Going For Gold on the Conde Nast Traveller 2012 Gold List

Like the BAFTAs and the Oscars, there have long been equally prestigious lists of travel excellence being produced on both sides of the pond: in both cases, there’s often some overlap, but each organization has its own particular sensibility that makes both selections worth paying attention to. While the U.S. edition’s Gold List selections are drawn from their massive readers’ survey, to take advantage of their breadth of knowledge, the U.K. edition depends on their editors depth of experience within the industry to discern what’s truly extraordinary.

The 2012 list is divided into eight categories, depending on your priorities, although of course any hotel on this list will excel in all of these things. Among our favorites within the many excellent hotels selected for each are the newly-reopened St. Pancras Renaissance in London as best for location, the eclectic Crosby Street Hotel in New York as best for rooms, and the classic Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires as best for service. Beyond the basic categories, they also selected for more subjective but equally important concerns, including the Bellagio in Las Vegas for best leisure facilities, the Opposite House in Beijing for best food, and Le Royal Monceau Raffles in Paris for best ambience  & design.

Vera Farmiga Struggles with Faith in Her Directorial Debut, ‘Higher Ground’

Brussels sprouts and beer. It’s not a pairing I’d ever considered, but for Vera Farmiga, it’s lunch. At least, that’s what she’s having on a brilliantly sunny July afternoon in New York when we meet at the restaurant of the Crosby Street Hotel, a posh spot in Soho with an attractive young staff and an old-fashioned drawing room. Yet these are no ordinary Brussels sprouts. These cute little cabbage cultivars are enlivened by the addition of bacon and sliced apple, which is a lot more appetizing than, say, hair.

“As a child I hated Brussels sprouts. They would make me gag,” says the stunning, blue-eyed Ukrainian-American actor who played one side of a love triangle formed with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Oscar winner The Departed, and ruffled a few hotel bed sheets with George Clooney in the critically acclaimed 2009 film Up in the Air, a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. “But Mama was always looking over our shoulders because Stalin wants you to eat everything on your plate,” she continues, referring to her parents’ experience under the ever-present watch of the mustachioed former Soviet Premier. “I would wrap the Brussels sprouts in a napkin and excuse myself to the bathroom, but I wouldn’t flush them—I would just put them on the bottom of the wastebasket. Sure enough, Mama comes in, goes straight to the wastebasket, picks them out—with hair on them and everything —and makes me eat them. And now I love them.”

Farmiga, 38, gracefully sips her Chimay and picks at her Brussels sprouts, insisting that I try one. She’s right, they’re amazing. They’re also easier to digest than the controversial subject of her latest film, Higher Ground. It’s her debut as a director, and she plays the adult version of the film’s protagonist, Corinne, who comes of age in an evangelical Christian community in the Midwest and begins to question her faith as her marriage falls apart. With a delicate yet confident touch both in front of and behind the camera, Farmiga creates a narrative that makes the Christians—who are as fervent as they come—relatable, and renders Corinne’s search for something to believe in as vivid as a baptism in the cold waters of a mountain lake.

The material is pretty deep, and despite how smoothly the story unfolds—writer Carolyn Briggs adapted the screenplay from her 2003 memoir, This Dark World—it takes a while to absorb. I arrive at our interview fresh from a screening of the film, feeling somewhat off balance as I meet its maker. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting to feel much sympathy for the hyper-religious characters in the film, my youthful experiences with the church having left me indifferent at best to organized worship. But Higher Ground challenges the notion that anyone can be reduced to a single dimension. In a film that could have easily trafficked in clichés, her characters—from the adolescent Corinne, played by Farmiga’s kid sister, Taissa Farmiga, to the adult Corinne’s husband Ethan (Joshua Leonard), to Pastor Bill (brought to brilliant life by Norbert Leo Butz)—are complex, nuanced, and conflicted. You’d have to have a lot of scar tissue to not be touched by it on some level.

I’m still processing it, I admit to Farmiga, explaining my initial hesitance to embrace a group so certain of their own salvation. “Yeah, so am I,” she replies, as the waiter fills our water glasses. “But those are my favorite kinds of films. You can have an entirely different perspective, and yet have empathy or compassion and feel for the characters. This is something that challenged me emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.”

Much like her character in Higher Ground, Farmiga is envious of those who have their relationship with God all figured out—part of the reason she took on the project more than three years ago. As the second of seven children from a religious household in New Jersey, she knows how it feels to long for a deep spiritual connection.“I grew up in a Catholic home, and my dad is a believer,” she says. “I yearn to attain what he has, and I’m jealous of it, and I covet it, because he is someone who feels the breath of God on his face.” image

But what of those so-called Christians who spread intolerance, stoke xenophobia, and cast judgment on those with different belief systems? “I know Christians can be very un-Christlike,” she says. A handful of scenes reflect this: Corinne stands idly by as her husband throws her drug-dealing sister out of their house with no second chances offered; a smug Christian marriage counselor explains away Corinne’s internal conflicts by saying, “You are worshipping at the altar of yourself.” Passing judgment, however, isn’t Farmiga’s goal. “I don’t have a bone to pick with the community,” she adds. “I’ve taken many, many parts of it and still hold on dear to them. But it’s hard to talk about. It was just easier to put all these perceptions, these feelings, these ideas, these struggles of my own and just throw them up on the screen.”

Higher Ground certainly includes plenty of struggles. There’s Corinne’s growing doubt in her own faith, of course, but there’s also jealousy, temptation, dishonesty, resentment, abandonment, and a healthy measure of good old American sexual weirdness among the other characters. Corinne’s husband, Ethan, listens to Christian sexual self-help tapes in an ultimately futile attempt to learn how to pleasure her better, while her friend Annika amuses herself by drawing pictures of her husband’s penis. (“Ned loves looking at his penis drawings,” she says to Corinne.)

Yet, as the Bible tells us, those who search for something with all their hearts are bound to find it sooner or later, and Corinne, while not quite reconciling her religious faith by the end of the film, certainly seems to find a measure of peace within herself, as well as the strength to move forward. “My favorite films that I’ve participated in are stories of women experiencing an awakening,” she says, anticipating a question about her predilection for strong female roles. “It’s that simple.”

Higher Ground drew nearly unanimous praise from audiences at Sundance, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Festival, but perhaps the most surprising endorsements come from conservative Christian audiences, who, Farmiga says, appreciate the realistic portrayal of their flock. “There has been a tremendously positive response from [Christian] viewers who are just relieved to see something fully dimensional,” she says. “Some of the Christian films that I’ve tried to watch are kooky and one-dimensional,” she continues. “Good films about faith challenge me in ways that keep me open, receptive, and vulnerable, and my intention was to portray the story—the search—in full. Doubt is a part of faith, and I don’t think that makes it anti-Christian.” And how has the other side taken it? “I’ve had agnostics and atheists who’ve seen it and are moved,” she says. “I think that there’s no way that you can’t acknowledge this film as being a part of a real journey.”

Farmiga’s own journey has taken her a long way, from practicing 10 hours a day with a competitive Ukrainian folk dancing ensemble as a child and teenager (which involved “hopelessly romantic Catskillian nights”) to Syracuse University, where she studied acting, to an Australian television series called Roar (in which she acted alongside the late Heath Ledger) to her breakout role as a drug-addicted mother in Debra Granik’s independent drama Down to the Bone.

It was around that time that comparisons to Meryl Streep began being made, and roles opposite some of the world’s most famous actors started materializing. Still, the old trope about staying grounded seems to describe Farmiga to a tee. When she’s not working, she spends her time with her husband, Renn Hawkey, who was the producer and musical director of Higher Ground, and their two young children—one of whom she was pregnant with during filming—in their Hudson Valley home.

And while she no longer tends a flock of angoran goats as she once did, she still gets plenty of dirt under her fingernails. “I’m an obsessive gardener,” she says. “I’ve been working on my garden for seven years now, and I’m about two planters and a dumptruck load of mulch away from getting it where I want.” With that, she’s off to spend Friday night tending to more domestic matters, such as a dermatitis-afflicted husband, a sniffly baby, and some backyard grilling—the reason for her light lunch. “I’ve got poison ivy to scratch and a runny nose to wipe,” she says, as she gathers her belongings, wishes me well, and disappears into the busy streets of Soho.

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Photography by Eric Guillemain. Styling by Anna Bingemann.

Barclay Intercontinental Stirs Up Unparalleled Rooftop Buzz

One afternoon this past April, I met up with Craig Markham, the only slightly flustered PR guru for Firmdale Hotels, who was dealing with a seemingly unimaginable problem: one of the chickens that the Crosby Street Hotel keeps on the roof (how else will guests always be availed of the freshest eggs for breakfast?) had escaped and leapt onto a neighbors balcony. It turned out just fine—but the incident did fit into the new narrative of hotel and restaurant rooftop farming.

Just this week I found myself privy to the “unveiling” of a whole other sort of hotel rooftop menagerie, at New York’s legendary Barclay Intercontinental. Due for a glamorous makeover next year but, like The Carlyle, still carrying its Jazz Age style quite handsomely, the Barclay is actually one of the city’s most ecologically forward hotels. Now, most are unaware, but cultivating and regenerating the precipitously declining bee population is one of the most crucial factors in maintaining our overall Earthly ecological balance; nowhere is this more exigent than in this city of concrete and exhaust fog. And so it was that I watched as a bevy of rather stylishly clad bee professionals (prediction: beekeeper chic will soon find its way to the runways) literally unloaded 100,000 bees and carefully marched them through the Barclay’s freight entrance, and on up to the roof–where the hotel has also undertaken a full scale gardening project.

The hotel’s PR Director, Barbara Bahny, explained, “We’ll raise the bees and the intention will be for them to fly around New York and procreate.”

Call it…BeeHarmony.

The infectiously enthusiastic Liane of NYC Beekeeping (last name intentionally withheld to protect the quiet dignity of the profession) revealed of her chosen vocation that, “It’s a highly deductive and analytical activity. We’re trying to work with their nature.” This decisively explains Sherlock Holmes enthusiastic dalliance with beekeeping.

And no slackers they, the bees, like most new arrivals to NYC, are eager to generate some serious buzz. “We know how they behave in relation to certain pheromones,” Liane continued. “They really want to get out there, because they’re foragers.”

Ultimately, the goal of the Barclay is to act as a sort of galvanizing force, inspiring other hotels to undertake such progressively minded yet simple, uncomplicated eco projects. Though, in all honesty, we’re guessing it will be awhile before the Apis Mellifera usurp the Socialitus Intoxicatus as the dominant hotel rooftop species. And for the record, should you be in search of a whole different sort of buzz, the Barclay Bar’s Decades series, which focuses on a different decade’s music and cocktails each night of the week (Mondays it’s the 20’s and 30’s with Sidecars and French 75s, Fridays are 80’s and 90’s with Tequila Sunrises and Cosmos), has already been a big hit.

Liv Tyler Takes A Giant Leap in ‘The Ledge’

Liv Tyler is cold. Really, really cold. She also has a headache, she needs a caffeine boost, and, truth be told, she’d walk out the door if she could. “Would you like an Aleve?” asks one of her publicists while retrieving a small bottle of pills from a designer handbag of indeterminable animal-kingdom origins. “Would I like to leave?” says Tyler, her exhaustion suddenly replaced by a gleeful, half-joking outburst. But no. The 33-year-old actor will endure more than a few interviews before heading to the premiere of her new film, a taut thriller about infidelity and evangelism called The Ledge (which opens July 8), in which she plays Shana, a woman torn between her Christian fundamentalist husband Joe (Patrick Wilson) and her atheist lover Gavin (Charlie Hunnam).

To ward off the room’s oppressive central air system, we struggle to open every window from a suite inside Manhattan’s Crosby Street Hotel. Tyler, the star of such varied films as Stealing Beauty, The Lord of The Rings, and, most recently, Super (in which she portrayed Rainn Wilson’s drug addict wife), kicks off her Louboutin heels and settles into a plush settee. Her kind smile and a slight nod suggests she’s ready to begin. Over the course of our conversation she subtly cracks her toes.

Press days can get really tedious. How are you holding up? I don’t mean to complain because it’s part of the job, but press junkets are hard. I can’t help but give sincere answers and I feel like they’re always so manipulated and very rarely used in the way they were intended. I also feel like I’m just an actress—I don’t necessarily want to share all of my thoughts and views with the world, but it’s almost expected.

Did this part scare you as an actor? Absolutely. That was part of the draw. But it’s very frustrating shooting a movie in such few days with not very much money, especially something that’s so detailed and intense and dense, story-wise.

Although sometimes fewer resources and less time can contribute to greater creativity. If that’s the case, that’s great. But when quality has to be compromised, it can be tricky. [Pause.] I’m not saying that happened in this case, but when budget gets cut into all these little pieces it does somehow… you think, If we only had that it could be better. I don’t necessarily mean spending loads of money. I mean, like, three million dollars versus one million dollars.

The movie raises some tough questions about faith. Did it cause you to reassess your own perspective on religion and spirituality? For me, it was more about people and the things that happen in our lives, the decisions we make, how they effect us, and how we cope with that.

But it does, ultimately, question the importance of trust in something bigger than ourselves. It didn’t change my existing belief system, but it definitely expanded my understanding of the things other people believe in. It’s so easy to judge people and think, They believe in this so they must be like that. How we cope with the world and how fragile we are, well, it’s what makes us individuals. In this film, that idea is taken to such incredible extremes because Patrick [Wilson’s character] is completely insane—or is he?

Paired with Super, The Ledge seems to suggest your desire to tackle more challenging material. Was this a conscious decision after your hiatus from acting? That sounds so cool but, honestly, these just happen to be the two things I read and fell in love with. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it was an incredibly liberating experience for me to see what I could do. I’m an actor—that’s all I am. I’m not anything else. I’m just an actor and I love my job, and I like the people I work with. I don’t think too much about “career moves,” I just want to have experiences.

Has the process always been that organic for you? If I’m being honest, yeah.

That’s really surprising. They call it the movie business for a reason. That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve just always enjoyed making different kinds of films and playing different characters. I don’t know that I’ve ever tapped into one schtick. I’m still learning and exploring. There’s something magical about leaving those decisions up to chance, and watching where they then take you in your life.

Had you been reading scripts during your break from acting? Since having Milo, basically, I haven’t worked nearly as hard on films as I had leading up to that point. I’ve had the incredible luxury and amazing opportunity to have a cosmetic contract with Givenchy for almost eight years now—which is unheard of! And that’s made it possible for me to be home with Milo, and it’s given me something very solid to fall back on.

Were you itching to get back? I am now, in a crazy way. I’ve always had a tendency to work very hard on a couple back-to-back movies and then say, I need to not do that again for a while. I don’t feel like I could ever just make one movie after the next after the next. I’m not built like a machine. As a parent, especially this year because Milo’s starting kindergarten, I need to find a balance between work and family. I’m always aware of this beautiful little person who needs me to be around.

You’ll be on The View tomorrow. Excited or terrified? I’m not terrified, but I’ve always had a little bit of stage fright. There’s just something about a live talk show, but I’m getting much better at it.

I think the pre-interview is so weird, the idea that you’d call in before appearing on the show to settle on funny anecdotes with one of the producers. It’s really funny when it’s someone like Jay Leno, because based on what you talk about in that pre-interview he creates very specific jokes and punch lines, and even suggests responses to jokes. I’m always so worried I’m going to miss my mark.

There are stories floating around online that you’re co-writing an etiquette book with your grandmother. Well, my grandmother’s writing a book, but I wrote the foreword and I’m very involved in the process—dealing with the publishers, the look of the book, and everything that’s in the book. I’m also writing little sidebars about the things she’s taught me and how they’ve affected my life. But it’s completely her book.

Crosby Street Hotel Explores Literary Film Connection

Cagey musicians have long been keen to cite celluloid and literary influences to pump up the intellectual cred of their songwriting: Everyone from Gary Numan to Radiohead plundered J.G. Ballard’s dystopian nightmares for material, proto-goths liberally raided the aesthetic closets of German Expressionist film. And, of course, filmmakers have spun box-office gold out of everyone from E.M. Forster to Philip K. Dick. But rarely do we get a peek at authors’ cinematic inspirations.

New York’s chic Crosby Street Hotel (the first US property of London’s Firmdale Hotels), keen to not rest on its considerable stylistic laurels, has launched Under The Influence: Writers On Film to draw back the veil on just such connections. Next Monday, April 11, will see award-winning novelist and Williams College professor Jim Shepard introducing Werner Herzog’s disquieting classic, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (starring Klaus Kinski), the themes of which overlap with those of his latest short story collection, You Think That’s Bad. A cocktail-fueled discussion will follow the screening. Paired with the Crosby’s already successful Sunday Night Film Club series, the hotel seems set to become a genuine cultural incubator.

Hipmunk’s Hotel Heat Map

Every one has needs, and the good thing about New York City is that the majority of those needs can be met. Travelers come to town to satisfy their shopping addiction, or to eat at the best restaurants in the world. Some come to see the Statue of Liberty, and some travel to stay up all night. You want to stay close to the things you’re into, whether that’s Broadway or Burlesque, and Himunk’s Hotel Locator is an awesome tool that helps you choose the perfect hotel by showing its proximity to your needs via a heat mapping guide.

Hipmunk, created by MIT-grad Adam Goldstein and Reddit Co-founder Steve Huffman, started off as a super-simplified flight locator with great visual design. Seeking to further simplify the travel industry, they’ve recently launched this helpful Heat Map tool as a component of their hotel search. The tool maps areas of interest in a city based on needs like Vice, Nightlife, Shopping, Tourism and Food, aggregating tourist information from Wikipedia and Yelp. Here are a few of BlackBook’s top hotel picks for each of Hipmunks categories.

Vice: Factors in Bars, Casinos, and Adult Establishments Staybridge Suites Times Square: Sweet suites with real kitchens convenient for extended Javits Center duty and other midtown business obligations. Like Scores. Distrikt Hotel: Near the seedy Port Authority, where XXX video stores line the streets, and XXX entertainment fliers blow in the wind like tumbleweeds, this New York-themed boutique hotel goes name brand, with Frette linens, LG flatscreens, and Ecru soaps. Four Seasons Hotel: It’s the Four Seasons, ’nuff said? Accepts all manner of currency, and in Midtown East, can find all manners of debauchery.

Next: Hotels Near Shopping and Nightlife

Shopping Trump SoHo: Midtown master infiltrates the western fringe of Soho with lux condo-hotel living. Bryant Park Hotel: Straight up, the hottest stay in town. Cellar Bar, Fashion Week runway shows, and plush, plush rooms. Ace Hotel: Garment District hotspot with enough amenities to keep you from ever leaving.

Nightlife The Jane Hotel and Ballroom: Latest smash from Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode gets all Edwardian on the WVill. The Standard: Smack dab in the middle of the Mepa—like a glass and steel tree growing up and around the High Line. The Bowery Hotel: Sayonara to SROs on the new bobo Bowery in this boutique Bowery/Nolita playground with a hot restaurant and lounge scene.

Next: Hotels Near Food and Tourism

Food Abingdon Guest House: As close to the West Village townhouse experience one can get without buying a shih tzu and an Equinox pass. Hotel Mela: Luxe boutique newcomer aiming to be the “apple” of your eye, near The Lambs Club, and classics like Dallas BBQ Chelsea and Jimmy’s Corner. Crosby Street Hotel: La Esquina just around the corner—near Kenmare, too—this spendy Brit import lands on quaint Crosby Street.

Tourism Andaz Wall Street: Hyatt gets haute on the Financial District, otherwise known as the district that has everything on a tourist’s checklist: The Bull, Lady Liberty sightlines, the Stock Exchange (Wall Street is in the hotel’s name). The Plaza: Eloise’s Central Park home, Home Alone, Midwestern tourists, Donald Trump, rich permanent dwellers and you. Hilton Times Square: Location, location, location. If you’re truly looking to stay smack-dab in the center of New York City, the Hilton Times Square is your hotel. Steps from pretty much everything, from Broadway theaters and midtown skyscrapers to museums, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Industry Insiders: Carrie Ellen Phillips & Vanessa von Bismarck

Carrie Ellen Phillips (right) was in need of a German translator for an event she was planning in 1999. As luck would have it, she found Vanessa von Bismarck, a new intern and native Deutschlander, sitting in the office of her public relations firm. After a few months of working together, von Bismarck proposed that they go into PR together. “Vanessa would call and ask me what name I wanted on my business cards,” Phillips says. “I was like, Business cards? I’m not starting a company with you!” Phillips eventually gave in, and Bismarck Phillips Communications & Media was born. Now heavy hitters in the fashion industry, they started with only one client, contemporary artist Jeff Carpenter. Fashion designer Derek Lam came on board shortly after. “We had our first meeting with Derek at his apartment and all he had were sketches,” says Bismarck. Both self-described “strong personalities,” Bismarck and Phillips have been partners for 11 years and counting. “We always joke that we own more things together than we do with her husband or my partner,” says Phillips. “We’re on more leases together, and we have more bank accounts and credit cards.” More on these dynamic personalities after the jump.

On their first impressions of one another: Carrie Ellen Phillips: I’d gone on vacation and I was going to quit when I came back. I told the owner that I needed somebody who spoke German for this big event that we were doing. And I thought: there’s no way she is going to find me someone who speaks German. I came back from vacation and there was this girl sitting in my office. I was immediately like, “Who are you?” And she goes, “I’m Vanessa.” And I was like, “Well, what are you doing here?” And she goes, “I’m you’re intern, I speak German!” And I was like “Great… that’s your office over there.” Vanessa von Bismarck: It was one of those situations where you have cubicles with pretty thin walls. And I heard Carrie go like, “Who is that?” And they’re like its your German-speaking intern! And she’s like, “She’s much too old to be an intern.” And I was like, “I can hear you actually!”

On deciding to go into business together: VB: I wore her down just by harassing her. And by telling her this is a great adventure. You’ve got to be adventurous sometimes in life and I’ve already got a client, so it’s going to be great. I found an office, which was simply a cubicle in a Greek shipping office on the Upper East Side. But it was at a great address, at 645 Fifth Avenue, which is the Olympic Tower East.

On their first clients: VB: Derek Lam was a boyfriend of a friend who lives close to me in Germany. He introduced us and said, “He’s just starting his line and he needs some help, and he wants to do a fashion show during fashion week. Can’t you help out?” And we were like, “Fine, we’ll do it.” It was really great, it was so much fun to see how that brand developed from showing us sketches to showing in this furniture store… CP: His first show was in a furniture store on the corner like Washington and Jane Street. A friend of ours at Vogue said, “Take Polaroids and send them up to me.” She showed Anna, and Anna showed up two days later at the show.

On managing time between their four offices (New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London): CP: We do it very carefully. Vanessa and I both live [in New York] and now we both have children so we can’t pick up the kids and fly them around the world. We’ve now figured out that that doesn’t work. So it’s all about scheduling, and it’s not as haphazard as it used to be. VB: Also, we have to be in Europe twice a year for collections, sometimes three times a year if we have couture shows or four times, depending. Some clients show on completely different schedules that everybody else. We’re quite good at going back and forth. We also have very strong directors in every office. For us it is important not to micromanage the people that we work with. We like to hire people who are very strong in their own right. More than agency animals, they are their own individuals. They’re able to go and represent the agency and talk for our vision. I think there is a clear understanding of where we are trying to take this business as a whole, as opposed to Carrie and me dictating every step of the way.

How BPCM differs from the traditional PR model: CP: We really become partners in business for our clients. Neither of us comes from a fashion background, and I think that’s what sets us apart. We both come from a creative place but also from a business place and for us that’s the most important thing. Strategy. You can’t do PR in a vacuum. You can’t do PR just for PR’s sake. At the end of the day it’s about selling clothes, furthering the business, and being the voice for these companies and we take that very seriously. VB:We’re also trying to help younger designers with introductions to strategic retailers that make sense for them. We find them interesting partners that they can do their business with. We just try to get involved. That’s what keeps us interested as well. We hire really smart people and it would be hard to keep them engaged if their only job was just to send out samples.

On the “PR Girl” stereotype: CP: We try to create a place where we want to work, because we’re there every day. We treat people like adults. We take forever to hire people. The interview process for us is a very long one, because people stay at our agency for a very long time, 6, 7 years. So we really have to like them. VB: Also, we hire people who have a sense of humor. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the entire office crack up over some joke that they’re sharing. I think that’s great and they do that very frequently. It’s also very telling.

Fashion Week likes and dislikes: CP: When we first started doing Fashion Week, Vanessa and I, coming from a non-fashion place, went, “This is a disaster!” The whole process was so disorganized and it seemed so random. We spent a lot of time and a lot of money training our teams, creating tools, creating software that really helped us manage things in a simplified, cohesive way. The first thing we say to everybody is, “This is a party and you’re the hosts, so you need to greet your guests.” If somebody looks lost you need to go help them. If you see a fire starting over here, don’t run away from it and think that somebody else will take care of it. Run toward the fire. We’ve developed a reputation where people enjoy coming to our shows. At the very least one of us is at every show. The prep is always hard but the energy and the teamwork make it feel like being at camp. VB: I’ve never been to camp…but I say the nice thing about Fashion Week is that everybody pulls together and gives everything they have to make it a success. The togetherness of this team, even if they’re on their last leg and they are so exhausted, is nice to watch. I think the most grueling thing is the schedule.

On meshing their European and American mentalities: CP: We’re very compatible. I think it was key that we didn’t start out as friends, but now we’re like sisters. I think we’re a little bit different, we can be a little good cop/bad cop, but we trade off on those roles. VB: We’ve also been incredibly lucky because we spent the first three months sitting together in one cubicle with one computer that had internet access because that was all we could afford at the time. It was a trial by fire to sit so close together. It was really interesting because we both have really strong personalities, and there would be situations where we would both explode, and I would run out of the door, and slam the door and say, “I’ve had enough.” And she would join me for a cigarette and we would make up again. I think that we’ve been really good at picking our battles. We also totally trust each other. Whereas I’m sure Carrie has toyed with the idea of moving to Costa Rica and leaving it all behind, and I’ve done the same thing, we would never actually leave.

Go-to places? CP: We’re at the Crosby Street Hotel all the time.You can come and have a coffee and a real chat with somebody and you don’t feel like you’re being churned out. Lupa is the secret spot for lunch. There’s a Japanese place called Hibino in Brooklyn Heights. And Diner is another one, I love Diner. VB: Uptown, I love The Mark. It belongs to a friend also so it’s kind of fun because I always see my whole Euro crowd up there. I love the little bar on Crosby Street called Ñ. There’s this place where I’m kind of obsessed with on Sullivan called Pepe Rosso. I love Novecento as well. CP: When I meet fashion people for a drink, I take them to 7B. VB: You’ve never taken me there! CP: Sorry you’re too busy up there at The Mark!

NYC Openings: Le Souk Harem, Crosby Street Hotel, Ajna Bar

Le Souk Harem (Greenwich Village) – Le Souk supersizes, brings similar atmospheric scene. ● Crosby Street Hotel (Soho) – Spendy Brit import lands on quaint Crosby Street. ● Ajna Bar (Meatpacking District) – Jumbo Buddha is gone, as is the Buddha Bar name, thanks to catfight with the Parisian original.