Visual Merchandiser. Aesthete. Collector. Marcus Allen lets us spend the morning at his East Village apartment.
“These days, I’m into the approach of dressing simply, comfortably and minimally. I’m not 23 anymore.”
“I’m never home,” Marcus Allen is digging around in his (rather impressive) closet for something. “Honestly, I get up and out as fast as I can in the morning.” Always moving would certainly describe Marcus, who has done visuals for companies like Rugby Ralph Lauren, Italian luxury label Brunello Cucinelli and vintage purveyor Melet Mercantile. Marcus is inherently stylish (it’s in his blood), and he’s one of the small group of folks who can not only dress themselves, but can put objects—clothing or otherwise—together to create a feeling.
As you’d expect, everything in his small East Village apartment is set up masterfully—from the industrial floor lighting to the pleasantly wilting flowers on his desk to the candles and music, “Birds Lament” by Moondog. Sights. Smells. Sounds. There’s a mood that Marcus is creating here, and that’s what he gets paid to do. It’s his world and it’s a place you want to linger.
How does Marcus start his day? “Cold water on my face, and Marvis (tasty Italian toothpaste) on my teeth.” And because of an unorthodox bathroom setup, the shower is tucked in the hall closet, 20 feet from the sink. His routine takes place in the kitchen: brushing, making some coffee, occasionally dancing around the kitchen as he makes his way to the medicine cabinet. He shows us his Kenton Sorenson dopp kit. “When I got it, it was just this natural piece of leather – I left it out on the windowsill to tan.” Like everything else he owns, it’s both nice and well-worn.
“I shave probably once a week,” says Marcus. He fiddles with his phone. He brings it everywhere, even out to the fire escape for a cup of joe. He’s wearing a blue chambray pajama shirt and black boxers. His sheets are frighteningly white. He collects fragrances. “My mom started putting Dior Fahrenheit on me as a little kid! She always had them in her purse.” So what scent is he wearing now? “Frederic Malle Une Rose. I’m in a new stage of my life right now and that deserves a new fragrance. It’s a chance to reinvent yourself. And scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. It’s important.” Since we’ve known Marcus he’s always aimed at saying something particular with his dress – every day is a chance to be a new person. He tosses a fox fur scarf over a chair as we head towards the door. “I’m not 23 anymore.”
“I’m in a new stage of my life right now, so why not try wearing a new scent? It’s kind of like a chance to reinvent yourself.”
So, would he still wear something as attention-grabbing as that scarf? “Sure, but only while drinking a can of cheap beer.” He explains that something luxurious should always be grounded by something gritty, a high/low concept he both practices and preaches, personally and with his work. Today he’s in black moto-style pants and a relaxed navy sportcoat and sneakers. We hop in a cab headed south towards the Soho Equinox. (“I like to eat, so the gym is pretty much a necessity for me.”) As we part, Marcus offers one last explanation. “I look back sometimes or see a photo of myself, and wonder who I was that day. And I’ve worn some pretty ridiculous things. It’s a process, I guess.” He smiles as he turns and disappears down Crosby Street. Like we said, always moving.