What dosaltwater fish tanks, Russian voting booths and golden pitbulls all have in common?
Good Luck Dry Cleaners ("GLDC") have a knack for magically transforming even the most "breathtakingly shitty space" into a celebration of art and culture. Although they never pay sticker price, due to their hustle, blood sweat and genuine artistic charm, they are attracting collaboration and support from some of the world's most prestigious artists, entertainers, fashion houses and luxury brands.
This lifestyle brand's origin story began inside an abandoned dry cleaning business in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, called "Good Luck," which they converted into a creative's paradise, featuring a speakeasy art gallery. Since then, they've partnered with brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, Lululemon, Getty Images and City Winery to create unforgettable events and spaces, ranging from New York Fashion Week parties to brand activations and charity events. Since day one, their mysterious popups continue to attract collaboration from top musical talent like MICK, Biz Markie, Swizz Beatz and Sasha Grey. One of their events even reunited the music collaborative, Handsome Boy Modeling School, a beloved hip-hop supergroup, consisting of iconic producers Dan the Automator and Prince Paul.
My friend and I recently stumbled on a tricked-out laundromat on Allen Street in Manhattan's East Village. The walls were painted black and white, decorated with an eclectic but stunning mix of art, ranging from colorful iconic collages and stunning paintings to a bedazzled animatronic triceratops (see video).
It felt like we had just stepped into another strange and wonderful dimension, ruled by art and punk rock.
Standing beside a golden washing machine, were the Good Luck Dry Cleaners themselves, artists and entrepreneurs, Phil Reese and Jeremy Penn. They quickly offered some complimentary Angry Orchard rosé cider and sparkling rosé from French winery Maison Marcel, both GLDC beverage partners. While we sipped on the rosé, we discussed everything from art to business, to punk rock to gentrification, and the continuous evolution of New York City.
Quickly becoming fascinated with their operation and ethos regarding New York, art, business and life in general, I decided I had to interview them to learn more. Here are a few insights from GLDC for anyone in the art and entertainment space, as well as any business that wants to protect and elevate their brand.
1. Saying 'no' can be a superpower
Throughout my conversation with GLDC, both members repeatedly emphasized the importance of being selective with who you decide to do business and collaborate with. "If it doesn't feel right, we have no problem saying no," says Penn.
While many entrepreneurs or artists may be tempted to quickly accept partnerships with big companies or fast lucrative deals, GLDC is careful to not take fast shortcuts that may devalue their brand and "ruin their authentic vibe" or risk damaging long-term relationships. For instance, Penn once rejected an offer from a hedge fund manager who offered to buy his entire art collection as an investment because it didn't feel right to him.
Reese, who has a background in marketing as well as music and art, further explained, "I look at GLDC as an identity, as a person. What does GLDC like to drink? What does GLDC like to listen to? And so on." In other words, if something doesn't fit GLDC's "personality," they'll quickly veto it.
2. Having a great time actually requires strict rules
GLDC loves having a great time through incredible experiences, but they told me the magic can't happen if they don't follow the rules. When asking them about what their "rules" were, they shared a long list of values, including "no egos," "everything must have a story," "be exclusive, but inclusive," and so forth. Reese told me they're "really OCD with details," and that "every detail has to be something we feel strongly about, including the bathroom sign" because that is what "creates context and makes the entire experience."
Penn explained that "GLDC has this magic that is like 'family,'" and we have to protect that vibe at all costs." While GLDC is almost never in the same space twice and locations drastically differ, Reese says, "People still always say we have the same vibe. Because [of the rules], GLDC can create this energy that people love and don't want to leave. That's why they keep coming back."
Mick Batyske, more commonly known by his stage name, "MICK," who has played for everyone from Jay Z and Beyonce to Michelle Obama, is both a recurring collaborator and fan of GLDC. Batyske had this to say about GLDC and the unique art experiences they are creating:
"My career is based on finding unique ways to collaborate with brands I respect. GLDC has taken that to the extreme. They seek out brands and push their experiential to the next level. Somehow it feels like you're transported back to a basement party in 1992... in a billion dollar NYC building."
3. Passion can't be faked
When asking about their inspiration and learning more about GLDC's "rules," Reese told me "Everything we do must be driven by passion. We're trying to remove the pretense of art and help people have a one-on-one connection with it again."
Penn went on to elaborate, "Nothing [we do] is contrived...You see so many brands out there that have a mission statement, and they're trying to fit into a box and it's just contrived, and you can tell...but authenticity will never go out of style."
While GLDC might not have a million followers on social media just yet, their rare genuine charm has earned them some loyal fans in high places that are willing to go to the end of the world to support them and the arts. Reese told me that when he called up his old friend of twenty years, rapper and entertainer, Biz Markie, and asked him to perform at one of GLDC's events, he just said, "Sure Phil, but are you going to feed me?"
DJ, photographer and entrepreneur, Sasha Grey also shared this about her collaboration with GLDC:
"I first became aware of GLDC through a friend so I checked them out on Instagram and became a fan of the gallery from afar. Later, I was asked to donate a photo for a night they did to benefit Art Start...You never know how genuine people truly are with social media, but when they had me do a surprise DJ set for an event at Saks I finally met Phil and the crew. There's a real sincerity that I appreciate and a huge support of the arts which is important to me."
Meanwhile, GLDC just finished doing a special build for Lululemon at their HUBseventeen community space on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In two days, they transformed the white walls of Lululemon's basement into a beautiful blue zen jungle, full of positive energy. The space will remain decorated and is open to the public through September, 2018.
Lululemon's HUBseventeen curator, Carolina Amorim, said that since HUBseventeen is an "intersection of sweat, art and culture," they were "thrilled to have long-time partners Jeremy Penn and Phil Reese of Good Luck Dry Cleaners transform our space into an innovative, interactive experience that evokes positive human emotion through approachable, yet bold art, music, scents and feel."
I asked GLDC if they would be at Art Basel again this year after last year's event with 50 Cent, in which they promoted with the tagline, "Get Rich or Dry Cleaning." They declined to answer, but chuckled and said, "If we did, you would never see us coming. We'll take over the coat check."