There is no arguing that New York City is a magical, fast-paced, concrete zoo filled with bustling creatives in every realm possible. It’s the city that never sleeps and, as any denizen or tourist can attest, has hundreds of unspoken rules that you best know before coming (like don’t make eye contact on the subway, never take a selfie at a museum, and always move out of the middle of the sidewalk if you are a slow walker). It is also home to many of our close friends, the emerging designers and indie boutique owners that live the city day in and day out; the people we turn to for the inside scoop on how to survive manic, hectic, addictive, draining New York City.
To kick off New York Fashion Week, possibly one of the craziest times to be in the city, we wanted to reveal the best of the Big Apple from our New Yorkers. Scroll on for tips on where to escape the madness, wisdom on how to de-stress, and where to get the best cup of joe.
WHERE IN NEW YORK CITY DO YOU FEEL MOST PRODUCTIVE?
“New York can be an extremely productive city, and on the other hand extremely playful city,” says Ivan Gilkes, co-owner of In Support Of, a boutique and showroom in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. “The trick comes to knowing when to turn it off, and when to turn it on,” he explains.
Szeki Chan of 7115 by Szeki says her studio is her most productive place. “Quiet, peaceful, and no distractions,” she explains. Assembly’s Greg Armas agrees, saying his Chinatown studio is where he gets in the zone. “It’s nice to be surrounded by the city but slightly isolated,” he says. For designer Nikki Chasin it’s her studio in Chelsea.
But for others, being on the on go is what sparks productivity. Anna Pang, the designer behind womenswear line Index Series, says her brain is best “on the train! I tend to have sudden revelations of what my inspiration, concept, ideas are for collections.” Katie Goldman Macdonald, designer of House Dress, bounces off the energy of the Garment District. “It’s where everything happens. I run back and forth between my factories, button, and fabric stores — as well as coffee shops — and end up feeling pretty satisfied (and exhausted) by the end of the day.”
HOW MANY COFFEES/TEAS/LIQUIDS DO YOU DRINK A DAY? WHERE’S YOUR GO-TO SPOT?
“At least two,” admits Mandy Kordal, designer of knitwear label Kordal. “I need coffee to start my day, and then around 4pm I either make another batch of coffee or tea,” Luis Morales, co-founder and creative director of The Ensign, is also dedicated to that AM caffeine fix. “I try to limit myself to one coffee a day, but it’s a mandatory request for each morning.” He likes to stop at Café Integral (above) for his one a day. Greg heads to Doughnut Plant. “Creature of habit, I have one Americano every morning… and a doughnut.”
Stacia Canyon, owner and buyer of boutique Canon NYC, which is located on Sullivan Street in Soho has her liquid day mapped out to a T. “One to two coffees a day from Cafe Regular in Brooklyn or Colombe on Prince Street in SoHo, then one matcha latte from Banter on Sullivan Street in Manhattan, and finally one juice from the Juice Press in Manhattan.”
Szeki opts for, “just one, two tops!” She goes to, “Caffe Vita if I’m close to our LES location, Ninth Street Espresso if I’m at the studio in the East Village, and Sweatshop (above) if I’m at the Williamsburg location.” While on the other hand Katie’s average is, “five coffees a day.I love Madman Espresso on 35th, Grumpys on 37th and Culture on 36th in the Garment District. Sometimes if I’m feeling too caffeinated, I’ll sneak in an herbal iced tea or kombucha.”
As for the non-coffee drinkers: “I drink fresh juice in the morning from Kabila across the street from my studio then I drink water throughout the rest of the day. I don’t really drink coffee unless I’m trying to stay up really late or pull an all nighter to work,” explains Dominic Sondag, the designer behind menswear line S.K. Manor Hill.
Adeniyi Okuboyejo, the designer of Post-Imperial, also prefers a fruity option. “I usually get smoothies from the bodega around the corner of my apartment.”
WHERE DO YOU GO TO GET FRESH AIR?
Escaping the concrete craziness is essential. “I love to go to Jefferson Park for fresh air. It’s a beautiful garden on the grounds of what used to be an infamous women’s prison, a hidden jewel. I’m also often at Washington Square dog park,” says Kelly Colasanti, owner of Fairlight, a beautiful boutique located in the West Village of Manhattan.
The ladies of Duo NYC, Wendy and LaRae Kangas, love to go for, “ a run along the East River. It’s breezy and great for people watching. But for a dose of real fresh air we take a road trip upstate to Woodstock or Hudson.”
“The parks in NYC are the best,” proclaims Ivan. “I have a top four depending on my mood: Grand Ferry Park is a super cute and tiny inlet park in Williamsburg with great views of Manhattan above the Williamsburg Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 has an equally fantastic view of downtown Manhattan and a great lawn for sipping wine with friends. Prospect Park, which in my opinion is better than Central Park, is the best park for activities all year round. It’s great for a picnic and party during the summer and in the winter if it snows you can sled on the Long Meadow there. Last the High Line is a super fun park for people watching and at the end of it you can finish your visit to the park with a trip to the Whitney.”
But sometimes no nature is needed at all. “When I’m at work I’ll step outside the studio to the street on 39th and if I’m at my house I’ll sit on the stoop,” expresses Dominic.
DURING FASHION WEEK, HOW DO YOU GET PUMPED UP? AND THEN, HOW DO YOU DE-STRESS?
“The buzz of the shows and the anticipation of the collections generally gets me excited,” explains Luis. Ivan has a similar reaction. “Fashion Week can be an extremely fast paced time during the year. Getting pumped up for it doesn’t take that much though. If there is a brand that I’m really pumped to see I feel the excitement come naturally.” His trick once he feels overwhelmed? “I like to return to my home and watch some TV and tune out of fashion completely. This coming fashion week fall shows will be back I’m sure I’ll be watching How to Get Away with Murder and hopefully Scandal.”
For designers, things can be a little different. “I get pumped up when I have all of my samples ready to shoot,” says Nikki. Katie explains how she’s, “just naturally high on adrenaline (and coffee) for a week straight during Fashion Week.” So undoubtingly needs, “to lie comatose for a few days and drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc in the tub.”
Getting pumped for Anna starts with, “an early rest and a somewhat substantial breakfast (scrambled eggs, toast and an apple).” To de-stress, she likes to, “light a candle, lie in bed and put on a cool face mask for 30 minutes. I never feel like I have time to actually do this so when I do it feels extra amazing.”
Sometimes after that crazy week, it takes an actual escape. “For de-stress, I usually leave for a bit after Fashion Week, it can be intense,” admits Greg.
ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10 HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE NEW YORK CITY?
“My love for NYC is a rollercoaster. I’m from Northern California and that’s a hard place to beat, but I’ve lived here for 6 years and I love it a little more every year. Hot sweaty days where I’m carrying 50 lbs of fabric in the Garment District I rate a four, but when I get home and see the trees of Inwood park out my window, my love surges to a ten,” says Katie. Luis has the same teetering feelings. “It’s about a two from January-March, a four in March-April, a solid ten from May-July, back down to one in August, and about an eight from September through December. We have a love/hate relationship, but we somehow make it work.”
For others, their love for the city is undeniable. “Ten. After living almost fifteen years in this city, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. New York has the absolute best of it all,” asserts Ivan. Wendy and LaRae agree, “Eight to ten depending on the day but there’s no place quite like NYC, we’ve got it all here.”
“Ten for sure! I love NYC so much!” professes Kelly.
Both Nikki and Adeniyi went for eleven. “To be honest, I am not sure there is any better city in the world than New York. It keeps me on my toes. It constantly kicks me in the ass to remind me that even with all my accomplishments so far, there is still tons of work that needs to be done,” Adeniyi admits.
“It’s required to 100% love New York City to live here,” states Greg.
Lead and featured image by Michael Cobarrubia