall with all of our activities. We knew kids that got arrested because a cop saw them take a toke of someone's blunt. There was more guilt by association back then. If one person smokes, the whole group is getting arrested. If one guy catches a tag, the whole squad is going to central booking, including girls who didn’t even write. Because of these stories there’s also footage of us kids running from the cops, because no one wanted to get caught.
E.W.: I’m still editing the film, so the final story is still being written. It’s been a challenge to be concise because when I watch the raw footage I want to include so many details, but I’m trying to turn some complex issues into a simple story that everyone can relate to. There are elements of music, art, fashion, drugs and youth culture in general. I’m trying to tell a long story about growing up, but I’m also not trying to sway the viewer. I don’t want to say ‘this was right’, and ‘that was wrong’. I just want to say this is some stuff that happened to me, to many of us and attempt to show people what was so interestingly authentic about coming of age in the ‘90s in downtown New York City.
E.W.: I feel privileged to have grown up downtown, I thank my parents often for taking that risk. I was born in 1980, my parents moved into SoHo that same year, heading north from Tribeca. SoHo 1980’s was a small community of artists and art galleries, but the streets were desolate, dark and quiet. Despite a huge influx of new families and kids, it was still the Etan Patz kidnapping era.
E.W.: But year by year the area developed, got safer, less art, more stores and that led to the fashionable ‘90s when downtown really flourished and became valuable. The scary loft staircase in Martin Scorsese’s ‘After Hours’ is how I picture Soho ‘80s, whereas Tom Hanks in Big with the arcade in his loft is how I picture SoHo in the ‘90s. The ‘90s brought on the pop art and fashion movement. An art gallery next to Leo Castello on West Broadway had closed, and Think Big (a pop art oversized furniture boutique) had taken over their space. The pop art movement became Keith Haring’s Pop Shop on Lafayette Street. There was progress, it was somewhat safer, but as kids we were still getting robbed at local parks in broad daylight for rollerblades, bus passes or even Starbursts candy on the 6 train.
J.E.: By any chance, will Polo be making an appearance in this film?
E.W.: Yes. My journey with Polo started the first time I held a kids Polo shirt. I was about 10 years old, it’s 1990, it was a red mesh cotton shirt, navy embroidered horse, 2 button collar and the most interesting neck label I’d seen up until that point. We got it at a yard sale, I wore it, but as I grew each summer, I tried to keep fitting into this shirt, which was too small. As Lo heads this is an age honored tradition of literally trying to pull off a ‘fit’.
E.W.: Around ‘93, I was 13, that’s when my older brother Jonah put me onto Lo, he was speaking about gear he had seen at Humanities High School. The Polo Bear sweaters, Ski 92 jackets, Polo Hi Tech fleeces, Polo Country Boots. I was intrigued. It took years for me to get any of those pieces, but it all started as a chase.
E.W.: I’m happy with the journey so far, I had to learn from some OG’s, so now I have some knowledge and stories to pass on those details to the next generation. In the ‘90s I loved the gear and I loved the community, I bought, sold, traded, stole, begged for, worked for, chased for, lost and found numerous Lo pieces in that era. Fast forward to 2003, an important year for me. I was working during the day at an Ad Agency and going to FIT at night. I bought and traded to get lots of Lo pieces, slowly building the archive. I was so moved by the Lo and the culture, that I started a fashion line using the Bear bed sheets and some vintage sports graphics. I started selling online, out of my house and at a few small boutiques in LES. At FIT I’d find any excuse to turn a project into something about Lo. Fashion History: I’m writing about Ralph, Marketing: I’m writing about the Tyson Beckford/Polo Sport effect, Sociology: I’m writing about Lo heads. The teachers loved it, they’d never heard of the culture and the kids were leaning in.
E.W.: That same year I went to Kanye West’s College Dropout show at Pace University. I remember Qudus was hosting, he was coming up to people in their seats with a microphone, he was asking me about the Polo Cycle Button Up I had on. After the show I met a guy named Success from Chicago, he was Kanye’s merchandise manager at the time, we were talking about Lo and custom kicks. He said Kanye might be looking for old Polo, so I told him ‘Perfect, I want to be Kanye’s stylist’. He said, ‘Well Kanye’s not looking for a stylist, but he is looking to get some Lo.’ So Success set up a few late night meetings with Kanye that summer and helped me close some deals. He also introduced me to Fab and Just Blaze for those rentals and sales we did. Thank you Success for connecting the dots. Success is now a dope A&R representing YBN Cordae.
J.E.: What else is on your mind?
E.W.: I’m working on putting together a new exhibition concept, I’m developing my first design collaboration with another brand and I’m releasing some new hats, new shorts and new shirts on my site over the summer. I’m also working with my wife on a design collaboration, creating a 1 of 1 sample replica of her and I, also known as a baby boy. A baby will finally wear my infant RL 2000 Bear sweater!
E.W.: However, if we're talking about current events in the world, then my heart is with the people of Buffalo in the aftermath of that horrific grocery store shooting, and my heart goes out to Texas and that horrible school shooting. So much sadness in the world, I’ve always watched the news on TV, to know what’s happening. These tragedies make Polo, sneakers, fashion, art and all these subcultures seem so frivolous. We continue to be a part of our cultures, but now we start to refocus on what’s important.