It’s the newest edition of Jews of Philly Fashion, introducing you to the Chosen few who dress our city. They might mix wool and linen, but they’ve got some strong opinions on mixing stripes with florals. In this space, we’ll talk to designers, sellers, buyers, influencers, models and more. This week, we spoke to Rivka Yank.
Quarantine has been a “roller coaster” for Downerss Boutique, Philadelphia magazine’s 2018 “Best Shop for Millennials.” The Fishtown womenswear shop has gone entirely online, embracing online sales at a level its owner never could have anticipated.
What she lacks in pandemic-related clairvoyance, Rivka Yank, 30, who opened Downerss in 2016, makes up for in her ability to navigate upheaval and unexpected surprises. Sure, she didn’t see a pandemic coming, but she didn’t think she’d leave a good tech industry job to start a business, either.
“I never predicted that I would open my own boutique,” Yank said. Yank is a graduate of Lower Merion High School and Temple University.
Though she was always willing to go out on a limb, fashion-wise — she fondly recalls the shock and awe caused by, say, wearing a temporary septum ring to lunch with her family — she didn’t see clothing as her calling through her schooling years. In fact, after graduation, she went to work in tech for a few years.
But something was missing in her professional life, something that she didn’t think she would ever find in tech: passion. To alleviate that, Yank took “a minute to pause and reflect and understand, ‘OK, what would be something that made me feel really passionate and connected to what I’m doing?’” It was obvious to her almost immediately: fashion.
Yank had never lost touch with what it can feel like to wear the right outfit on the right day, a sense she’d been developing since she was young. “Growing up, I always wanted to wear things that excited me, that were fun,” she said.
And so, taking stock of where she was and what she wanted, she left the tech industry, and grew an idea from trunk shows to a brick-and-mortar store on Frankford Avenue to a new, quarantine-shaped form.
Today, Yank is drawn to fashion as a career for the same reason she’s drawn to sartorial experimentation in her own life: Every day, it’s a chance to express something personal and particular.
What is your favorite piece of clothing sold in your store?
Recently, I’ve been making my own collection of tie-dye T-shirts, and those are my favorite. The creative process has been therapeutic during quarantine.
And what trend are you content to leave in the past?
Low-rise jeans. I never understood their appeal. The fit breaks up the shape of the body in the worst way, and they are so unflattering.
What’s your go-to quarantine meal?
As cliche as it sounds, avocado toast is my go-to.
What’s the best thing you’ve watched in quarantine?
The best thing I’ve watched, which was heavy but so enlightening, was “13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay.
What item of clothing should more people be wearing?
It’s not a particular item, but more a mood. Wear clothing that makes you happy. Don’t let how people will perceive your outfit dictate what you wear.
What person’s style do you admire?
Iris Apfel, Leandra Medine, Aimee Song, Princess Diana, Rihanna. I’m constantly inspired by other people’s style simply just walking down the street in Philadelphia, or traveling. So many people are unafraid to dress boldly.
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