Hacker Chic: Inside 'Mr. Robot's' NYC Installation With Carly Chaikin

MrRobot Retail Concept 10 H 2016
Courtesy of Story

Story: Disrupt, a high-concept installation timed to the USA Network hit show's season 2 premiere on July 13, makes it debut.

Black hoodies, a backpack featuring solar power to charge your devices or Bluetooth-enabled earbuds: If you’re a fan of Rami Malek’s Elliot Alderson, now is your chance to emulate his look, thanks to a just-launched collab between USA Network’s Mr. Robot and a hot New York City retailer.

On Monday the retailer Story debuted Story: Disrupt, the latest in its ongoing series of high-concept installations. Timed to coincide with the Season 2 premiere of the Golden Globe-winning series, set for July 13, the installation features a wide variety of ready-to-wear, accessories and other items either directly or subtly inspired by the Mr. Robot universe. Products are also grouped by four factions represented on the show: Founders, Innovators, Expressionists and Union of 1s. A limited-edition jacket by JackThreads in the Founders section, for example, is identical to the one worn by Christian Slater’s titular character, while in Expressionists, LED-embellished sneakers in black, white or metallic gold by Pop Shoes are ideal for embracing your inner tech geek. American Giant, which partners with Mr. Robot as the provider of its American-made black hoodies, is offering a version as part of the Union of 1s section.

Among the highlights of Story: Disrupt is a collection that includes T-shirts, backpacks and socks emblazoned with an image of the Guy Fawkes-like mask worn by the hacker group, known as fsociety, depicted on the show. Actress Carly Chaikin, who plays Elliot’s sister Darlene, painted the image and appeared at Monday morning's debut.

"[USA Network marketing exec VP] Alexandra Shapiro saw my art and said we needed to do something with it," says the 26-year-old Chaikin, who's been painting since she was 17. "I knew I wanted to do a painting of the fsociety mask; it really is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been able to do, to incorporate my art with the show into something people are able to see and buy."

In addition to the curated merchandise, Story: Disrupt also features interactive experiences, including an ATM that will dispense from $10 to $50 if you’re able to decipher the code needed to hack into it and a vending machine that dispenses anything from bottled water to a pair of headphones when you share the displayed hashtag on Twitter. "Creating a partnership of this kind is an interesting challenge," says Story founder Rachel Shechtman. "For someone who’s a die-hard Mr. Robot fan, you want to create an experience that resonates with them; but if you’ve never watched the show, you have to feel intrigued enough to learn more about it."

Open since 2011, the 2,000-square-foot Story is rooted in creating curated installations like Disrupt; past themes have included Making Things and Home for the Holidays. Shechtman says she likens the experience to producing a magazine: "You have to convey stories and an editorial point of view, while also offering layers — merchandise, interactive elements, games, signage — and making sure it all makes sense."

She was approached by Shapiro to partner on Disrupt, and also worked with Mr. Robot writer-director Sam Esmail on developing several products. "He was able to see [the installation] in its early stages and had a lot of fun working with Carly," Shechtman says, adding that her sales team also was required to watch the first season in its entirety prior to Monday’s opening. Several products previously only sold online, including a grouping by the buzzy outerwear label The Arrivals, also will surely to lure consumers into the installation. "It’s a big deal that we have The Arrivals," Shechtman notes. "We live in a physical world, but why is no one taking the behaviors that exist online offline? To me that makes a lot of sense. Ultimately I wanted to make it attractive no matter you’re 5 years old or 95."

Judging from the June 6 debut, when fans were lining up while the doors were still closed, Story: Disrupt already has accomplished one of its primary goals: to get people talking. "I heard your podcast!" a 20-something woman exclaimed to Shechtman as Story: Disrupt opened for business. Elliot surely would approve.

Story: Disrupt runs through July 24th at Story, 144 Tenth Ave. (at 19th St.), New York; thisisstory.com