Designer Bags on Canal Street by Charlene Wang

Worked on a pilot last year at this time about the high fashion world and just remembered this hilarious experience shopping for designer bags. I felt conflicted about posting this or not when it happened, because of the legality of buying imitation designer bags, but since the pilot hasn’t aired yet, feels like it is fine.

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Had the funnest and funniest peak Chinatown Canal St experience.

I needed to find eight or so different purses in the manner of the hottest luxury designer bags for a set I’m working on. Buying them was out of the question, even renting the real thing was out of the question budget wise (it is like $500 each to rent a real designer bag!), and no brands wanted to product place with this pilot.

So I walked to the intersection of Canal and Centre St and approached two middle aged ladies loitering at the corner. I asked them if I could buy purses and they gave me a nod of “yeah we got that.”

They asked me what kind and I showed them some reference photos—looking at the photos they were like oh those are the latest styles we don’t have those yet.

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So then we switched to Chinese and they asked me if I wanted “A” level purses the kinds that are super good almost indistinguishable knock offs that are $300-$500 each. I said nah I just need regular quality that will look convincing in the background.

So one lady Ms. Ye took me a block or two away to another young woman who I showed the photos I brought. She said they didn’t have that and then quickly darted away to surreptitiously finish another transaction 20 feet away.

Ms. Ye was getting annoyed with me and asked me how many I needed. And I tried to explain in more detail what I needed and she brought me across the street to another guy Mr. Hai standing in Canal St who started showing me photos on his phone.

Mr. Hai. He knew what was up he got what I was looking for and we browsed the catalog of bags he had on his phone and chose 8. The whole time Ms. Ye is standing a few feet away as the look out.

I’ve been on the street the whole time.

We are getting close to closing the deal but I want to send photos of the photos to my boss for approval, so all three of us walk two blocks up away from canal behind some phone booths so I can use my phone to take photos of his photos.

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Boss likes them we are good to go, I go get my car and pull up to near the warehouse door and then I realize oh no I need more cash.

These are Chinese entrepreneurs—they don’t mess around so Mr. Hai offers to sit in my car for me since I’m illegally parked while Ms. Ye offers to escort me to the closest Bank of America. We all trust each other somewhat now after spending the last 20+ min working out this deal together so ok sure. We get that done. Ms. Ye walks me to the bank and waits outside.

She’s from Wenzhou and she’s going back in 20 days to visit her 80+ year old parents for Chinese New Yesr. Mr. Hai is from Hangzhou. She told me there is a new police person on counterfeit bags duty and not everyone knows what he looks like but word on the street is he already made his rounds for the day.

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We head back, I get inside the car Mr. Hai gets the bags, brings them to the car sits in the passenger seat and we look over the merchandise together. Looks great! Like really impressive for the price. I give him the cash, we work on the receipt I need to turn in, and we become Wechat friends then he gets out the car and leaves.

You guys I loved every minute of it.

High Maintenance Season 3 Wrap by Charlene Wang

 Season 3 Art Department with our “Just Ask Jackie” shirts I made for everyone at the wrap party

Season 3 Art Department with our “Just Ask Jackie” shirts I made for everyone at the wrap party

We made it! I finished decorating my first whole season of a TV show HBO’s High Maintenance.

As a wrap gift I made “Just Ask Jackie” shirts for the Art Dept because our Art Coordinator Jackie Gonclaves was a phenomenon. She was the most on-top of it, unwaveringly calm, somehow omniscient, and always two steps ahead person I’ve ever worked with.

A common refrain for all of us whenever trying to solve a problem or not knowing an answer was “just ask Jackie” so I felt we needed a shirt as a tribute to how much we all treasured her.

Heat Advisory in a Junkyard by Charlene Wang

Some days you are dressing a set in a historic mansion, a five star hotel in a penthouse suite, and some days you are outside in a literal junkyard all day.

 Leadman Deon Philipps literally jumping out of a dumpster

Leadman Deon Philipps literally jumping out of a dumpster

 I was so grateful to our set dressing crew for really rallying for a long day under the sun in heat advisory (HEAT ADVISORY!) weather to put together this unconventional and creative set. Shooting crew was filming in there overnight.

I was so grateful to our set dressing crew for really rallying for a long day under the sun in heat advisory (HEAT ADVISORY!) weather to put together this unconventional and creative set. Shooting crew was filming in there overnight.

Not going to lie, it was a really tough day for me. But this was a real highlight that gave me faith in humanity:

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At lunch I walked to the nearby deli but wasn’t feeling it.

Remembering that I saw some Chinese workers eating a rice dish at the warehouse down the street I walked over and asked them where they got that Chinese food (we were in deep industrial Ridgewood where cinematic junkyards still exist in NYC.)

They told me the warehouse provides lunch to them but if I walked a couple of blocks there was a Chinese place. I was about to start walking when the lady of the group said to one of the truck drivers “you want her to walk blocks in this weather?”

And she rushed inside and gave me two boxes of the homemade food she made for everyone’s lunch at the warehouse. We chit chatted about 老家 and the 麻烦 when filming is on your street and then I walked back to the junkyard to eat lunch.

The food was so good and I felt so grateful I totally forgot how utterly disgusting it is that I ate lunch outside in a toxic junkyard. I went back to the warehouse with some oranges from crafty to say thank you. Best pay off of learning Chinese to date.

Find of the Day by Charlene Wang

 this perfect 80's couch

this perfect 80's couch

I had this idea today to start a new category on this blog of "Find of the Day" to keep all my favorite things I find when out shopping but usually don't end up buying or needing catalogued. 

It is hilarious that I'm creating a new category for a blog that I hardly ever update, but anyways I am leaning into the ambition for now. 

The thing is, I get a chance to come across so many truly unique, fascinating, and funny things which truly give me joy and delight. Often I feel like I just need a photo to complete my joyful experience without purchasing the item. 

But then I was thinking about all my favorite things I've come across throughout the years and many thrift shops I've scoured and I thought it would be nice to have them all accessible here through the click of a category tag "find of the day". So I'm going to try it out. Maybe one day when I'm feeling truly ambitious I will back catalog all my favorite finds from the last few years (...someday).

Back to this couch, it is such a nice shape, great proportions, and then the print. THE PRINT! It is so perfect. So late 80s early 90s in such a great subtle and interesting way. Sigh if only I needed the couch for a set...

 here's a close up of that sweet print. AND THE MATCHING PILLOWS!

here's a close up of that sweet print. AND THE MATCHING PILLOWS!

Seven Carts at IKEA by Charlene Wang

 checking out with seven loaded carts at IKEA

checking out with seven loaded carts at IKEA

I’m sorry to say I can tell you what it looks like to checkout with seven full carts of IKEA.

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 with Jessica Petruccelli, partner in crime. It was a two person job.

with Jessica Petruccelli, partner in crime. It was a two person job.

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When someone asks about the glamour and fun of set decorating I always mention the number of lunches I’ve eaten in my minivan in the IKEA parking lot.