Stretching into the Philadelphia skyline, dilapidated red-tinged sign and all, the Divine Lorraine is an eerily beautiful piece of Philadelphia's architectural history. But the physical building, says menswear designer Najeeb Sheikh, "is just the tip of the iceberg."
A Philadelphia native, Sheikh found out exactly how much significance the Divine Lorraine held within the city and outside of it when he began researching for the Divine Lorraine Hotel capsule collection. In collaboration with brand-new menswear and sneaker boutique Lapstone & Hammer owned by Brian Nadav, the collection seeks to embody the Divine Lorraine's 1950s and '60s hotel luxury.
It contains things like four styles of Divine Lorraine stitched Converse (high and low, black and cream), but not just any Converse — the 1970s luxury model version of your favorite Chucks. Still, the collection goes beyond average, sticking very close to the hotel theme and providing a product for almost everyone interested in the Divine Lorraine.
Sheikh designed a Divine Lorraine stamped hotel room tray, monogrammed robes and towels, and even a stamped grooming kit. It's a two-part collection, Sheikh says. There are things you may find in a hotel gift shop — the T-shirts, crewnecks, a hat, a keychain — then there's the stuff "that one would steal from a functioning hotel" including the tray, towel, robes, grooming kit and a shoe-shining kit.
There's no denying the Divine Lorraine possesses a sort of omnipresence in the city, located on North Broad Street at Fairmount.
"It's the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see on my way home," said Sheikh, who lives at 12th and Girard.
Plans are in the works to renovate the hulking historic high-rise, which is now vacant. Nadav says they initially reached out to the new owners of the building but ultimately they were not involved. But it's the building's unique previous uses that really gave life to this less-than-two-month-long project.
"The part that we really loved," says Nadav, "is that the Divine Lorraine was the first non-segregated, racially integrated luxury hotel in Philadelphia. It hits home with Philly being the City of Brotherly Love."
Father Divine, a former owner of the building who passed away in 1965, has a somewhat clouded legacy marred with cult speculations and restrictive doctrine. But his primary focus, Nadav said, was originally peace. He created the International Peace Mission Movement, which Nadav says is still alive in some capacity today, and encouraged racial and gender equality. Nadav and Sheikh have been spreading that knowledge spawned by the collection with literature ahead of the capsule's launch, set for Friday, July 31.
They partnered with national brands like Converse and Levi's for a jacket stitched with Sheikh's design of the hotel, but also kept it local with a hat collaboration by local brand The Decades.
The limited-edition Divine Lorraine Hotel Collection by Najeeb Sheikh x Lapstone & Hammer will be available in limited quantities online starting at 10 a.m. Friday due to immense national response.
"People in NYC don't know the Divine Lorraine, but just hearing the concept they think this is a really cool concept," Nadav says. DJ Excel is originally from Philly and lives in Los Angeles, but upon hearing about the Divine Lorraine collection, he reached out and arranged to fly into town to DJ the collection's launch event.
The main event takes place Friday at 7 p.m. at Lapstone & Hammer (1106 Chestnut St.). There, shoppers can party, buy items from the collection, and enjoy a Divine Lorraine multi-media art exhibit featuring huge photos of the hotel's interior and a mini-version of the Divine Lorraine's actual redesigned sign in the shop's 1,200-square-foot gallery space.
"We wanted to create a collection that would appeal to everyone," Sheikh says. "There're a lot of people that are really attached to this building."