Nick Cohen, Master Shewelry-Smith

Nick Cohen is one of those brash mash-up open-format DJs that has the gals swooning and the guys envious of his skills. It all seems easy to an outsider, this modern DJ thing. Serrato technology can put every song you might ever want to hear on a laptop and tell you exactly how to thread those songs together; DJs use this technology to mix in songs from different genres, as they have to constantly find a new way to thrill the crowd. They can carry thousands of songs with them, and the open format set that most clubs now feature can seem repetitive. The great DJs bring smiles to pretty faces as they mix in Dolly Parton, James Brown, or Gang of Four with a song that has been enjoyed so often it needs to be twisted. Those DJs that are successful and have the looks and charisma — the whole package — can demand megabucks In a market that has become ultra-international. Tours are no longer the domain of the house heads, as the worldwide table/bottle service phenomena demands DJs that make you sway in place rather than hit a dancefloor. People don’t spend money on dancefloors, but they do at tables.

These days when I design a DJ booth, I must build a central platform for the computer, and I no longer build shelves to hold crates of records. Many DJs see themselves graduating to the production end of music as the addiction of the live set fades with age. Some go on and on like that Energizer bunny, spreading the word to crowds half their age, but many look to capitalize on the connections clubdom affords. Nick Cohen’s exit strategy seems to be in shoes — they’re as coveted as much as his late-night set. It’s wow at first sight

Tell me about the shoe brand. Well basically the name of the brand is UES, Upper Echelon Shoes. It sort of serves as a double entendre for the fact that my partner and I both grew up on the Upper East Side. We started it officially in 2005 while we were both in school, and I was DJing as well. It was a project that we started and developed around this concept where we took the retro sneaker trend that was happening with Nike Air Force Ones and the Dunks — I was very into those as a kid — and designed our own spinoff of that. The shoe looks similar to an Air Force One, but it’s a midtop.

The thing that sets us apart was the combination of footwear and jewelry. The best way we could express that was to add the 18 karat gold chains as the laces to the shoes. So I got a jeweler, this guy Gabriel Urist, who had gotten recognition through these miniature Nike shoe pendants for necklaces. When we thought of sneaker jewelry, it sort of fit together. So I met with him, and he was a very interesting kid. We had him design a chain for us, and then we went into production. Both of us were relatively young and inexperienced, but we were able to pull off the project and make the shoe. We made about 350 pairs, and we initially ordered the shoes without a proper selling calendar or anything. We just made a list of stores we wanted to be in — Collette in Paris, Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Blue&Cream in New York — and we approached all of these stores, and it was a really different, interesting concept. The price was really high — it was $500 retail — so a lot of people were hesitant to go with it, but we ended getting into a couple of great stores. We didn’t get into Collette. There was also a store in Tokyo, Celux, a really trippy boutique store, we almost got in there, but couldn’t. I think they’re since closed. We broke into H. Lorenzo in LA which was a great store, really great funky clothes and high-end designers and independents.

I still have about 24 pairs left, so we didn’t sell through the whole thing, but we got them in these great stores. What put us on the map was that Puffy was in LA filming a video, and he ended up going into H. Lorenzo, and I get a phone call from my sister who was watching MTV and she told me that she saw Puffy wearing my shoes, and I was like, “Stop fucking with me!” But I went on the internet the next day and saw the clip. Tim was holding the shoe up to the camera, showing off the gold laces. So that sort of put us on the map. The next week I heard he was performing on the BET Awards, and he comes out, the last performance of the show, and then he got up on the stage and he was wearing the shoes. So it was, I’d say, almost the best fun I’ve had in the business to date. Two days later, the Post did a story on the summer’s best sneakers, and it was in the middle; and the front section of the Post is a full page of Puffy performing in the shoes, and then a big blow up of the shoes.

So where are you on the map now? So then we went along, did another season, got all this great feedback from our limited distribution retailers about women loving the concept of this sneaker jewelry — we now have since coined it “shewelry” — so we wanted to develop a concept for women. So we took a season off, went back to the drawing board, developed a bunch of concepts in less of an urban sneakerhead type of shoe, more of a Converse/Chuck Taylor type of mold that’s more rock n’ roll punk with bling jewelry accents, etc. So we released three styles for women, all limited production again, 150 pairs of each style, one shoe that had gold chains as the laces with studs on the back, or gunmetal black chains with studs on the back, full grain leather, amazing shoes.

Where did you come off being a shoe designer? I’m not trained in it whatsoever.

Where did you grow the balls that said “I’m going to do this” and be successful at it? Why did you think your shoes would be successful? I had just been buying shoes for a long time, and I believe that I have pretty good taste.

Do you have a pretty large collection yourself? I don’t buy that many pairs of shoes anymore. I’ll buy one and wear them to death — like an expensive pair. Like these great APC ones that I bought in Japan, I’ll wear them to death.

How did you start the design? We just came up with a bunch of designs. I just thought about what I would want to wear. The first men’s shoe, the Seni, I just put a bunch of shoes together and did some sketches. So I worked with the graphic designer because I’m not very well versed in graphic design or Illustrator or anything like that. It’s more the concept, and then executing it, and there’s the sample process where if you can get it right in two samples, you’re good at what you do.

So where are you selling now? What kind of buyers do you have? Right now we’re at a variety of stores like Kitson in LA — we’ve moved out of H. Lorenzo and Fred Segal. In New York we’re in Blue&Cream. We do collaborative efforts with Stacey Bendet from alice + olivia who has supported us since we first started our women’s project. We placed a really big order of all the styles in her store — the one in LA and in Bryant Park — and so we do trunk shows with her in her store which is a great way to cross over into the women’s stuff.

So how do you find time to DJ? Now it’s a little easier because since I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t have to work as many gigs to make the same amount or more money, but when I was in school up at Vassar in Poughkeepsie, it was two hours up, so I’d be up there four days a week for class, but I’d only go for two or three days and do a whole week’s worth of work in three or three days, and I would come back, DJ, do the shoe thing. Now it’s sort of the shoes and DJ juggling, and it’s burning the candle at both ends because one’s the third shift and the other is supposed to be the first two shifts. There was a point at which I thought I could wake up at 9am on no sleep, push through the day, and then work all night. And I’m able to function some how function on four to six hours of sleep for a couple of days, and then it’s like, you know, don’t talk to me for twelve hours. Unfortunately DJing is being physically there.

Where do you DJ now? The steady party I’ve been doing is Thursdays at Southside, and actually tonight is the one-year anniversary of the opening of the place and our party. That DJ booth is beaten to hell. I mean, I had to give them direction as to where to put the booth because I was like, this place is tiny and the décor is minimal, so there’s no attraction besides the DJ, so put him right in the middle of the room as you walk in, up high, and just let him rock. But it’s been fun, it’s messy in there. I just don’t have the stomach anymore for doing gigs where you just sit there, miserable, playing top 40, collecting the paycheck. It’s just not fun. I mean, I think you have to spoon feed a little bit because it’s always hard to break records, but it’s rewarding when you do, because it’s very easy to train somebody to play commercial music. You can still do that and play snippets of it when you have to, but you have to be creative with it. Sort of like Mark Ronson used to do when I was younger. He would break a record that would have no place in a nightclub, but if you put it in there, your entry into it is interesting, the length of time you play it is appropriate, and its exit out is appropriate, you can play anything.

So when you sneak something in — what are you sneaking in? Where are you pushing it? What records are you playing? Where do you want to go with music? At the moment, because my focus has been more on the shoes for the last year and the DJing has just been second to that, I haven’t been able to focus enough on developing new sound or finding a lot of new records. It’s sort of fallen to the wayside. The basic set I play though has been very well developed over the last year and a half. There are changes and stuff, but if you develop a certain format that really works, you get a lot of feedback and great energy. You can alter it, but he core usually stays the same. Especially with the crowd at Southside. But it’s nice doing things where you have crowds that have taste. I did a party at Stuart Parr’s house last Friday, and he had his garden in the West Village tented and painted on the inside by these graffiti artists, and everyone was dressed to the nines. The format was all 80s, so it’s fun to do stuff like that but with a crowd that has taste, so you can play great music and not just have to play cheesy 80s stuff like the Smiths and the Cure.

How do you balance the two careers? At the moment I’m sort of trying to bridge my gap out of what I’ve been doing for a while. The shoes have taken a lot of focus; DJing can take a lot of focus. I’m in a more comfortable position with DJing where I command a little bit more respect — I can bring what I do to the table as opposed to altering what I do to appease everybody. When people hire me, I say, “This is what you get.” If somebody questions me, I just say I know that you’re paying me, but you knew what you were getting into. If you’re paying me to play all top 40, then you’re overpaying me, and there are plenty of kids out there who you can push to do it for less. So I’m just sort of getting stuff set up, I’ve been living like a vagabond.

So 10 years from now, what are you going to be doing? I definitely won’t be DJing consistently. It’s something that is near and dear to my heart from a fun perspective, but I’m exiting out. You can’t be in a nightclub until 4am five days a week forever.

A First-Timer’s Field Guide to the Ballet

Let’s give a warm welcome to fall, which along with introducing you to your new fall wardrobe could also introduce you to the ballet, as the new season for the American Ballet Theater commences this week. If you lean more towards action movies and indie bands, getting decked out to make a pilgrimage to the uncharted wilds of the Upper West Side could feel a bit out of character. As daunting as trading in Converse All-Stars for conservative kitten heels seems, the ABT is something all New Yorkers should branch out and try. It’s recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. A living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States performing for more than 600,000 people, and it’s the only major cultural institution to do so. The ABT has also made more than 15 international tours to 42 countries, and this October the company returns home to Manhattan. Twenty-one-year-old Daniil Simkin, an award-winning veteran of the stage since the age of six, offers up his advice to a ABT virgin — or those with a serious aversion to men in tights.

So what do I have to dig out of my closet to wear to the ballet? Is it an excuse to get all dressed up? One wears definitely something elegant. I prefer dark colors. Depending on personality, something extravagant or flashy should work, too. A general outline would be: as long as you would wear it to a nice dinner, it should work. For everyday wear, I really like the clothes at G-Star. For something more extravagant , my go-to store is Emporio Armani.

Recommendations: Bergdorf Goodman (Midtown East) – The perfect afternoon destination for ladies who lunch. ● Blue&Cream (East Village) – This venue is the perfect place to really show off your style. Access Perk: 50% off a Lamptons Hoody. ● Intermix (Upper East Side) – Access Perk: Receive a $50 discount with any purchase of $300 or more at this one-stop shopping mecca for city fashionistas.

Where should one go to have a few drinks before the show? If the weather is nice, definitely go the Rooftop Terrace at the Empire Hotel right in front of the Lincoln Center.

Recommendations:Whiskey Park (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: 30% off your bill at this place for posh sips. ● Cleopatra’s Needle (Upper West Side) – Nothing to text home about, but if you’re up here, you might as well get in here. Cozy jazz scene that will make you seem cultured, even if it’s just your dress. ● P.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Square (Upper West Side) – When you’re dolled up, step into the newest branch of this uptown classic. Enjoy your ballet with a side of burger.

I’m totally new to ABT; what would you recommend to newbies like me? For first-time ballet watchers, I would recommend the pirate tale of Le Corsaire. It is an easy to follow story about a pirate who falls in love with a beautiful slave girl. The production has strong pirates, gunshots, beautiful women in gorgeous costumes, and great scenery. If you prefer something less Hollywood-esque, go for our all-Balanchine evening.

What has been your favorite part? I also really like Le Corsaire because I like to perform the role of Lankendem — the bad guy who tries to kill his friend and steal the girl. I am able to have more fun on stage when I play the bad guy. I also really enjoyed dancing the lead role in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, which I did for the first time in May.

What are some helpful tips that can keep me from looking like a fool? Before the curtain goes up, there are three bells, normally sounded by the ushers. By the time the bell rings for the third time, you should move towards your seats. Normally the evening starts with a short overture by the orchestra before the actual dancing begins.

It seems like the evening is pretty long; what if I need a drink? Usually the evening is divided into two to three parts with an intermission of 20 minutes in between. Snacks and drinks are available during the intermissions and before the shows at various spots outside the seating areas.

How long are we talking here? Generally speaking, an evening last from two to three hours.

So, while I’m having cocktails in a nice outfit before the show, what are you doing? There is a long and complicated routine before every performance. You have to be in hair, make-up, and costume for the show. But most importantly, the dancer must be properly warmed up. If you are not, the probability of suffering from an injury is heightened. There is a half-hour call where all stagehands and dancers need to report to the stage to make sure everyone is where they need to be. That is also when the audience starts to be seated. We all warm up and feel out the stage starting at that time and prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally to take the stage for that evening.

What’s the atmosphere like backstage? Backstage I have to say it is not as glorious and imposing as the front of the house. There are costumes in costume racks everywhere, various headpieces for different costumes, props, and sometimes even animals. And there are usually so many people everywhere running around, on and off stage at any point.

After the ballet, where should I go to complete the evening? There quite a few restaurants around the area which also might offer special after-performance dinner. There is a list of them in the program which you will receive while entering the audience area. Personally I can recommend Fiorello’s next to Lincoln Center.

Recommendations:Dovetail (Upper West Side) – Stealth door, only slightly formal, totally modern. ● Compass (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: Enjoy half-price wine on Sunday evenings at this innovative downtown-style New American with an uptown zip code. ● Jean Georges (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: “Half-Glass” Wine Special means you pay half the cost of a normal glass and get a generous half-sized glass of wine.

What are some of your favorite places to eat, whether or not you are in ballet attire? Shake Shack on Columbus. As you might have noticed, I don’t go out much while we are performing at the MET. But I have to say, the best food in the very end is my mother’s. She cooks Russian specialties with a western touch, which is quite unique. There is still no place that comes even close to how she cooks.

What is the best and hardest part of being a part of the ABT? The best part of what I do is doing what I love and being even appreciated for that. The hardest part for me is getting up in the morning.

What do you hope first-timers will find out when they come to see you at the a performance? People will be hopefully love what they see so that the first performance will not be the last.

After Dark Makeup: Lower East Side & Just Cavalli

After the sun goes down, the makeup brushes come out in full force. Beauty junkies can get away with a lot when roaming New York’s Lower East Side: the bars are dark, the drinking is heavy, and people look good in that uncombed, rolled-out-of-bed way. Just Cavalli sent this LES bar-hopper down the S/S 2010 runway the other day in Milan. She looks exactly the girls we know who shop at Blue&Cream and Opening Ceremony, hang out at White Slab, Darkroom, and Gallery Bar, eat at Les Enfants Terribles, and wear a ton of MAC. Appropriate, since MAC was in charge of creating the look. Maxine Leonard, the artist in charge, describes the look as “rock n’ roll to reflect the collection. The girls look a bit like they did their makeup themselves and had a great night out.” Here’s how the pros captured the LES girl.

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Base ● Foundation: Studio Moisture Tint SPF 15. ● Cheeks: Blushcreme in Joie de Vivre.

Eyes ● Base: Pro Black Black Paintstick. ● Liner: Kohl Power Pencil in Feline. ● Shadow: Pro Pigment in Black Black. ● Liquid Liner: Boot Black. ● Lipstick: Black Knight (applied on lid). ● Blush: Powder Blush Azalea (applied on brow bone). ● Mascara: Pro Lash Mascara in Coal Black.

Lips ● Gloss: Lipglass in Frankly Fresh.

The Hamptons: Top Hotspots for Memorial Day Weekend

Lily Pond (East Hampton) – The 1Oak family will be hosting this Saturday and will have special events here all summer. The Grand Opening on Saturday has DJ Lee Kalt on the decks, and Sunday kicks off “1OAK at Lily Pond Blue & Cream” with DJ Jus Ske. ● Dune (Southampton) – AXE Lounge features DJ Phresh Friday night, DJ Mel DeBarge on Saturday, and Kiss & Fly hosts on Sunday night with DJ Berrie.

The Maidstone (East Hampton) – Sunday evening Lisa Anastos, Amanda Hearst, Arden Wohl and other Hampton mainstays play host to the kickoff for the Watermill Concert 2009 (at the former Maidstone Arms). Invite lost in the mail? Crash at your own risk. ● Georgica Restaurant & Lounge (East Hampton) – The Eldridge’s Matt Levine launches summer with Naeem Delbridge at the door, giving you that familiar “I’m not going to get in here” feeling upon arriving Friday night when DJ Nick Cohen mans the deck. Try your luck on Saturday when DJ Ruckus spins, and if your tactics fail again, at least you have Sunday night with DJ Mel Debarge. ● Day & Night Restaurant and Beach Club (Southampton) – Those brunches of insanity made popular by the Mercato 55 crew, including Industry Insider brothers Derek and Daniel Koch, ship out to Southampton with a Saturday afternoon brunch with DJ Serebe Kironde spinning. ● Montauk Yacht Club (Montauk) – Saturday night, GoldBar shines in Montauk as their resident DJ Kiss takes up spinning. Sunday you can find The Box’s Jeffrey Tonneson taking over for their 80th anniversary celebration that will last all summer. ● Hampton Coffee Company (Watermill) – Never heard of Hampton Daze Magazine? well, I’m sure you’ve heard of wine, which will be complimentary for the celebration of this magazine’s launch this Saturday. ● Turtle Crossing (Amagansett) – Live music, two-for-one drafts, and more importantly, barbecue — this smoking BBQ joint with a backyard feel has the weekend covered. ● Dockers Waterside (East Quogue) – One word: lobsterbake. Or maybe it’s two words, but that detail wont matter when you are scarfing down lobster for $27.50 and enjoying two-for-one margaritas and mojitos this Sunday. I’d say by then it’s officially summer.