PORTRAIT OF JUDSON HARMON, ABOVE, BY CHRISTOPHER GABELLO; STORE PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASON AKIRA SOMMA
Walk into ØDD, the Lower East Side boutique run by model and Renaissance man Judson Harmon, and at first you might not notice anything unusual. Here’s a mannequin; there’s a display of supple black leather backpacks; scattered around are some decorative old televisions.
The key at ØDD, though, is to pay attention to detail. Look a little closer at those leather backpacks, and you’ll notice their bold, sculpted features molded on, say, a human spine, or a screaming face. And that mannequin that greets you when you enter the store? It’s a perfect androgyne, the product of longitudinally splicing the left half of a male mannequin and the right half of a female one, with a camera in its head. And if you lean down to squint at those TVs, you’ll notice something even more unexpected: yourself. Harmon installed a closed-circuit system into the mannequin, with the distorted footage it captures played in real time on the screens scattered throughout; the effect is more about ambience than security.
“This makes looking at yourself fun,” Harmon observes, adding that it’s also encouraged “mostly Australian tourists” to dance outside the store on the Ludlow Street sidewalk. “Gotta love them,” he says, in his signature bemused deadpan.
After a few minutes talking to Harmon about the store, it’s clear that to call ØDD his brainchild is an understatement: in both design and stock, it’s the closest possible approximation to an external version of the inside of his head. “I wanted to create an environment that’s somewhat like an amoeba, where it’s constantly changing—you’ll never come in and see the same thing in the same place twice,” he says. “And really put a stamp on the fact that fashion doesn’t have a gender, people have a gender, and you wear what you want. You shouldn’t stick to the confines of, ‘This is a men’s piece, this is a women’s piece.’ So I don’t really encourage to dress either way. It’s just if you like it, you like it.”
To that end, ØDD boosts a variety of designers whose edgy and darkly romantic wares apply equally to adventurous dressers of either gender—and anyone in between—including Gareth Pugh, Parkchoonmoo, Rochambeau (a personal favorite of Harmon’s), Mandy Coon, and Chromat. The store also stocks several U.S. exclusive lines, including MA_Julius, the unisex offshoot of Japanese menswear brand Julius, and Kofta, the Ukrainian designer responsible for the molded backpacks.
ØDD is the only place in New York where you can find the brand by the same name, which focuses on unusual plays on classic silhouettes and which Harmon designs himself, alongside his friend Jordan Klein. The store has also recently launched an exclusive program with milliner Gigi Burris, which enables clients to customize hats within Burris’ goth-romance line.
Harmon grew up around fashion—both his parents were models—but it wasn’t until he moved to New York in 2010, hoping to make a living as a singer-dancer-actor, that he found himself immersed in it. “Being from San Diego, you only really see flip-flops and board shorts,” he says. “So I wasn’t all too familiar, especially with the aesthetic that I found myself a part of.”
It didn’t take long for him to catch on: he began modeling seriously, including for Interview, and a digital iteration of ØDD came soon after, last January, spurred by a conversation Harmon had with a friend who was working at Osklen. “It started as somewhat of a dare, and I take dares very seriously, apparently,” he says. “Most of the brands that I was wearing at the time you couldn’t really buy in New York, and people were always asking me where to get them.”
When it came time to find a brick-and-mortar store, Harmon viewed 44 spaces in six months, eventually settling on a former flower shop. “The floor was ready to cave in,” he laughs. “I feel like I have a record for how quick we built this place and completely redid the walls, the floor, and everything. It took us five weeks.” The doors opened in October 2012.
Any of Harmon’s three-and-counting careers—shopkeeper, model, designer—could be a full-time job on its own; but he insists he’s happiest when multitasking. “I’ll [be] paying the Internet bill while sketching at the same time, and I always have a phone or a keyboard in front of me,” he says. “I don’t really stop working. Most people would be like, ‘You’re going to get burnt out,’ but when I have free time, I don’t know what to do.”
VISIT ØDD AT 164 LUDLOW STREET, NEW YORK, OR ONLINE.