Behind the Name | In Conversation with... Vanessa & Bowen of Mood Ring
Fluide offers humble homage to the importance of safe spaces by naming our shades after queer spaces around the globe. Our sparkly-clear lip gloss is named after one of our faves, Bushwich bar Mood Ring, founded by Vanessa Li and Bowen Goh.
What was the inspiration for Mood Ring and when did you open?
We opened at the end of September 2017, and our main inspiration was one of our favorite directors, Wong Kar-wai. Our name is loosely adapted from his famous film In the Mood For Love and many aspects of our interior design are inspired by his films, many of which deal with emotionally charged themes such as isolation, passing romances, the precarious nature of relationships in urban settings. Given this, it isn't surprising to us that we're becoming popular as a date night spot. We also have a decently sized dancefloor in our back room, and on the weekends the crowd can work up a sweat to amazing DJs playing house and techno music.
What did it take to open your place?
We worked closely with Rebecca and Adam, who co-own a bar in Bushwick called Rebecca's. We also collaborated with local artists, many of whom are close friends of ours or of Rebecca's team. Many of the pieces in the bar are custom made for Mood Ring, like the scagliola bar top by Dilan Cheavacci and digital wallpaper by Lisa Larson-Walker. Since opening, we've also slowly but steadily made upgrades to our space, such as our pool-like lighting system by Kip Davis & Sloane Solley and our spaceship of a DJ booth by Safwat Riad & Mohammad Hosein Asgari. It is said quite often, but anyone who has opened a business or embarked on a solo project knows that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We've been lucky and honestly really strategic in surrounding ourselves with our friends during this process.
What is the most outrageous thing that has happened at Mood Ring?
It was on a weekend night, during Sissy Elliott's birthday party (he is a DJ who happens to be a member of our staff as well). Everyone's eyes on the dance floor started stinging and everyone had fits of coughing. We honestly had no idea what was going on, but it was so hectic since crowds of people rushed from the dance floor to our front room in the middle of Cakes Da Killa's amazing performance. Our customers thought it was a gas leak or something of that nature. We later learned someone had taken one of our fire extinguishers and decided to spray it into the room. Luckily we were able to recover after 10 minutes.
Any other queer spaces that were important to you in the past or now?
Vanessa: I am from San Francisco, and I didn't really go out that much back home. I remember one of my first times visiting New York, my best friends took me to a couple of parties at Le Bain and Bossa Nova Civic Club, which are part of really different sides of NYC nightlife. I really loved everywhere they took me which is part of why I was in such a rush to move here. The important queer spaces in my life have been community spaces back home in SF, where I was a staffer at a queer, trans & gnc youth community center for about 6 years. Most of the lesbian bars closed by the time I was old enough to go (this is happening all across the country), queer bars gentrified by straight tech people—so I can't really say that any bar or venue back home was important or foundational for me.
Bowen: I first really started going out to house parties and underground parties when I lived in Los Angeles. It was the height of electro music during that time (Justice, Crookers, Soulwax, etc.). I had some friends who threw this party called Danceism and no one knew the venue until the night of—you'd hop on a shuttle and be taken to a different warehouse each party. I loved the transient qualities of these parties where only you and the people you were around would ever share that exact experience. Bossa Nova is probably the most special place we go to in New York. There's a really tight community of DJs and artists that actually support each other and want people to thrive. Not easy to come by.
What is the best part of running Mood Ring?
We're in the business of making strangers happy. When we see the connections that have been created at Mood Ring (people dating, becoming friends, making babies), it brings so much joy to us. Especially when queer and trans POC come up to us and tell us that they've never felt so welcome in a space before, it means we've done our jobs. I'll take a slow night with a nice, respectful, super queer crowd over a busy night, rude crowd anytime.
What are the most challenging aspects?
Logistics and things we can't control. Logistics: the Department of Health, Department of Buildings, Fire Department, Police Department; these are just a few of the agencies that keep an eye on all spaces, and we constantly have to make sure we're following all the rules in order for them to let us keep doing our thing. It takes a lot of work and trudging through bureaucracy to operate in NYC, and we have to be concerned with things that the average person would never think about and could take for granted in a space. Things we can't control—drunk people are adult babies and it's very much a babysitting job to take care of all these people in your space and make sure everyone is having a good time while staying safe. Vomit, harassment, destruction of property—we really see the best and the worst in people.
Visit Mood Ring at 1260 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221